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Why accreditation matters: a guide to the process

Nursing Accreditation

The Nursing program is one of the many programs to be evaluated in the accreditation process.

Elgin Community College has been accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1968. The college is currently undergoing an accreditation evaluation by the HLC, its first since 2006. But what exactly is accreditation? Dr. Phil Garber, executive director of planning and institutional effectiveness at ECC, helps explain the process.

What is accreditation and why is it so important?

Accreditation is a process institutions such as ECC undergo to ensure quality, Garber said. “It forces the college to evaluate what we're doing,” he said.

“If we have a strategic plan, did we follow it? If we have a catalog, are students using it?”

Garber said colleges and universities seek accreditation because it's a “recognition that you've gone through the extra exercise of trying to be a quality institution.”

What is the accreditation process?

Much of it deals with the college making its case that it meets the criteria for accreditation. Essentially, the process assesses the quality and effectiveness of the institution; makes recommendations for improvement; and assists the college in making improvements in operations and effectiveness.

The college submits its reports to the HLC and a five-member HLC evaluation panel will visit the college Oct. 26 and 27, 2015.

The panel will then write a report based on its findings and the college will have the opportunity to respond to the report. The HLC then reviews all of the information and makes a decision whether to extend ECC's accreditation for another 10 years.

When will the college know of the HLC's decision?

Garber anticipates a decision being made by February 2016.

How are the public's comments used in the process?

Garber said public comments are part of the federal compliance process for accreditation and they are sought by the HLC, not ECC. The commission is seeking comments from people regarding any issues of quality at ECC.

Where can I go to learn more information?

If you have any questions, contact the Institutional Research Office at ECCInstitutionalResearch@elgin.edu or visit HCL accreditation.

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