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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Look Both Ways: Higher Learning Commission accreditation

Lucy Atkinson
A checklist, looking glass and dollar bills rest under the words “Look Both Ways” and the topic of the week: Higher Learning Commission accreditation. Should HLC accreditation occur more or less frequently? (Lucy Atkinson | Northern Star)

The process of validation universities undergo is known as accreditation. NIU’s accreditation evaluation is done by the Higher Learning Commission. It is essentially an external review that is done to make sure colleges match up with the criteria and standards that are expected of our education system.

The evaluation process may consist of an assurance review, federal compliance review, student opinion survey and campus visits, according to the HLC website.

The evaluation process ensures that NIU meets the criteria for accreditation and is complying with specific requirements set by the U.S. Department of Education, according to NIU Today.

The HLC has a vision of working proactively in support of students, institutions and its communities, according to the HLC website.


By: Emily Beebe, Assistant News Editor

NIU recently completed its process of accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The HLC comes every 10 years to determine whether NIU deserves to be accredited. Evaluations should occur more than once a decade.

Despite the intense preparations for evaluations, the HLC should do evaluations more often than every 10 years. 

Numerous changes to NIU’s campus could happen in 10 years, so instead of every 10 years, HLC accreditation should occur every five years. NIU should have to constantly prove it deserves to be accredited.

If the HLC truly wants to value students’ opinions, it should do its accreditation process every five years so current students can voice their opinion of whether they think NIU should continue being accredited. While the HLC does take student input, two full waves of students will have come and gone from campus, remaining unheard.

By only doing the accreditation process every 10 years, students might not be aware of changes made in the decade before they stepped on campus. Depending on changes NIU had made over 10 years such as Neptune North reopening and the planning of replacing Lincoln Hall, newer students giving their opinion may not understand what NIU was like during earlier evaluations.


By: James Bennett, Opinion Columnist

The Higher Learning Commission is an important part of the higher education system. Currently, the process of being accredited by the HLC occurs every 10 years. However, it should occur less often. 

HLC accreditation is important because it keeps colleges in line and helps to ensure students are receiving the proper tools and education they need at their universities. 

This process should occur more than 10 years apart because it could make for a more cohesive system for universities to follow. As it stands, universities have two options: either the standard or the open pathway. The difference between these two comes in the structure as the open pathway allows more room for improvement due to quality initiative checks in years 5-9. On the other hand, schools on the standard pathway are given additional support from the HLC, but they follow a more straightforward route through the ten years and do not have quality initiative checks. 

This system is tolerable but would be more efficient on a 12-year basis. 

If accreditation was an event that happened every 12 years, the current system could be dropped in favor of a new one. In this new system, assurance reviews could be held every four years, while the in-betweens could be used for the quality initiative. Then year 12 would be the ultimate comprehensive evaluation. 

This 12 year system would be better because it would allow for more reviews while also taking place during each cycle of typical graduations. It also eliminates the need for pathways and gives one cohesive option for universities. 

If students are cycling in and out of college every four years, it would be good for universities to be checked and assured of quality with them and as the students continue moving through the system. 

Increasing the time between HLC accreditations is also important due to the HLC’s role in federal financial aid. The HLC plays a big role in determining if universities are eligible for federal aid. If the HLC shifted to 12 years then there would be less financial fluctuation. This would make objects such as financial aid packages, and the division of school funds simpler for the universities and, in turn, for the students.

If it was 12 years, it would also give universities more time to prepare for the ultimate commission in year 12. The HLC accreditation requires a lot of university preparation, and the extra two years would help universities provide the most information possible. 

Overall, the HLC is a very important part of our education system. While the system currently at work is not inefficient, it could be improved, and a big step would be increasing the amount of time between accreditations. 

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