2020 Higher Learning Commission Comprehensive Evaluation of Rochester Community and Technical College
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in a region spanning 19 states. A full review of accreditation is conducted every ten years. During the ten-year cycle, HLC conducts a mid-point evaluation in year four. The next evaluation of Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) occurs this fall, with a site visit November 9-10, 2020. This is a year four mid-point evaluation. To prepare for this visit, the College submitted an Assurance Argument demonstrating our compliance with the criteria for accreditation in October 2020.
RCTC has been accredited since 1923 and received the last full reaffirmation of accreditation in 2017. RCTC’s next full reaffirmation will occur in 2027.
On November 9 and 10, 2020, a peer review team from the HLC will visit RCTC. Most of the reviewers will be off-site due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Peer review in accreditation is based on the fundamental assumption that quality in higher education is best served when peers in higher education, informed by standards created and applied by professionals in higher education, make team-based judgments about institutional quality using multiple types of evidence. Reviewers are peers – faculty, staff, and administrators – from other HLC-accredited institutions.
The Campus Visit
Prior to visiting RCTC, the peer review team spends several weeks reviewing the Assurance Argument and supporting evidence to identify discussion topics. These topics will be reviewed during meetings with individuals and groups during the visit. In addition to the materials provided by the College, the peer review team will review student input provided through a survey administered by HLC six weeks prior to the campus visit.
A review team from the HLC will visit campus virtually November 9 and 10, 2020. They will meet with various programs and departments, individuals and groups (including open forums with faculty, staff, and students). Specific meetings will be posted, but we can expect that the team will hold meetings with specific individuals, in addition to open meetings.
Here's a look at the process that starts the last day of the campus visit and continues for several weeks:
1. The peer review team works together to prepare a draft report.
2. The draft report is sent to RCTC for review and to correct any errors of fact.
3. The peer review team prepares a final report of its findings and recommendations for Comprehensive Evaluation.
4. The College receives a copy of the final report and has an opportunity to provide a formal written response to the HLC (this response becomes part of the official record of the evaluation).
5. The HLC reviews the final report and the College's response.
6. The HLC communicates to RCTC in writing when the review process is completed and final action by the HLC has been determined.
Campus Visit FAQ
HLC is an independent corporation that was founded in 1895 as one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. As one of six regional associations that accredit schools, HLC’s territory spans 19 states, from West Virginia to Arizona and from Minnesota to Arkansas.
While many academic agencies accredit particular programs of study (education, nursing, business, etc.), HLC and other regional accrediting agencies are responsible for assuring that entire colleges and universities meet certain standards in terms of their missions, operations, and activities in teaching and student learning, discovery and promotion of knowledge, and service.
Accreditation is an assurance to the public that an institution is properly prepared to do its job. On a more practical level, the HLC and the other accrediting agencies have been designated as the "gatekeepers" for federal funds in higher education, including student financial aid. In addition, students wishing to transfer credits and degrees between institutions must generally do so from accredited schools. Unaccredited schools are not eligible for many kinds of federal support and other institutions will not recognize its courses or degrees. For more information, visit the HLC website.
HLC has recently adopted a new set of criteria for evaluation. The five Criteria for Accreditation are:
2. Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct
3. Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support
4. Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement
5. Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness
The year four Comprehensive Evaluation will take place November 9 and 10, 2020. The next full reaffirmation of accreditation will take place in 2027.
The campus will be visited by a peer review team of administrators, staff, and faculty. All reviewers receive extensive training from HLC. Most reviewers will be experienced.
The team will already have received RCTC’s Assurance Argument as well as materials from previous HLC reviews of the College. During the visit, they will seek to validate the content of the Assurance Argument in terms of the strengths we have declared and data that support them, as well as concerns that need attention or issues that may confront us in the future.
Team members will hold virtual meetings with key individuals and groups from across the campus and will have open meetings that are less structured. These meetings are designed to allow the team to ask questions that they may still have after reviewing our Assurance Argument and better help them in making a determination about the College’s accreditation status.
The HLC review team will write a report that addresses the five criteria for accreditation and send a draft to the campus a few weeks after the visit. The team will note the components that have and have not been met and any qualifications or concerns. After receiving the draft, the President will have a chance to correct factual errors, and the final report will be submitted to the HLC no more than nine weeks after the visit.
The team may determine that all criteria have been met with no recommended follow-up activities before the next scheduled visit in 2027. If there are criteria in which the institution has not fully met, there is a range of possible actions, including required progress reports on how the institution is dealing with particular issues and monitoring reports that include additional visits by more review teams. HLC staff estimate that 85% of institutions will have some kind of activity required.
RCTC must review the report, both for the validation of the things that we are doing well and for advice about ways in which we can improve what we are doing. Particular issues may be referred to committees and/or departments for examination and action.
If follow-up action is required by HLC, RCTC must show that it is addressing the issues identified by the peer review team.
We hope to receive confirmation that the College's major projects to ensure student success and equity are on the right track and that we are meeting the obligations of our mission to provide a quality education to students. We also hope to receive recommendations on additional activities that may assist us in better meeting our mission.