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Accreditation contingent on commission’s approval

ORU just completed the campus visit for continued accreditation, a task essential for students needing help paying for college and to ensure legitimate degrees. The university welcomed members of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) to campus Monday, Oct. 31 and Tuesday, Nov. 1 to thoroughly reexamine the institution’s accreditation eligibility.

“The Higher Learning Commission is our principle accreditation agency,” ORU President William M. Wilson said. “Accreditation happens with what is called peer reviewers, which means people from other universities look at your university and examine your processes, your assessment and your financial health, and all of those things about the university to determine if you can be certified to give a good degree to a student.”

The team of peer reviewers visiting campus gathered information in a holistic manner, bringing questions and examining elements of the university such as financial stability and degree quality. Four open sessions took place during the visit as an opportunity for students to discuss topics concerning accreditation with the team. Upon being approved for candidacy with the HLC, an institution is given a four-year period of membership before the accreditation process will take place once again.

Wilson said the impact of the university’s accreditation holds great implication for students. It is the stamp of approval certifying the quality of the degree being granted. It is a vital component of any university or college. Without it, the legitimacy of academic degrees can be questioned, and students attending may not receive federal or even state financial aid.

“It’s critical for students that we are accredited so they can obtain financial aid from the federal government,” Wilson said. “Federal financial aid is contingent on attending an accredited university.”

Preparation for the visit began about 18 months before the HLC arrived. This week’s visit dealt with institutional accreditation, looking at the totality of the university’s components and determining the overall progress and health of the school.

“This year our HLC comprehensive report really was based on our five-year adaptive plan that the whole university is running on presently,”  Wilson said. “And we also have a business plan that goes with that, so they look at the business plan, the financial health of that plan, where ORU is going, how they’re evaluating how they’re doing, how they’re assessing students’ success-it’s quite an in-depth process.”

Every aspect of the guidelines for current and future campus progress was investigated.

“[The five year adaptive plan] is updated every year. It’s a very unique process that we’re in, crafted mostly by the university planning council, a group of faculty, administrators and board of trustee members all meeting together,” Wilson said. “Then that plan goes to the board of trustees who approves it or amends it and tells us to go for it.”

Students are not only be ensured a quality education, but receive other perks through accreditation.

“There are many periphery benefits,” Wilson said. “Student’s credits transfer more readily to other accredited institutions-globally it’s very important for us to be accredited in the United States and seen as reputable, and having some clout.”

The HLC’s mission is “Serving the common good by assuring and advancing the quality of higher learning.” It is one of six regional accrediting bodies in the United States and oversees the accreditation of  “degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions” in the 19 states of the North Central region. Schools such as the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the University of Tulsa are also accredited by the HLC.

“It is in many ways one of the stamps, not the only, but one of the stamps of approval by people outside the university that this is a reputable place, you can trust what’s going on,” Wilson said. “And you’ll get a good education.”