Fort Lewis has begun the process of accreditation again this fall by the Higher Learning Commission.
During this process, which the school must go through every ten years, the school undergoes an evaluation through the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits FLC based on several benchmark requirements.
These five benchmarks serve to allow the school to be accredited, which is a testament to the quality of each school.
“We need to be accredited,” Lee Frazer, an associate professor of adventure education and member of the HLC team, said. “It is a stamp of approval with our peers to say we are following best practices in education.”
HLC will look at the mission, quality, rigor and capability to fund the school, among other criteria, Barbara Morris, the provost and vice president for academic affairs, said.
“Because it is such a wide ranging look at education, you have to spend a long time looking at the criteria,” Morris said.
Accreditation also ensures that the school receives federal funding which a majority of students depend on for their education.
“Accreditation allows us, on a regular basis, to test our own assumptions, to lift up the rock and look at ourselves from multiple perspectives,” Morris said.
Additionally, the school will be implementing the Strategic Plan for 2012 to 2016, which must be demonstrated to HLC during the accreditation process.
This plan draws from the core values the school is dedicated to achieving, which is creating well-rounded citizens.
Some key aspects of the plan include promoting the location of the school and developing programs which attract students, such as the new master’s degree program for Teacher Leadership, President Dene Kay Thomas said.
“We have our first group of students in it this Fall,” Thomas said.
Additionally, FLC must take on a Quality Initiative which is approved by the HLC. During the last academic year, and for the 2013-2014 school year, the school will be working on the quality initiative titled “Maps to Student Success: Implementation of a Degree Tracking System.”
This is an effort to help students work toward degree completion in a formalized way.
In the 2012-2013 school year, FLC created a degree tracking map and selected an online program to help students track their academic progress. The program is designed to help students evaluate their progress along their degree path.
The 2013-2014 school year will be about implementing these tools so that students may use them to graduate efficiently and make the best use of their time at FLC.
The Quality Initiative is about student success, which is getting the degree they are working toward, Morris said.
There have been changes to the course withdrawal policy due to the Quality Initiative.
Now students no longer need teacher permission to withdraw from a course, however they must do so by Oct. 25. Additionally, students may only have a maximum of three course withdrawals throughout their undergraduate career.
Though the accreditation process does not affect students directly, policy changes, such as the withdrawal stipulations, will affect students indirectly.
During the process new policies will be implemented, including those governing curriculum and intellectual freedoms, Morris said.
“We have gone through a rigorous process to ensure a quality education,” Morris said.
Five different teams will be working to determine the quality in the criteria outlined by HLC. There will also be a team for Assumed Practices and one for Quality Initiative.
Students are encouraged to be involved in the process. The launch party held Sept. 19 gave students and community members information about HLC.
“[Accreditation] is a blend of recommendations and commendations, and that assures that you have a quality education,” Thomas said.
Further information on HLC and accreditation can be found at www.fortlewis.edu/accredidation/.