Southeast maintains HLC accreditation through 2019

Academic HallCAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Jan. 8, 2013 — The Institutional Actions Council of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools’ Higher Learning Commission (HLC) has reaffirmed its accreditation of Southeast Missouri State University.

The action follows a visit in September by Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) examiners, who are trained peer reviewers from other campuses in the HLC region. The HLC sent a two-member team to Southeast Sept. 12-14, 2012, to conduct a Quality Checkup Visit. This visit was one of the final steps as Southeast was considered for Reaffirmation of Accreditation under the HLC’s AQIP.

The reviewers met with key administrators, and held open sessions to interact with faculty, staff and students during the team visit.

“Due to the dedication, hard work and leadership of our AQIP Steering Committee and the outstanding efforts by our faculty, staff and, the HLC examiners gave our University outstanding marks,” said Kenneth W. Dobbins, president of Southeast Missouri State University.

Examiners met with Dobbins and Provost Ron Rosati at the end of their visit and provided their insights. These included that Southeast students were outstanding, understood the University’s goals and purpose and participated in University governance; Southeast’ Budget Review Committee and academic review program processes were outstanding; everyone on campus knew the continuous improvement process required by HLC; Southeast set goals for major projects, such as the River Campus and enhancing online learning, and accomplished them in an outstanding manner; campus leadership was excellent and always focused on what is in the best interest of teaching students; documents prepared for the review were extremely thorough; and no other actions were needed based on the three-day on-site visit.

In November, Southeast received a recommendation for reaffirmation report which stated, “As one of the first comprehensive universities to adopt AQIP principles and processes, Southeast Missouri State University is commended for its leadership and example for other universities in the North Central region.” The recommendation came after reviewers sent a letter to the HLC Board in October recommending Southeast’s accreditation be reaffirmed.

Final action on reaffirmation of accreditation was taken Dec. 19 when the HLC board accepted the reviewers’ recommendation, making Southeast’s reaffirmation official. Southeast’s accreditation has been reaffirmed for seven years, with the next reaffirmation planned for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Southeast Missouri State University was last accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (NCA-HLC) in 2000. In 2005 in recognition of its commitment to quality improvement principles, Southeast was accepted into the HLC’s Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) — one of two accreditation processes offered by the HLC.

AQIP is a continuous process through which an organization can maintain its accredited status with the HLC and involves maintaining a minimum of three Action Projects at any given time and submitting a portfolio of current practices and accomplishments every four years. AQIP’s goal is to infuse the principles and benefits of continuous improvement into the culture of colleges and universities to assure and advance the quality of higher education. AQIP allows Southeast to demonstrate that it meets the HLC’s and other federal standards.

The process at Southeast is overseen by the University’s AQIP Steering Committee, whose members include faculty, administrators, staff and students. As required by the AQIP review process, the University submitted a Systems Portfolio on May 31, 2010. The Portfolio was reviewed and the University received the HLC’s formal response in September 2010.

A team including the President and the Provost and selected members of the AQIP Steering Committee attended a required Strategy Forum in May 2011 to work on areas for improvement identified in the Systems Portfolio review process.

Dr. David Starrett, AQIP liaison, says maintaining accreditation is vital for the continuation of Southeast.

“Maintaining accreditation is necessary for the University to provide the required services to students, faculty and staff; support the community; and function effectively,” he said.

In preparation for the Quality Checkup Visit, the committee spent the spring and summer preparing for the visit with all divisions contributing to the development of reports and documents which were submitted to the commission prior to the visit. Preparation for the visit was done in four and a half months – a task that generally takes 13 months but was compressed by the HLC to meet federal compliance regulations.

Starrett said, “I have not seen a (AQIP Steering) committee get along so well, work together so effectively, complain so little, and maintain such a positive attitude. They did this under stressful pressure to complete a monumental task in an accelerated timeframe. The committee was one of the most effective that I have seen or had the fortune to work on. This team exemplifies a set of truly dedicated employees who went above and beyond the call of duty and contributed immensely to a critical process at Southeast.”

For more information about the accreditation process or the AQIP program, contact Starrett at (573) 651-2298 or AQIP@semo.edu.