CSU gearing up for 2024 institutional reaccreditation

Summer On The Colorado State University Historic Oval, June 27, 2019

Story by Rachel Baschnagel

Colorado State University has started the planning and self-review process to seek reaccreditation in 2024. The University is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an independent accrediting body, and must reaffirm accreditation every 10 years through a process of internal reviews, self-reports and a campus visit by an HLC team.

“The purpose of accreditation is two-fold,” said Laura Jensen, vice provost for planning and effectiveness and accreditation liaison officer for CSU. “It allows institutions to demonstrate their focus on continuous quality improvement and provides a public assurance of academic and operational quality.”

Accreditation is important for several reasons that may be unknown to students. Without institutional accreditation, students would not be eligible for federal financial aid and may have significant difficulty transferring credits to other institutions or gaining admission to graduate school. Additionally, many professions require graduation from an accredited institution, even at entry-level positions.

HLC accreditation requirements

CSU follows HLC’s Open Pathway, for which HLC conducts a comprehensive evaluation of the institution every 10 years. CSU’s next comprehensive evaluation will take place in fiscal year 2024. As part of that process, the University will submit an “Assurance Argument with evidence demonstrating compliance with HLC accreditation requirements and, shortly thereafter, will host an on-campus peer review visit.

HLC has five criteria for accreditation that will be addressed both in the Assurance Argument and during the site visit: Mission; Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct; Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources and Support; Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement; and Institutional Effectiveness, Resources and Planning.

“They expect us to address each of their criteria in the context of our mission,” Jensen said. “So accreditation for us as a land-grant institution won’t look exactly the same as the accreditation for a community college. We will address components around operations, research and scholarship, creative artistry, engagement and outreach, extension, teaching and student learning. And all of that needs to show that we have a cohesive focus, that we’re mission driven and that everything we do goes back to our mission.”

Leading up to comprehensive evaluation

CSU will gather the evidence of how the institution complies with the Criteria for Accreditation and draft the Assurance Argument during FY23, the year prior to the comprehensive evaluation. To do so with broad campus involvement, work groups are being created to respond to specific criteria and/or sub-criteria.

There are six work groups: Inclusive Excellence, Student Success, Research and Creative Artistry, Teaching and Curriculum, Assessment of Student Learning, and Operations and Planning. If campus community members are interested in assisting any of these work groups, they are encouraged to contact the group lead. Work group leads and members are listed on the CSU accreditation webpage under Accreditation Planning Team & Steering Committee.

The work groups’ evidence and narratives will be compiled by the Accreditation Planning Team, consisting of Jensen, Special Advisor to the Provost Mary Pedersen, Accreditation Fellow Susan Matthews and Assistant Vice Provost Andrea Duffy.

Compiling the narrative

“Each of those groups will provide us a draft, and the Planning Team will go through the drafts and see where our holes are and what we still need to gather evidence for, and then pull it all together into one comprehensive narrative,” Jensen said. “When we think we have a pretty good draft, it will go to Creative Services (now Marketing and Brand Management) to put the final touches on it.”

In addition to demonstrating compliance with HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation, CSU must also provide evidence of compliance with federal regulations and “Assumed Practices” that are “shared by institutions of higher education in the United States,” according to HLC’s website. In seeking reaffirmation of HLC accreditation, the University also agrees to HLC’s Obligations of Membership, including periodic evaluations and updates, among other forms of continued communication between the accrediting body and the University.

The Assurance Argument will be submitted in August 2023. The HLC peer review team will visit campus in September 2023, which is the final component of the reaffirmation process. CSU will be notified of the reaffirmation result in spring 2024.

Getting involved

Throughout the final phases of reaccreditation, community input is encouraged. A feedback form will remain open on CSU’s Accreditation webpage under How to Participate. Additionally, the University will hold campus forums and provide an opportunity for the larger Fort Collins community to engage. As engagement opportunities arise, they will be posted alongside the feedback form on the Accreditation page. The Planning Team will share updates on engagement opportunities with the campus community via email.

For more information, visit CSU’s Accreditation webpage.