Eastern receives 10-Year Accreditation Reaffirmation from Higher Learning Commission
WILBURTON, OK (June 26, 2017) – After a rigorous review, Eastern Oklahoma State College has received a 10-year reaffirmation of its accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association. HLC is responsible for assuring that colleges and universities meet specific, nationally recognized standards in terms of their missions, operations, and activities in teaching and student learning.
An HLC peer review team visited Eastern’s campus February 27-28 and the college received the final accreditation report on June 19. Eastern President Dr. Stephen E. Smith said there were no significant issues identified and Eastern met all criteria and core components of the evaluation.
“The Higher Learning Commission’s reaffirmation of Eastern’s accreditation recognizes the quality of our academic programs, as well as our commitment to student learning and success,” Smith said. “This is an overwhelmingly positive report that demonstrates the significant work of Eastern’s faculty and staff and confirms that we are meeting the highest standards of accountability required of colleges and universities.”
Accreditation is an ongoing process that all colleges and universities are required to complete periodically. A 10-year comprehensive evaluation includes submission and review of institutional materials demonstrating compliance with HLC's five “Criteria for Accreditation;” a federal compliance review; a student opinion survey; and an on-site peer review visit.
Dr. Janet Wansick, vice president of Academic Affairs, said the accreditation process involved extensive collaboration by faculty, staff and students for two years prior to the HLC campus visit.
“The accreditation process is an extremely important opportunity for our entire college community to assess our learning objectives, review our processes, document our accomplishments and identify areas of needed improvement,” Wansick said. “I’m grateful for the team of dedicated faculty and staff whose exceptional work on the comprehensive self-study report helped us gain a deeper understanding of our progress and the challenges we face in fulfilling our mission.”
The intensive, 76-page final report from the HLC peer review team included no sanctions and only one action for follow up. The HLC requested an interim report on program level assessment which includes measurable and specific outcomes for the various academic degree programs Eastern offers.
“We have already begun the process of clearly defining specific learning goals and outcomes to measure the skills and competencies students will have mastered as a result of completing a specific degree,” Wansick said. “I fully expect the interim report to reflect the college’s satisfactory completion of this request.”
As a result of the successful evaluation, HLC allowed Eastern to select one of three pathways for maintaining accreditation. Wansick said that because of Eastern’s good standing with HLC, the college has been approved to follow the “Open Pathway” model. She said this gives Eastern the independence to identify its own “Quality Initiative,” or improvement project, related to current needs and aspirations. The Open Pathway also allows Eastern to participate in an assurance review in the fourth year of accreditation without a site visit.
In the final report, Eastern received recognition from HLC peer reviewers for making strategic planning decisions focused on the college’s mission of facilitating student learning, noting “the mission is clearly guiding planning and budgeting processes.” The report also noted: “The college's academic programs and student support services are aligned with the mission and strategic goals. During meetings with students, students emphasized the willingness of faculty and staff to do everything they could to help students succeed.”
The team also noted the quality of academic programs and students’ access to instructors as areas of institutional strength, stating “The review team met with approximately 20 EOSC students during our visit. When asked what they appreciated most about their college experience, the students immediately and unanimously agreed: the quality of instruction and availability of the faculty for consultation.”
The Higher Learning Commission is an independent corporation that was founded in 1895 as one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. HLC accredits degree-granting, post-secondary educational institutions in the North Central region, which includes the state of Oklahoma.
Eastern has been officially accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association since 1954. The 10-year reaffirmation is the longest time frame HLC is permitted to grant an institution. As a result, Eastern’s next reaffirmation of accreditation is scheduled for 2026-27.