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Institutional accreditor report affirms University’s direction

Higher Learning Commission applauds MSU Denver’s academic-program review system and improved General Studies program.

By Paul Hitchcock

August 24, 2021

JSSB facade in the evening light.A stronger academic-program review system and a vastly improved General Studies program headlined the Higher Learning Commission’s comprehensive review of Metropolitan State University of Denver’s operations. Peer reviewers also commended MSU Denver for the quality of its quarterly financial reports and its commitment to shared governance and referenced the high quality of reports developed by the Business Intelligence unit.

The HLC is the institutional accreditor for MSU Denver and conducts two comprehensive evaluations during the University’s 10-year accreditation cycle. This process includes submittal of an assurance argument, an HLC peer-review-team site visit and a final report from the HLC to the University that details the findings.

The HLC conducted its peer review April 26-27 after receiving MSU Denver’s assurance argument March 29. The final report, received in June, from the HLC’s peer-review team determined that the University had “met” all areas of review. In the accreditor’s parlance, “met” is the target for each of the five criteria and the questions under each criterion. During the comprehensive evaluation, the University must respond to the HLC’s five criteria and demonstrate via the assurance argument and the peer-reviewer site visit, how it meets the standards set forth by the institutional accreditor.

“This was great news for the University,” said President Janine Davidson, Ph.D. “The report from the HLC really affirmed the good work that has been done and the positive changes made in the past four years.”

“Since the last institutional accreditation evaluation in 2017, the University has made significant improvement in two traditionally weak areas: the assessment of academic programs and the assessment of student learning in General Studies,” said Shaun T. Schafer, Ph.D., associate vice president of Curriculum, Academic Effectiveness and Policy Development.

Schafer also holds the role of accreditation-liaison officer. The ALO serves as the main point of contact for the HLC and directs institutional accreditation efforts.

“It’s a testament to the hard work of our faculty and staff to see these two areas go from weaknesses to strengths,” Schafer said. “I particularly want to thank Keah Schuenemann, Ph.D., for her work as director of General Studies and Lou Moss, program manager for the Office of Academic Effectiveness, for her diligent efforts on academic-program review.”

Meeting the HLC criteria keeps the University on track for its next HLC evaluation in 2026-27. At that time, the University will not only be up for reaccreditation but will seek to move from the standard pathway to the open pathway of accreditation. This pathway is the apex of accreditation standards and requires that the University fix any deficits now to meet the open-pathway standard.

The one area of the review that was “met with concerns” involved the reporting of the tested experience of faculty. This fall, the University will conduct an audit of faculty credentials to ensure that transcripts and tested-experience records are updated and accessible, Schafer said.

“As part of the midcycle review, we have to complete an audit of faculty credentials and inform the HLC of the results by December,” Schafer said. “Fortunately, that work is already underway, and my office is reaching out to academic programs with questions on any discrepancies we find or cases where we need to describe a faculty member’s tested experience.

“Queries are going out to department chairs in August about any questions related to the tested experience of full-time faculty members. Human Resources will prepare a list of part-time faculty members as part of the review in September once the total number of affiliate faculty members is set. Those will then be audited with follow-up messages going to department chairs and directors.”

A copy of the full report will be available this semester on the Curriculum, Academic Effectiveness and Policy Development webpage, which is being updated.

Topics: Academics

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