The most important test on campus is approaching.
Bradley’s accreditation visit is in November 2010, and preparation for the visit is in full swing.
“The main piece of work gets done in the next semester,” said Jenny Gruening, director of institutional improvement. “It’s over a two-year process. The process is moving along really smoothly.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Alan Galsky said accreditation is important because it’s an “objective” verification of Bradley’s excellence.
“Accreditation verifies that the university is continuously improving and providing the type of learning and living environment that students need and want,” Galsky said. “This seal of academic approval enhances the value of a Bradley degree in the job market and among universities and professionals throughout the country.”
Universities that wish to be accredited must be visited and reviewed by recognized accreditation offices, which are approved by Congress, at least once every 10 years.
Next year Bradley will seek to renew its regional accreditation, which is the “gold standard” of accreditation, said Karen Solomon, vice president for accreditation relations at for the Higher Learning Commission, the accreditation office that reviews Bradley.
Regional accreditation means credits from the university are accepted as transferable, whereas national accreditation means that students are eligible to receive financial aid. Institutions can only be regionally or nationally accredited, not both.
“This risk factor for Bradley not to be re-accredited is very low,” Solomon said.
About 50 percent of universities nationwide are accredited, she said.
Bradley’s last visit was almost 10 years ago, which shows it did well, since that is the maximum number of years a school can go without review.
If schools do poorly on their visits, they will not be approved for accreditation or may only be approved for a few years, Solomon said.
“Some things get synthesized and washed out in paper documents,” Solomon said. “This is an opportunity for those to come forward.”
Schools are evaluated on five criteria: mission and integrity, resources available to support learning, acquisition and discovery of knowledge, measurement of learning and engagement in the global world.
Bradley has committees working on evidence to support each of these criteria, Gruening said.
“The plan for right now is to get a self-study out in spring,” she said.
The university needs to be done with its self-review by next semester, because the Higher Learning Commission needs Bradley’s self-report eight weeks before it visits, which is close to the beginning of next school year.
During the visit, 20 peer-reviewers, who are employees at institutions similar to Bradley, come to campus and meet with students, faculty and staff to discuss Bradley and the criteria.
Every student will have the opportunity to meet with the peer-reviewers, Gruening said.
Students are also able to become involved in the accreditation process. Those interested should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It is very important that students become fully engaged in the accreditation process so that their input is heard in shaping the direction of the university for the future,” Galsky said.