INA – Rend Lake College has once again received recommendation for 10 years of continued accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission.
After poring over the college’s 236-page self-study document and spending two and a half days on campus, a five-member team from the HLC delivered the news Wednesday morning to a gym full of college administrators, faculty, staff, board members and constituents. It is the maximum accreditation the HLC awards to its institutions and was the perfect result of more than three years devoted to preparing the self study.
The HLC team visiting RLC was made up of college administrators who gathered from across the nation to evaluate the college in Ina. Its chairman, Dr. William Lindroth, delivered their findings.
“The summary of the Commission review is that the next comprehensive visit will be in 2018-19 – 10 years. Congratulations!”
It marks the third time in the college’s 41-year history where findings resulted in the maximum accreditation, with no focus visit necessary before the next evaluation in 2018-2019.
RLC Interim President Charley Holstein thanked the team for a thorough and professional evaluation.
“I was pleased,” RLC Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Dave Edmison said of the news. “I think the staff and administration both teamed up and performed very well. With the changes we’ve had on campus, I think all of them have done really well together and I was proud to be part of it. We still have a little work to do. We’ll always have work to do. That’s part of a community college life.”
The team’s mission was straight-forward – coming up with answers to questions such as: What is the college doing well? What does it need to improve upon? And is it meeting the HLC standards for an accredited institution?
During its visit, the team met with many different departments at the college, a large number of its students, and a good representation of local constituents, government and industry.
The answers to the team’s questions are important for the Commission issuing accreditation. They are also important to everyone associated with RLC. Accreditation lends respect to RLC’s degrees and certificates, facilitates the transfer of credits to other institutions and affords the college’s access to financial aid and various funding opportunities. Additionally, those in the community should see the 10-year accreditation as affirmation that their tax dollars are being used responsibly.
Lindroth noted a number of strengths identified by the team.
“The organization operates with integrity to insure the fulfillment of its mission through structures and processes that involve the board, administration, faculty, staff and students,” he said. “The organization’s allocation of resources and its processes for evaluation planning demonstrated its capability to fulfill its mission and improve the quality of education, and respond to future challenges and opportunities. The organization promotes a life of learning for its faculty, administration, staff, and students by fostering and supporting inquiry, creativity, practice, and social responsibility in ways consistent with its mission. As called by its mission, the organization identifies its constituencies and serves them in ways both value.”
One area of needed improvement is the college’s current computer-based legacy information system, according to Lindroth. He reported that it does not adequately provide information for effective data analysis by end users and is very centralized.
Although the Commission’s criteria on student learning and effective teaching was met, the team found that assessment of student learning has not been adopted completely in the career and technical education programs at RLC. Lindroth said that, while important strides have been made since 1999 in the routine use of student assessment data among liberal arts and fine arts program, a follow up in the form of a progress report, due in November 2011, will be necessary to assist RLC in implementation of assessment of career and technical education.
“We knew that was a concern when we started the process in 2006,” English Professor Rob Little, and co-coordinator for the self-study process, said of assessment. “We realized that had not happened over in vocational tech the way it should and so we have been discussing and preparing. We had a plan of action already in place when they got here, so I think part of the reason that it is only a follow up report had to do with the fact that we had already recognized the problem and we had taken steps to address it.”
Untold hours spent by administrators, faculty and staff at RLC went into the creation of the college’s self-study document, which acted as its application to the Commission for accreditation. Coordination of that effort was co-chaired by Little, Industrial Maintenance Professor Chris Nielsen and Biology Associate Professor Steve Holman, who together led members of a steering committee. Overall, everyone at RLC, including its students and community supporters, pitched in for the perfect 10.
A two-year public relations campaign was launched by a HLC promotions committee made up of staff and faculty. The on-campus campaign aimed to popularize the self-study process and HLC visit. The campaign included everything from campus-wide presentations for faculty and staff and monthly refrigerator notes to electronic bulletin board announcements, e-mails, banners and posters.
“One of [the HLC team members] said to me, ‘We try to ... see if there’s any real passion in what people do,’” Holstein said. “And all the members - not one of them excluded - all of them said that from the different meetings they were in talking to employees on campus, the common thread was that there is a passion. There’s a passion here at RLC for what we do. For that, I just want to say thank you.”
During the next few months, the team’s report will go through a review process where any corrections can be made. Lindroth said the Commission Board should have its decision on the report’s validity sometime in January.
“Two of the team members asked my permission to take back our self study as a document of reference at their college,” Holstein added. “The document that we provided on time was just so thorough. Several of them said they didn’t think they even needed to come but actually they said they were very happy they did.”
The self study is available on the Rend Lake College Web site at http://www.rlc.edu/higherlearningcommission/Default.aspx.
The Commission’s mission statement is “Serving the common good by assuring and advancing the quality of higher learning.” It uses five criteria in its evaluation process: I - Mission and Integrity, II - Preparing for the Future, III - Student Learning and Effective Teaching, IV - Acquisition, Discovery and Application of Knowledge, and V - Engagement and Service.
“Today’s findings by the HLC Team mark another great day in the history of RLC,” Holstein said. “It is another example of the high quality staff, faculty and programs we offer. The entire college was united for a common goal and the result is another 10-year accreditation – nothing less than what I anticipated from such a devoted group of professionals.”