WORTHINGTON Minnesota West Community and Technical College is in the process of reaffirmation of accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

As part of the HLC Open Pathway, Minnesota West follows a 10-year cycle focused on quality assurance and institutional improvement. The Open Pathway is unique in that its improvement component, the Quality Initiative, affords institutions the opportunity to pursue improvement projects that meets their current needs and aspirations.

Accreditation in higher education is a quality assurance process that colleges and universities undergo to confirm they meet a recognized set of service and operational standards. Accreditation signifies an institution adheres to goals and standards recognized as important to the quality of education and affects whether an institution can get Federal (Title V) and state financial aid. It also ensures that credits will be accepted by another college should a student transfer to another institution.

The process for reaccreditation is not simple or quick. All employees — administration, faculty and staff — are involved and invested. Minnesota West is required to submit an annual Institutional Update, comply with certain federal requirements and identify any changes that may require HLC follow-up. In year four of the 10-year cycle, Minnesota West completed an Assurance Review to ensure we are continuing to meet HLC’s five Criteria for Accreditation. Minnesota West provided a report demonstrating how we fulfilled each Criterion Core Component.

Years five through nine provided an opportunity for institutions to design and undertake a Quality Initiative project. Minnesota West’s Quality Initiative focused on a communications improvement program between admitted students and the college. HLC peer reviewers approved the project proposal as well as the report on the outcomes.

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In year eight of the Open Pathway, Minnesota West established a Steering Committee and five Criterion subcommittees comprised of administration, faculty and staff. These committees reviewed all of the components within each criterion to ensure Minnesota West was adhering to the expectations, and had evidence to demonstrate compliance. The information provided by the committees is the basis for the final Assurance report.

Year ten requires Minnesota West to submit the Assurance Report, which summarizes activities that support the five criteria for accreditation. In addition, Minnesota West will undergo a comprehensive evaluation, including a site visit, on Nov. 8 and 9, 2021 to ensure we are meeting the Criteria for Accreditation, pursuing institutional improvement and complying with certain requirements set by the U.S. Department of Education. This review leads to an action regarding the reaffirmation of accreditation.

The Covid-19 pandemic did not provide any leniency with respect to meeting the HLC accreditation standards. Minnesota West was required by HLC to provide a report to demonstrate what changes were made to course delivery and how those changes potentially impacted meeting student learning outcomes. Minnesota West excelled in the delivery of courses during the pandemic, and continues to make great strides to ensure the safety of the students and employees.

In addition to the institution-wide HLC accreditation, many technical programs have external accrediting agencies to which they must adhere to all requirements as well.

In summary, the reaffirmation of accreditation is an extensive and lengthy improvement process. As members of Minnesota West have worked on this process in the past 10 years, areas of strength were recognized while areas in need of improvement were addressed.

All employees of Minnesota West are dedicated to the reaffirmation of accreditation, as this is the foundation upon which we can best serve our students.

Minnesota West has been an accredited institution since 1967. For more information regarding the accreditation process, visit https://www.mnwest.edu/about/accreditations.

Mission: Minnesota West prepares learners for a lifetime of success.

Vision: Minnesota West is the regional college of choice.

Values: Community Engagement, Courage, Diversity & Inclusion, Innovation, Integrity, and Student Success

Beth Van Orman is the Accreditation and Assessment Coordinator, Interim Dean of Liberal Arts, and Faculty at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.