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Boulder campus ready for its accreditation close-up

Once-a-decade process reaches critical week of evaluation

By Jay Dedrick

Once every 10 years for the past century, the University of Colorado at Boulder has undergone a seemingly routine but vital process: accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Reaccreditation might seem routine, given that the stamp of approval has been maintained each decade. But the university community still takes seriously the latest lead-up to the site visit by a 14-member reaccreditation team, set for Monday, Feb. 22, through Wednesday, Feb. 24.

With reaccreditation, the university confirms that it meets standards maintained by peer institutions, affirms inherently high quality to the public and maintains general confidence in CU and higher education. Federal financial aid only is available to students when an institution is accredited; the status also enables standardized transfer of academic credit.

Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said the campus has been preparing for the reaccreditation visit for a year and a half, working to compile a 358-page self-study report for the commission.

DiStefano pointed out a significant difference between this current reaccreditation in Boulder and past ones. "What's different this year is that our self-study and reaccreditation are closely intertwined with our strategic plan, Flagship 2030, as we position the campus to be a leading model of the new flagship university of the 21st  century," he wrote in a letter to the campus community.

The University of Colorado Denver community is at work on its own self-study, set for completion this fall in anticipation of campus reaccreditation next year. For accreditation purposes, UC Denver and the Anschutz Medical Campus make up one institution.

 As part of its Boulder visit, the commission's site team will hold four open forums from 3 to 3:50 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22. The purpose of each forum is to give faculty, staff, students and alumni an opportunity to speak on matters relevant to five evaluation criteria:

  • Mission and integrity
  • Preparing for the future
  • Student learning and effective teaching
  • Acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge
  • Engagement and service

Forum locations in the UMC are:

Faculty: Center Ballroom
Staff: East Ballroom
Students: West Ballroom
Alumni: Room 235

Other smaller, invitation-only meetings are scheduled throughout the three-day visit.

"Even as the site team members are evaluating the university, we want to take the opportunity to learn all we can from them," DiStefano wrote. "We will look to them for guidance on such issues as helping our constituencies understand and value the quality of our faculty and programs, sustaining that quality with limited state funding and identifying advocates for achieving our vision and potential as a comprehensive research facility."

Two to four weeks after the visit, representatives will submit a draft of their report to the university, which has the opportunity to correct factual errors, said Joey White, senior adviser to the chancellor and project coordinator for reaccreditation. The report is then returned to the commission, which is expected to vote and issue a final decision in April.

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