On March 20 and March 21, a group of reviewers from the Higher Learning Commission arrived on Northern’s campus to evaluate its performance over the past 10 years. According to the NSU website, “The Higher Learning Commission is NSU’s regional accrediting organization and is recognized as a gatekeeper agency by the U.S. Department of Education.”
This evaluation happens every 10 years and is done on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education.
It is incredibly important because it determines whether or not Northern will continue to receive federal funding. This necessary funding is what allows Northern to keep offering the largest scholarship in the Midwest, the WolfPact, and what allows Northern to provide many of its services to students, such as free healthcare and other benefits.
The HLC evaluates Northern on the basis of five different criterion: mission; integrity; teaching and learning – quality, resources, and support; teaching and learning – evaluation and improvement; and resources, planning, and institutional effectiveness.
The HLC also looks at other aspects of Northern as the basis of their evaluation, such as: how many students receive school funded scholarships (60 per cent), how many majors NSU offers (59 majors and 46 minors), how many student-run organizations are currently active (over 50), and the annual economic impact of Northern in South Dakota ($229 million).
One of the other major criteria for which NSU is evaluated is how the university is benefiting the surrounding community.
It determines whether or not Northern will continue to receive federal funding. This necessary funding is what allows Northern to keep offering the largest scholarship in the Midwest, the WolfPact, and what allows Northern to provide many of its services to students, such as free healthcare and other benefits.
The communal impact of Northern State is an incredibly important component to the HLC. Not surprisingly, though, Northern had that criteria covered in spades, from plays and concerts that bring in patrons from all over South Dakota and the neighboring states, to sporting events that draw in students, fans, and alumni.
The HLC also looked at Northern’s credit hours and how efficient they are. These credit hours include on-campus, online, and Northern’s Huron program.
The evaluation took place over several days. Students, community members, faculty, and staff were invited to the many HLC meetings and hearings that were held on campus during their stay, so they could truly see what the HLC is all about and why it is important.
During the HLC visit, they took time from their meetings to speak with student leaders from just about every organization as well as students from the schools and colleges that comprise Northern State University.
Additionally, there were a number of events and social gatherings that students were invited to as a means of gauging student opinions on various aspects of campus.
The first of these events was a luncheon. Students from a number of departments and campus organizations sat down with members of the HLC to discuss what students thought of the various aspects of Northern: its strengths, its weaknesses, thoughts for improvement, and favorite characteristics.
The two other events offered were specialized sessions, focusing on different topics: enrollment and student retention initiatives, and internal communication. During these meetings, all students were invited and encouraged to come and discuss the student experience at Northern.
Joelle Lien, the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Director of Graduate Studies, who oversaw preparations for the HLC’s visit, had this to say, “We’re thrilled to welcome Higher Learning Commission reviewers to campus, giving us the opportunity to show all that Northern has to offer. It’s an exciting time at NSU, with innovative curricular offerings coming forward, a new residence hall under construction and plans announced for the Regional Science Education Center. The HLC visit adds to that positive momentum.”
Northern has been accredited by the HLC since 1918.