Every ten years Goshen College goes through the Higher Learning Commission Accreditation process.
Colleges in the United States are required to go through an accreditation process in order to receive federal money to give to their students. The accreditation process is meant to ensure that institutions are providing their students with a quality education.
An accreditation team of four members from other Midwest colleges will come to campus to evaluate whether or not they should recommend the continuation of Goshen’s accreditation.
Though the accreditation team is not coming to campus for another month, the accreditation process actually began in 2012. According to Scott Barge, director of institutional research, data was collected from all of the departments starting in 2012 and ending after the most recent Christmas break. Each academic department evaluated and refreshed their student learning outcomes and looked at their requirements and assessment plans to make sure that classes align with learning outcomes. The departments then took the information they obtained during the process and did a self-study in which they evaluated their strengths and weaknesses. The information they get is compiled and turned into the accreditation committee for review.
According to Jim Brenneman, president of Goshen College, the accreditation process is a great way for the college to review its progress and shortcomings over the last ten years.
“We already know that we are very successful academically…By all standards nationally, we are in the top five percent of schools. Goshen has an 80 percent graduation rate compared to a 40 percent graduation rate for public colleges in Indiana,” said Brenneman. “We list our challenges along with our successes and I would say that [the challenges] can be put into two categories. A lot of our challenges are caused by the high standards we set for ourselves and our positive vision. Our other challenge is enrollment. We have not solved the enrollment issue.”
Even though accreditation is a big deal for the administration, students will likely see very little of the process or its effects. According to Barge, the changes by which students will be directly affected happen over time and flow out of the studies that are done as a result of the accreditation process.
The Goshen Core is one such change, according to Brenneman. The Core, implemented eight years ago, was a result of the studies done for the accreditation.
Already in process as a result of the studies done for this year’s accreditation process is “Grow Goshen”: a plan to increase enrollment.
Another issue being addressed in which students may notice some change is the hiring of more diverse faculty.
“If in our vision we want an internationally diverse student population, then we need to get a faculty that’s equally diverse,” said Brenneman. “Diversifying our administration and faculty would be one of the challenges that I think are at the top of our priority of challenges.”
Overall, the outlook on the accreditation process and the information it brings to light is positive.
“We’re doing great work at GC. If self-study has shown us anything, we know we need to work on enrollment. The education we offer to students is top notch. We have really strong grad rates, our students are satisfied and our alums are satisfied. Our alums go off to do great things after they leave. Overall we have in-class excellence. [The accreditation process] gives us the opportunity to reflect on good stuff,” commented Barge.
Students will be given more information on the accreditation process and what it means for them and for the school in convocation on March 4.