By Sienna Brown

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is visiting campus this week. The team of Dr. Barbara I. Wharton, Dr. Pamela Humphrey, Dr. Linda F. Samson, Dr. Kathy Parkison and Dr. Tim Detwiler have the responsibility of determining whether The University of Saint Mary will continue to be known as an accredited university. Their visit began Monday and is scheduled to run through Wednesday.

This process takes place in order to ensure that the university is providing a quality education for its students. There are six regional accrediting bodies, our region is called HLC-NCA. The HLC helps students determine acceptable places of enrollment. It is extremely important for students to receive their degrees from an accredited institution because otherwise the degree is without merit. In addition, Federal Student Aid relies on universities retaining their status. Financial assistance would not be available for a student attending an institution that is not accredited.

The university started the HLC process more than a year ago, filing a portfolio consisting of documents disclosing USM practices. The HLC looks for many things, including the presence of assumed practices. Courses having proper content and rigor, transfer policies, general education requirements, assignment of credit and faculty credentials are just some of the requirements that have been documented before the visit. Faculty and staff have been busy attending meetings to plan for updating and verifying files for this process.

USM faculty and some staff met with the HLC team on Monday afternoon in a session intended to determine how the university is run. The HLC team asked open questions for an hour and took notes while faculty took turns answering the various queries.

The HLC team will compile their report and the results will indicate one of three outcomes: USM met their criteria, or USM met the criteria but needs a monitoring report and possibly another visit or USM does not meet the criteria and requires sanctions.

Sister Diane sent out an email thanking faculty for participation in the meetings. She wrote, “The team will write their report and send it to HLC within two weeks. We will then receive it for ‘fact checking.’ At that point we will have a good sense of where we stand. However, I am very confident that we did well.”

In an email, University Provost Dr. Michelle Metzinger indicated that if we received the official reaffirmation notice in January we would celebrate.

Contributing information from Dr. Peterlin.

Sienna Brown is a senior studying Digital Communications.