Oklahoma Christian University will be on its best behavior this week as representatives from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) are visiting campus to evaluate the school for further accreditation.
The Higher Learning Commission accredits more than 1,000 universities in the North-Central region of the United States. On Monday and Tuesday, a five-person team from the HLC will evaluate Oklahoma Christian’s capability to meet the criteria for accreditation.
“This is a really important visit, if all goes well that means they don’t come back for ten years,” Lee Anne Paris, associate dean of academics, said. “Everyone on campus has worked really hard to get ready for this visit and I know that we’re in really good shape for that.”
Paris said that accreditation is important for universities and has a significant impact on the lives of students and faculty.
“The main benefits of accreditation are, No. 1, everyone accepts your diplomas as bona fide,” Paris said. “No. 2, you’re allowed to receive financial aid from the government.”
Paris oversaw the creation of two extensive reports that address how Oklahoma Christian meets the HLC’s criteria for accreditation.
“One is a 125-page single-spaced word document that basically addressed 89 different criteria and shows that we’re doing all of these 89 things, and here’s how we do it, and here’s the supporting documentation,” Paris said.
The second report addressed how Oklahoma Christian complies with federal regulations for universities.
“Once we’ve submitted that, there’s a five-person team who’s reading everything,” Paris said. “They will be asking us questions about what was in those two reports, especially if they feel like there’s any areas where we need to improve.”
Several areas for improvement were previously identified when the last HLC team visited in 2006, according to Executive Vice President Bill Goad. These areas included advising undeclared majors, retention rates and graduation rates.
“There are a number of things that we’ve done in the past ten years,” Goad said. “We’ve established undeclared major advisors, and we’ve provided more training for those advisers. We’ve also had major improvement in the area of retention and graduation rates. There’s been a lot of emphasis on that in all departments.”
In addition to those improvements, Oklahoma Christian has also created the Student Success Center as a part of the school’s quality initiative.
“We are very excited to be a part of this,” Amy Janzen, director of Student Success, said. “We all have a passion for serving students. It’s been an honor to be a part of this program, and see it up and running.”
Located on the second floor of the Beam Library, the Student Success Center assists students with academic needs.
“It really is about just providing more resources for students on campus,” Janzen said. “There have always been tutoring options, but not to the extent we’re doing.”
The Student Success Center offers more to students than just tutoring.
“The Student Success Center has the bridge program, academic coaching, disability services and a testing center,” Janzen said. “We have four certified academic life coaches, including myself, who went through a 60-hour training program that we can use to help students increase motivation and productivity.”
Along with faculty and staff, student groups have also been preparing for the visit.
“We plan on, we haven’t started, but we do need to clean up the office a little bit,” junior Benjamin McCoy, vice president of the Student Government Association, said. “That’s a very simple task but you know, we’ll get it done. They just shouldn’t look in the closet.”
SGA is part of a representative student group that will meet with the visitors from the HLC.
“When they come by and talk with us we’ve got some answers ready for them,” McCoy said. “Or anyone on the campus that comes by and wants to know what SGA is for. SGA is just a voice for the student body.”
“As is usually the case,” Bill Goad said. “OC students meeting visitors on campus is a good thing.”