John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Linking the Foundations of Excellence® and Reaffirmation of Accreditation in Higher Learning Commission Institutions

Foundations of Excellence® is a voluntary self study and improvement planning process focused on the first college year or transfer. Since 2003-04, over 240 institutions have participated in the Foundations of Excellence® (FoE) in the First College Year or Transfer Focus self-study process. Of these institutions, 98 are in the North Central region and are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The Higher Learning Commission makes it possible to link the Foundations of Excellence self study with the reaffirmation of accreditation process for both its AQIP, PEAQ, and now Open Pathways processes institutions.

PEAQ, Open Pathways and Foundations of Excellence®
The HLC Program to Evaluate and Advance Quality (PEAQ) is an accreditation process that involves an institutional self study addressing the five criteria for accreditation. Of the 98 FoE/HLC institutions 69 are currently PEAQ participants. PEAQ institutions had the option of including a Special Emphasis on an area of critical importance to the institutional mission in the self study. The Special Emphasis became the focus of the campus improvement and HLC consultation part of the self-study and accreditation review. A Special Emphasis on the First Year of College became an option in 2005; the project is described on the HLC website, Joint Project between the Higher Learning Commission/ NCA and the John N. Gardner Institution for Excellence in Undergraduate Education.  Six FoE/HLC institutions have pursued this option. Each of these institutions had a successful re-accreditation visit; the last one occurred in 2010-11.

PEAQ Institutions with Special Emphasis Self-Studies

FoE Institution

State

FoE Participant

Midland Lutheran College

NE

2005-06

Missouri Southern State University

MO

2005-06

New Mexico State University

NM

2005-06

Itasca Community College

MN

2007-08

Eastern Wyoming College

WY

2008-09

University of Northern Iowa

IA

2008-09

Starting in 2012, eligible PEAQ institutions began making a transition to the Open Pathway, a new process for reaffirmation of accreditation. Institutions pursuing the Open Pathway will undertake a Quality Initiative between years 5 and 9 of the 10-year cycle. One option in selecting a Quality Initiative is to choose a Commission-endorsed program, such as the Foundations of Excellence. This option is appropriate for an institution that wishes to improve its approach to the first college year or to the student transfer.

AQIP and Foundations of Excellence
The Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) is structured around quality improvement principles. AQIP institutions produce a Systems Portfolio addressing nine categories and continually engage in improvement through Action Projects. Twenty-nine FoE institutions are AQIP participants; some of these institutions were admitted to AQIP after their FoE participation. Wilber Wright College aligned the Foundational Dimensions® with the nine categories of the Systems Portfolio as a part of its initial portfolio development. To date, 16 of the 29 institutions have made some connection between their FoE work and one or more AQIP Action Projects (a total of 30 Action Projects). The relationship between the FoE and AQIP projects varies. For two of the early FoE institutions, Missouri Western State University and Ohio University, FoE was a component of a larger AQIP Action Project. Two recent participants, Western Iowa Technical Community College and Northwest Missouri State University, selected FoE as an approach to accomplishing their AQIP Action Project goal of analyzing and refining their first-year experience. The most common approach to connecting the two processes has been to use implementation of FoE action plan recommendations as the basis of AQIP Action Projects. Institutions that have made this connection are listed in the following table.

Institutions Using FoE as Basis for AQIP Action Projects

FoE Institution

State

FoE Institution

Pulaski Technical College

AR

2006-07

Sheridan College  (Northern Wyoming Community College District)

WY

2006-07

Zane State College

OH

2006-07

College of Lake County.

IL

2007-08

Milwaukee Area Technical College

WI

2007-08

Owens Community College

OH

2007-08

Western New Mexico University

NM

2007-08

City College of Chicago-Wilber Wright College

IL

2008-09

Northwood University

MI

2008-09 FY
2010-11 TF

Lincoln Land Community College

IL

2009-10

Western Iowa Tech Community College

IA

2009-10

Vincennes University

IN

2009-10

Northwest Missouri State University

MO

2010-11

St. Cloud Technical and Community College

MN

2010-11

For a listing of the Action Project titles, contact Betsy Griffin, griffin@jngi.org. The HLC AQIP Action Project Directory provides a detailed description of the projects.