POWELL, Wyo. - As Northwest College seeks to renew its accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), it's using input from area residents who attended a series of public meetings.Public input is critical in the accreditation process, according to longtime faculty member Duane Fish who chairs the college's Accreditation Executive Committee.
"It takes years and an incredible amount of energy for a college to fully examine and evaluate itself before it can present its findings to an accreditation agency," Fish explained, "and it's essential to hear from the public about how well NWC serves them."
College officials heard a variety of responses during meetings held in Cody, Meeteetse, Powell and Worland last spring and fall. Participants were asked the following questions.
Input contained several common threads, Fish said, including positive comments about the college's cultural programs, overall quality of instruction by high quality instructors, good selection of classes, the nursing program, concurrent enrollment partnerships with area high schools, workforce development opportunities and physical presence via Cody and Worland outreach centers.
Areas where meeting participants said the college is ineffective included poor attendance at cultural programs; too few courses offered in Meeteetse; and lack of help for teens who need life skills like personal finance, checkbook use and customer service.
Suggested areas of expansion include courses on family finance, money management and basic investment, and the need for more vocational courses, especially building trades in Worland.
Comments received during the public meeting series will help inform NWC's self-study, a document in which NWC thoroughly examines itself, Fish explained. A draft of the self-study is underway, organized by five criteria-mission and integrity; planning for the future; student learning and effective teaching; acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge; engagement and service.
HLC accreditation assures the public and prospective students that NWC meets clearly stated requirements and criteria and that there are reasonable grounds for believing that it will continue to meet them. Without accreditation, NWC can't ensure that transfer institutions will accept students' credits, nor can it administer federal financial aid to students. Accreditation also provides NWC an opportunity to critically analyze itself and improve quality with advice from outside individuals.
An HLC team will provide its accreditation recommendation to NWC following its November 2010 visit to the campus. Click here for more information on the commission.