The accreditation process requires an institution to provide evidence at regular intervals demonstrating that it meets specific criteria for academic quality, institutional effectiveness, and fiscal stability. That evidence is reviewed by an external peer review team of higher education professionals, whose findings are provided both to the accrediting agency to inform its decision about whether the institution should become/remain accredited, and to the institution to inform its future plans for improvement. The accreditation process also includes a quality improvement component, enabling institutions to identify and strengthen specific aspects of their programs or performance.
St. Olaf is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which accredits approximately one thousand colleges and universities in the 19 states that comprise the North Central region of the US. As an HLC-accredited institution, St. Olaf must be certified regularly as meeting 71 quality standards grouped under the following five criteria for accreditation:
Criterion 1. Mission: The institution’s mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution’s operations.
Criterion 2. Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct. The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible.
Criterion 3. Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support: The institution provides high quality education, wherever and however its offerings are delivered.
Criterion 4. Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement: The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs, learning environments, and support services, and it evaluates their effectiveness for student learning through processes designed to promote continuous improvement.
Criterion 5. Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness: The institution’s resources, structures, and processes are sufficient to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its educational offerings, and respond to future challenges and opportunities. The institution plans for the future.