St. Olaf 2022-23 Comprehensive Review

St. Olaf is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), one of six federally-recognized accrediting organizations.  Accreditation is a prerequisite for an institution’s students to be eligible for federal student aid, and for institutional access to other forms of federal and state financial support, which together amount to millions of dollars in student and institutional resources. It assures prospective students, their families, their future employers, and the public that an institution has been independently certified as meeting core standards for academic quality, institutional effectiveness, and fiscal stability.

To maintain its status as an accredited institution, St. Olaf must demonstrate on a regular basis that it continues to meet the Higher Learning Commission’s federally-approved Criteria for Accreditation.  The Commission has established a ten-year cycle of reporting and reviews for all the institutions it accredits to ensure that each institution within its jurisdiction sustains its educational and institutional quality and remains on a path of continuous improvement.  The ten-year cycle is anchored by a comprehensive evaluation of the entirety of the college’s programs and operations.

St. Olaf’s most recent comprehensive evaluation was conducted during the 2012-13 academic year, and culminated in a notice of continued accreditation.  The next comprehensive evaluation will be completed during the 2022-23 academic year, with most of the preparation occurring during 2021-22.  The review will include:

  • An assurance filing, in which the college prepares an “assurance argument” and evidence file “assuring” the HLC, the college’s constituencies, and the general public that it meets each of the 69 standards embedded in the five criteria for accreditation;
  • A federal compliance filing, in which the college demonstrates that it meets applicable federal regulations and requirements for higher education institutions;
  • A campus visit from a team of higher education peer reviewers selected by HLC, to gather information supplementing their initial analysis of the written assurance materials;
  • A student opinion survey conducted by the Higher Learning Commission approximately two months prior to the peer reviewers’ campus visit, which engages students in the evaluation process and helps the peer reviewers develop questions to ask during their visit;
  • A team report from the peer reviewers, provided both to HLC and to the college, indicating the team’s determination as to whether the college continues to meet the Criteria for Accreditation;
  • A written institutional response to the team report.

The Higher Learning Commission has notified the college that its 2022-23 Assurance Filing and Federal Compliance Filing are due on October 10, 2022, with the campus visit by the peer review team scheduled for November 7-9, 2022.  The college has begun the process of preparing its assurance filing under the leadership of a faculty-staff accreditation team (accreditation@stolaf.edu):

Jo Beld, Vice President for Mission and Professor of Political Science; St. Olaf Accreditation Liaison Officer (convener)
Maggie Broner, Professor of Romance Languages – Spanish
Susan Canon, Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment
Karil Kucera, Professor of Art and Art History & Asian Studies; Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary and General Studies; Director of the Center for Integrative Studies
Steve McKelvey, Professor of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science; Faculty Director of Assessment
Jason Paul, Head of Research and Instruction, Library
Ericka Peterson, College Registrar
Kelsey Thompson, Assistant Director of Assessment

The process of assembling evidence, drafting the text of the assurance argument, and developing the agenda for the campus visit will be led by the team throughout the 2021-22 academic year, in consultation with faculty, staff, the President’s Leadership Team, and the Board of Regents.  Drafts will be posted on this page for community comment prior to final submission to the Higher Learning Commission.

While preparing for its 2022-23 Comprehensive Review, the college is also implementing its 2020-22 Quality Initiative, another component of the Higher Learning Commission’s ten-year accreditation cycle that occurs between the fourth-year Assurance Review and the tenth-year Comprehensive Review.  The Quality Initiative is a focused improvement project addressing one or more areas of the college’s operations or performance, structured either as a self-contained project or as one phase of a longer-term effort. St. Olaf’s initiative, Equity and Inclusion at St. Olaf College: Assessing, Enhancing, and Sustaining the Vision, is focused on implementing Goal 5 of the college’s 2019 Equity and Inclusion Plan:  “Hold ourselves accountable for the success of the plan through assessment, reporting, action, and celebration.”