HLC accreditation achieved; ACSI accreditation pursued

Jeralyn Wessel —Staff writer

In mid-January, Dordt University received news the institution had once again been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). After a team from Dordt submitted a lengthy argument as to why the school should be reaccredited, peer reviewers visited in early October 2022 to examine evidence, meet with faculty and students, and construct a detailed report to recommend reaffirmation of Dordt’s institutional accreditation. The peer reviewers’ report was submitted to the Institutional Actions Council (IAC) for a final decision.

The IAC approved the recommendation and assessment of the peer reviewers, and Dordt was granted accreditation at the January meeting. Dordt met the HLC’s standards so well that for all five HLC criteria, Dordt received the highest rating: “met with no concerns.”

Following the previous accreditation site visit in 2012, the HLC peer reviewers’ report had critiqued Dordt on how the institution needed to do more to properly assess student learning.

The past several years were subsequently spent developing and implementing processes for assessing student learning, including evaluating the effectiveness of Dordt’s Core program, and several changes were made. This commitment and change in student evaluation prompted the HLC to have no concerns in this area for the recent accreditation.

As those closest to this process celebrate the reaccreditation, the cycle continues as another assurance argument must be submitted in just a few years. While the continuous process may seem wearisome, Vice President of Academic Affairs Leah Zuidema sees many benefits in the work.

“You get to really see a big picture view of the way that everything we do at Dordt is so connected… to mission,” Zuidema said.

The HLC focuses most on how an institution is carrying out their mission, and the team involved in submitting an argument for accreditation was able to see how Dordt meets this requirement firsthand. To prove a successful mission across campus, various departments gave input for the argument, and Zuidema was pleased to see a consistent team across the university that is committed to equipping students to live a life for Christ.

While the HLC accreditation is granted for another ten years, several departments are undergoing similar work while pursuing other accreditations. During the first week of February, the Education Department was visited by several individuals on behalf of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) to review the department for reaccreditation.

Not only does this accreditation show that students are receiving a high level of education from a Christian perspective, but the ACSI accreditation also joins Dordt with an extensive network of Christian schools across the world. For students graduating from an ACSI accredited education department, doors will be opened to teach at other ACSI accredited schools.

Similar to the HLC accreditation process, Education Department Chair David Mulder and Education Program Director Abby De Groot compiled a lengthy report providing evidence proving the department meets or exceeds all of the requirements for accreditation. A team visited to meet with faculty and students to ensure the report was an accurate representation of the department.

The review team consisted of three individuals who serve across the country in prominent roles in the educational field. This experienced group was able to assess Dordt’s Education Department from a variety of angles.

Upon reflection, Mulder considered the team’s advice and viewpoints as part of a bigger, collective effort throughout Christian education.

“[It’s] recognizing that the body of Christ is not located in northwest Iowa. It’s in northwest Iowa, but it’s in a lot of other places too,” Mulder said. “This is just a reminder for us and our program that we are connected to the body of Christ that is global.”

As the ACSI accreditation team formulated their initial report, they gave nine commendations to the Education Department and two recommendations to improve upon. Overall, the department was pleased with the visit and looks forward to hearing an official decision later this year.

Contributed photo

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