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SECURING ACCREDITATION AND DEGREE GRANTING AUTHORITY APRIL 22, 2009
Antioch College, as a part of Antioch University, was accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association for the purpose of awarding accredited degrees and was approved by the Ohio Board of Regents to grant degrees in the state of Ohio. Antioch College students enrolled in this accredited and approved institution were eligible to apply for federal financial aid administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Antioch College was also listed by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program of the Department of Homeland Security as approved for international students seeking visas to attend Antioch College.
With the closing of the College in June 2008, except for the ability of students to complete their degrees by December 2008, accreditation has ended. Early in its deliberations, the Board Pro Tempore of the Antioch College Continuation Corporation decided to engage an experienced higher education administrator to investigate what will be required for a re-opened Antioch College to regain its accreditation and approvals.
Our purpose in posting what we have learned in some detail is to foster a shared awareness and understanding of the initial challenges we will face if we are to achieve our goal of re-opening an Antioch College that continues its traditions of being a vibrant, unique, and important institution able to educate coming generations of students to win victories for humanity.
The process of securing accreditation and approval is a lengthy one. It will require the preparation of many documents and reliable evidence of financial stability and sustainability in order to secure accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (HLC) and approval togrant degrees from the Ohio Board of Regents (OBR). The good news is that there is vast overlap in the materials and information required by the HLC (for institutional accreditation) and by the Board of Regents (for authorization to grant degrees). Notably, the HLC will judge the institution, whereas the OBR will judge the degree program.
The sobering news is that it is our understanding that there is currently no availability of any provisional accreditation prior to the granting of full accreditation. Further, the HLC will not award accreditation to an institution until at least one class has graduated. Indeed, the HLC will not schedule an initial team visit to determine the institution’s eligibility to be a candidate for accreditation until the first class has enrolled. How will this affect the first graduating class if Antioch College is not accredited until after they have graduated? HLC Handbook of Accreditation stipulates that accreditation, if achieved within one year of the date of graduation of the first class, will apply retroactively to their degrees. From the experience of other new institutions, we have learned that it is possible to make contact with graduate and professional schools to which the first graduates might apply before the College is accredited to explain that their degrees will be retroactively accredited if the College achieves accreditation almost immediately after these students have graduated.
Summary for Approval from OBR and Accreditation by the HLC
As already noted, the process for securing approval to grant a degree from the OBR, and securing accreditation from the HLC involves the submission of many documents that give evidence that the College meets all the standards required for approval and accreditation. The accreditation process begins with a series of conversations and interviews with the HLC. Subsequently, Antioch College will be required to submit a letter of intent and to provide extensive information in the documents listed below. If the information satisfies the OBR approval to grant degrees will be forthcoming but a candidacy visit for accreditation will not be scheduled until the first class has been enrolled. If candidacy is approved a formal application for accreditation will need to be filed, and accreditation visit(s) scheduled. If there is success at each of these steps accreditation approval will follow.
Relationship between Steps among Different Agencies
For the HLC, at the “request for interview” stage, Antioch College must have a certificate of incorporation from Ohio, and “permission” from the state to operate as an institution of higher education. Evidence that Antioch College is pursuing OBR degree-granting authority must also be presented. Accordingly, we will be pursuing parallel tracks with these two agencies as we go forward.
Eligibility for student financial aid from the DOE is dependent upon Antioch College submitting evidence to the satisfaction of the DOE that the College is financially viable and this viability is sustainable. However it will not consider granting financial aid eligibility until accreditation (or perhaps candidacy) is achieved. It is therefore likely that the first students to enroll will not be eligible to apply for federal student financial aid.
Documents Required Prior to Seeking Approval & Accreditation
Before embarking on the formal applications to either OBR or the HLC, Antioch College will be required to assemble a whole range of documents – some of which already exist and/or can be modified, others that will need to be developed. The major documents required include the Articles of Incorporation, By-laws, a Faculty Handbook, a Student Handbook, a Catalog (courses, majors, academic programs, faculty, policies, a Bulletin (listing such time-specific elements as course offerings for the coming year, and a calendar), a Staff handbook and an Administrative Handbook (i.e. personnel policies and procedures for administrators, parallel to faculty handbook), Admissions materials, a Mission Statement and Statements of Goals and Institutional Policies, Governance Statements about the Role of Faculty, information about the College’s administrative structure and reporting relationships and responsibility, evaluation procedures (of the institution, educational outcomes, faculty and staff), policies, and documents, a detailed description of work-partner and off-campus-study arrangements, reporting relationships, staff qualifications, academic record-keeping policies and procedures, faculty and staff recruiting and appointment policies and procedures, a detailed assessment of readiness of physical facilities, detailed financial reports, audits, projections, and budgets, a description of library, laboratory and other instructional space readiness, a description of instructional materials and supplies adequate to the program, and position descriptions for all administrative positions. Other narratives and documents will also be needed but they are not as significant or time consuming as the ones listed here.
Constructing a timetable for achieving approval to offer degrees from OBR and accreditation from the HLC requires us to first determine when we will aim to admit the first class and, having done that, to achieve accreditation by the HLC one year after the graduation of that first class. To accept the first class with OBR approval to grant degrees, Antioch College will need to have raised the funds to enable it to renovate all the facilities it plans to use so that they meet required codes and is considered attractive to potential students prior to the matriculation of the first class of students. Antioch College will also need to have, in hand, sufficient resources to operate the institution for the duration of the years it will take for the first admitted students to earn their degrees. As well, all the major documents described above must have been submitted to OBR and accepted in order for OBR to approve Antioch College to grant degrees.
For illustrative purposes, we assume the initial plan holds for Antioch College to grant bachelor degrees after three years of a round the year program of full time study alternating with full time work. Accordingly, if the first class is to be admitted in fall, 2011, in the best scenario of fully accepted documentation and approving site visits, the granting of accredited degrees will first be possible in 2015 with retroactive accreditation provided to the students who graduated in 2014. If the first class is admitted in the fall of 2012 and all documents and visits receive approval, the granting of accredited degrees will first be possible in 2016 with retroactive accreditation provided to the students who graduated in 2015.
The Challenges in Perspective
While it may seem that the tasks ahead of us to accomplish our goals of reviving and reopening Antioch College are daunting they are, in reality, all achievable if we: Raise sufficient resources to renovate the facilities and to support the operation of the College; secure excellent leadership; assemble an initially small cadre of faculty, staff, administrators, and advisers to plan curricula, to prepare the necessary documents, and to envision the future.
As noted above, our purpose in posting all this information is to engender a shared understanding of the magnitude of the efforts we will need to undertake to revive and re-open a new Antioch College that will be able to carry on itsunique role in American higher education fitted to the needs of students who will win victories for humanity in the 21st century.
There is understandable impatience at the thought that it will be a minimum of two years before we can admit the first students, perhaps three. However the Board Pro-Tem is convinced that it is imperative that we ‘get it right’ – from the beginning. We need to insure that the presence of sound and sustainable financial resources, an attractive student-friendly campus, fine and dedicated faculty and staff match the considerable excitement of the ideas for a new era for Antioch College. We need to be able to recruit and select those special students who care to be effective, life-long change agents in whatever they choose to do. We need to be able to nurture over many years an Antioch College that is deeply committed to the vision of the possibilities inherent in the three Cs for learning: classroom, co-op, and community.
Antioch College was founded more than 150 years ago. Across these years the College closed twice. In some ways, each time it re-opened it began anew while carrying forward its commitment to progressive education and to innovation. This time, daunting as the challenges are, it must be our goal to insure that Antioch College will not only re-open but will endure for another 150 years.