By Ray Bowden, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo.
/ Published November 05, 2018
The Higher Learning Commission will conduct an accreditation visit at the U.S. Air Force Academy in April. This is the first visit by the commission in 10 years. (U.S. Air Force photo)
There’s a lot riding on the accreditation process slated to begin in April at the Air Force Academy.
It’s the first accreditation visit for the school in 10 years, said Col. Dan Uribe, point man for the Academy side of the accreditation and head of the school’s Foreign Language Department.
“It’s not just the academic program that will be evaluated, it’s the entire institution,” he said.
The visit by the Higher Learning Commission is important enough for the HLC to invite public comment about the Academy and circulate this release:
“The U.S. Air Force Academy is seeking comments from the public about the Academy in preparation for its periodic evaluation by its regional accrediting agency. The Academy will host a visit April 29-30, from a team of peer reviewers representing the Higher Learning Commission. The team will review the institution’s ongoing ability to meet HLC’s criteria for accreditation. The U.S. Air Force Academy has been accredited by HLC since 1959. Comments must be in writing and must address substantive matters related to the quality of the institution or its academic programs.
“Submit comments to the HLC at hlcommission.org/comment or mail them to the address below. All comments must be received by April 1, 2019. Comments may be mailed to:
Public Comment on the U.S. Air Force Academy
Higher Learning Commission
230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
Chicago, Illinois, 60604-1411
Should the Academy fail to be accredited it could face, at best, follow-up inspections from the HLC and at worse, the withdrawal of its accredited status, which would have a severe impact on the ability of the Academy to fulfill its obligation under federal law to produce officers with a Bachelor of Science degree.
So Academy officials are taking this for what it is: a serious matter. Accreditation is a hallmark event than can boost a school’s image or tarnish its legacy.
Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria said successful accreditation is one of his top priorities as Academy superintendent.
“This accreditation effort is about our entire institution,” he said. “We are all in.”
Silveria said the accreditation process can be a learning experience for all Academy staff and faculty.
“We’ll have numerous opportunities to learn more about the accreditation process and the critical role you play,” he said. “I encourage all Academy staff and faculty to meet frequently with your mission element’s accreditation representative to learn about the details.”
The Academy’s accreditation rests on how the HLC rates the quality of its mission; it’s ethical and responsible conduct; the quality, resources and support of its teaching and learning; the education and improvement of its teaching and learning; and its resource, planning and institutional effectiveness, according to the commission’s website.
Colleges and universities are affiliated with the HLC in two ways: by gaining and maintaining accredited status or by gaining candidate status. Approximately 1,000 institutions are affiliated with HLC, according to the commission’s website.
Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost, dean of the faculty, said there’s a lot to be done between now and April, including the completion of an assurance argument to be presented to the commission. The argument is a document that demonstrates, with evidence, the Academy is meeting HLC requirements.
“We’ve succeeded in large part because of our very rich and effective academic core and the intersection of disciplines within our 27 academic majors,” Armacost said. “The Air Force Academy has been recognized world-wide as an institution that not only instills the ability in our cadets to be leaders of character, but also to be leaders of thought. Our accreditation ensures the right faculty and the right resources to continue to develop these cadets as an invaluable resource for the nation.”