Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


1.  What is the Higher Learning Commission?

Marshall University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is an independent corporation and one of two commission members of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).  The NCA is one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. The Higher Learning Commission accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in the North Central region.

2.  What is Marshall’s current accreditation status?

Marshall University’s most recent accreditation review was in 2005; the next reaccreditation review will occur in 2015.

3.  What kind of accreditation process has Marshall undergone in the past?

For many years Marshall University has maintained accreditation through the traditional Program to Evaluate and Advance Quality (PEAQ). PEAQ requires a very extensive institutional self-study, (the most recent 2005 self-study resulted in 3 cubic feet of documentation), an evaluation by a team of at least eight trained peer reviewers, and final decision-making by the HLC through three panels.

4.  What is this new path to re-accreditation called Open Pathways?

In Fall 2011, President Kopp accepted an invitation from HLC to include Marshall University in a group of twenty institutions across the United States that will pilot the new Open Pathway Demonstration Project option for reaccreditation. In comparison to PEAQ, this option is significantly streamlined and includes a continuous and electronic means of submitting documentation for reaffirmation of accreditation.  In addition, Marshall University’s participation in Open Pathways should result in a reaffirmation of accreditation through 2025.

5.  What does the Open Pathways project require?

The Open Pathways project consists of two key components: (a) the Assurance Process and (b) the Improvement Process (which is defined by the institutions quality initiative).

6.  What is the Assurance Process of the Open Pathways project?

This component requires Marshall University to develop an Assurance Argument that makes the case that the institution meets the Criteria for Accreditation as well as all federal requirements. The evidence used to support the Assurance Argument consists of the continuous accumulation of electronically stored information and data provided by Marshall University. The criteria are broad statements that are applied to seek evidence of continual improvement, goals, and best practices. Each criterion includes more specific core components.  At this time, HLC is in the process of revising its Criteria and Core Components for Accreditation.  The most recent version, the Criteria Gamma Version, is available in the Resources section of the Marshall University HLC Open Pathways Quality Initiative website.
The five broad criteria currently under consideration are the following.  Each criterion comprises core components that are articulated under the general criterion heading

HLC Gamma Version Criterion Statements
1. Mission
The institution’s mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution’s operations.
2.  Ethical and Responsible Conduct
The institution fulfills its mission ethically and responsibly.
3.  Teaching and Learning-Quality, Resources, and Support
The institution provides high quality education, where and however its offerings are delivered.
4.  Teaching and Learning Evaluation and Improvement
The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs, learning environments, and support servic­es, and evaluates their effective­ness for student learning through processes designed to promote continuous improvement.
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.

These five criteria are informed by the following core values:

  • Focus on student learning.
  • Education as a public purpose.
  • Education for a diverse, technologically, globally connected world.
  • A culture of continuous improvement.
  • Evidence-based institutional learning and self-presentation.
  • Integrity, transparency, and ethical behavior and practice.
  • Governance for the well-being of the institution.
  • Planning and management of resources to ensure institutional sustainability.
  • Mission-centered evaluation.
  • Accreditation through peer review.

7.  What is the Improvement Process of the Open Pathways project?

The core of the Improvement Process is the Quality Initiative. This is Marshall University’s plan to formulate the meaning of a Marshall University degree based on our testing of the Degree Qualifications Profile (DP). This Quality Initiative is part of Marshall University’s participation in the new Open Pathways route to reaffirmation of accreditation. The process will conclude in 2015 with a Results Visit by a two person peer review team appointed by HLC. The core goal of this process is to examine and evaluate the usefulness of the Degree Qualifications Profile (DP) developed by the private Lumina Foundation for Education.

8.  What is the Degree Qualifications Profile?

The Degree Profile is a tool to help define the knowledge and skills students need to acquire in order to earn associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees.  The Lumina Degree Profile offers a set of learning outcomes at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels articulated across five (5) areas of learning.  Through a testing of these learning outcomes in an assessment practice, the Degree Profile is designed to assist institutions to identify and to explore elements of the learning experience needed to develop a response to the question, “what is the meaning of a university degree?”  For the purposes of Marshall’s quality initiative, testing the Degree Profile learning outcomes will assist the university in responding to these related questions:

  • What are the goals of a university education; and more specifically for Marshall University,
  • What should a Marshall University graduate, at the various degree levels, know and be able to do?
  • What is distinctive about the Marshall University learning experience?

The DP identifies five critical areas of learning:

  1. Specialized knowledge (understanding of terminology, theory, methods, tools literature, complex programs or applications, and cognizance of the limits of the field);
  2. Broad integrative knowledge (practice in core fields ranging from science and the social sciences through the humanities and arts and development of global, cultural and democratic perspectives);
  3. Intellectual skills (fluency in oral and written communications, analytic inquiry, quantitative fluency, use of information resources, engaging diverse perspectives);
  4. Applied learning (demonstration of interaction of academic and non-academic settings and the corresponding integration of theory and practice);
  5. Civic engagement (capacity to use analysis and reflection in out-of-class experiences).

9.  What is the Lumina Foundation for Education?

Lumina Foundation is a private, independent foundation, (which ranks among the top 40 US private foundations), established in Indianapolis in August 2000. “Lumina is committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college. In fact, we are the nation’s largest foundation dedicated exclusively to increasing students’ access to and success in postsecondary education. Our mission is defined by Goal 225–to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025.”

10.  What exactly do we have to do to achieve reaccreditation in 2015?

Marshall University, along with the other institutional members of the “Open Pathways” pilot project, will test the usefulness of the Degree Profile.

11.  What are the benefits of participating in the Open Pathways project?

Our participation in this pilot project provides us with a tremendous opportunity to engage in a review process that has real meaning for the 21st century, to examine closely how we teach, and to articulate the meaning of a Marshall University degree at the different degree levels. In addition, our good faith effort to test the Degree Profile should result in the reaffirmation of our accreditation through 2025.