WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Officials with The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a regional higher education accrediting agency, have voted to continue Missouri State University-West Plains’ accreditation, university officials announced today.
University officials received formal notification of the decision by HLC’s Institutional Actions Council (IAC) by letter this week. In the letter, HLC officials said the IAC “continued the accreditation of Missouri State University-West Plains,” with the “next reaffirmation of accreditation” scheduled during the 2023-24 academic year. The IAC made its decision at its Aug. 11 meeting, the letter indicated.
“Few things are as important to a university and its students as its accreditation status, so this is very, very good news for the Missouri State-West Plains campus community,” said Dennis Lancaster, interim dean of academic affairs. “This reaffirmation of our accreditation allows us to look much further into the future, especially as it concerns the continuing enhancement of our academic programs, our new student engagement initiatives, and all that we do to focus on the learning environment of our students.”
The decision to continue accreditation comes after a nearly three-year process that included a comprehensive self-study by campus community members and a three-day, on-site evaluation by a four-person team of peer reviewers, which took place March 31 through April 2, 2014. The IAC’s decision, which came after committee members reviewed the findings outlined in the final report by the HLC accrediting site team, was the final step in the process.
“We are pleased with the results of the self-study process and the April site visit and report,” Chancellor Drew Bennett said. “The HLC site team report praised our self study, our board of governors and our dedication to students, highlighting an ‘outstanding commitment by the administration, faculty and staff to help students be successful.’ Operation 50K and our efforts to provide opportunities for students to appreciate cultural diversity and to prepare students for life and work in a global setting were specifically noted. In my opinion, we should be extremely proud of this HLC report as it provides an overall positive evaluation of Missouri State University-West Plains.”
University officials noted the site team, in its report, confirmed the veracity of Missouri State-West Plains’ self-study by reviewing supporting documentation and by interviewing instructors, students, administration, college staff and community members. Team members noted Missouri State-West Plains “visibly demonstrates that it is living its mission on a daily basis…There is an outstanding commitment by the administration, faculty and staff to help students be successful. The education of the citizenry in the area served by the college is immensely improved as a result of the college’s efforts.”
Site team members also praised the academic and support programs offered by the university. “Missouri State-West Plains offers well-designed courses and programs of study, including sufficient general education components. Across a variety of locations and delivery modalities, the university ensures consistent learning outcomes. The laboratories, classrooms and technology available to students and faculty are up-to-date and widely available. The library offers many services that enhance the academic environment. Student learning is supported and enhanced by well-designed support services and co-curricular opportunities,” they noted.
In regards to Missouri State-West Plains’ ability to fulfill its mission through its resources, structures and processes, improve the quality of its educational offerings, and respond to future challenges and opportunities, team members wrote, “Missouri State-West Plains manages its resources in a responsible manner and is positioned both to weather hard times and to grow intentionally.”
Along with these strengths, the team outlined two specific issues for Missouri State-West Plains to address, and the IAC agreed university officials should respond to these concerns in an assurance review in four years. The first is to develop and implement a comprehensive process to regularly review all degree programs for relevance and quality. This process will be developed and implemented this year, Lancaster said. The second is to put in place an agreement, approved by the Missouri State University Board of Governors, detailing a resource allocation formula that will be used annually to determine funding for Missouri State-West Plains. Bennett said that, too, is in the process of being developed this year.
Missouri State-West Plains has been separately accredited by the commission since 1994 at the associate’s degree level. Prior to 1994, the campus was accredited by HLC as part of Missouri State University.
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is an independent corporation and one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. The Higher Learning Commission provides institutional accreditation to degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in the North Central region. Institutional accreditation evaluates an entire institution and accredits it as a whole. Other agencies provide accreditation for specific programs. Accreditation is voluntary. The commission is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.