HLC Accreditation 2022

Oakland City University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, a regional institutional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Value of Accreditation

students walking across campus

While many academic agencies accredit particular programs of study, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is responsible for assuring that colleges and universities meet certain standards regarding their mission, educational operation, scholarly and creative activities, community service, and ethics.

The HLC ensures that the educational institution meets the requirements of the U.S. Department of Education and the Criterion of Accreditation to authorize said institution to grant degrees at the level requested or evaluated.

  • Accreditation is an assurance to the public that an institution is properly prepared to do its job.
  • Accreditation is required in order to receive federal funds in higher education, including student financial aid.
  • Accreditation assists with transfer of credits among institutions.

Reaffirmation Process

Oakland City University is preparing for its Comprehensive Evaluation with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). This review leads to an action regarding the reaffirmation of the institution’s accreditation. OCU has been accredited by the HLC since 1987; with its last reaffirmation of accreditation occurring in 2011.

Comprehensive evaluations occur at different points along each pathway as set by the HCL; Oakland City University is on the Standard Pathway. For the Standard Pathway, the HLC requires:

  • Regular monitoring
  • Comprehensive Evaluation in Year 4
  • Comprehensive Evaluation for Reaffirmation in Year 10

Evaluations are conducted by teams of peer reviewers. The evaluation occurs in the final year of the pathway cycle and includes actions associated with the institution’s reaffirmation of accreditation.

OCU campus

Overview of Accreditation

student singing in chapel

The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions and/or programs of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. Accrediting agencies, which are private educational associations of regional or national scope, develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to assess whether or not those criteria are met. Institutions and/or programs that request an agency’s evaluation and that meet an agency’s criteria are then “accredited” by that agency.  – U.S. Department of Education

Important Functions of Accreditation

  • Assess the quality of academic programs at institutions of higher education
  • Create a culture of continuous improvement of academic quality at colleges and universities and stimulate a general raising of standards among educational institutions
  • Involve faculty and staff comprehensively in institutional evaluation and planning
  • Establish criteria for professional certification and licensure and for upgrading courses offering such preparation

HLC Criteria for Accreditation

Criterion 1 – Mission

The institution’s mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution’s operations.

  1. The institution’s mission is articulated publicly and operationalized throughout the institution.
  2. The institution’s mission demonstrates commitment to the public good.
  3. The institution provides opportunities for civic engagement in a diverse, multicultural society and globally-connected world, as appropriate within its mission and for the constituencies it serves.
Criterion 2 – Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct

The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible.

  1. The institution establishes and follows policies and processes to ensure fair and ethical behavior on the part of its governing board, administration, faculty and staff.
  2. The institution presents itself clearly and completely to its students and to the public.
  3. The governing board of the institution is autonomous to make decisions in the best interest of the institution in compliance with board policies and to ensure the institution’s integrity.
  4. The institution is committed to academic freedom and freedom of expression in the pursuit of truth in teaching and learning.
  5. The institution’s policies and procedures call for responsible acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge by its faculty, staff and students.
Criterion 3 - Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support

The institution provides quality education, wherever and however its offerings are delivered.

  1. The rigor of the institution’s academic offerings is appropriate to higher education.
  2. The institution offers programs that engage students in collecting, analyzing and communicating information; in mastering modes of intellectual inquiry or creative work; and in developing skills adaptable to changing environments.
  3. The institution has the faculty and staff needed for effective, high-quality programs and student services.
  4. The institution provides support for student learning and resources for effective teaching.
Criterion 4 - Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement

The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs, learning environments and support services, and it evaluates their effectiveness for student learning through processes designed to promote continuous improvement.

  1. The institution ensures the quality of its educational offerings.
  2. The institution engages in ongoing assessment of student learning as part of its commitment to the educational outcomes of its students.
  3. The institution pursues educational improvement through goals and strategies that improve retention, persistence and completion rates in its degree and certificate programs.
Criterion 5 - Institutional Effectiveness, Resources and Planning

The institution’s resources, structures, processes and planning are sufficient to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its educational offerings, and respond to future challenges and opportunities.

  1. Through its administrative structures and collaborative processes, the institution’s leadership demonstrates that it is effective and enables the institution to fulfill its mission.
  2. The institution’s resource base supports its educational offerings and its plans for maintaining and strengthening their quality in the future.
  3. The institution engages in systematic and integrated planning and improvement.

Components of a Comprehensive Evaluation

coffee shop

For all institutions, a comprehensive evaluation includes the following components:

As part of the Assurance Review, the institution submits an Assurance Argument, along with materials of evidence (called an Evidence File), to demonstrate that it is in compliance with HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation. The team of peer reviewers conducting the comprehensive evaluation reviews these materials in preparation for an on-site visit.


Criteria for Accreditation


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Evaluative Framework for the HLC Criteria


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Substantive Requirements for Reaffirmation of Accreditation


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Process Requirements for Each Pathway


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Process Requirements Leading to HLC Action for Reaffirmation


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Preparing for the Site Visit


From small class sizes and personalized instruction to numerous degree programs and student organizations, we nurture our Mighty Oaks and expect great outcomes.

Possible Questions

Possible Questions for Students
  • Why did you choose to enroll at OCU? Have your expectations been met?
  • What do you think is special or what stands out to you about an OCU education?
  • Would you recommend OCU to other students?
  • What do you like best about OCU? What would you change if you could?
  • Have you experienced any problems getting the courses you need in a timely manner?
  • Are facilities appropriately maintained at OCU?
  • Describe your experiences with academic advising.
  • Do you know where to go for help with the following? (a) academic support; (b) career planning; (c) personal counseling; (e) making a complaint; (f) technology support.
  • Do you use any of the following: library, tutoring services, dining services, the health center, recreational facilities? If yes, what has been your experience?
  • Are you able to estimate your bill each semester or are you surprised when you receive it?
  • How is the relationship between students and faculty?
  • What opportunities do you have to conduct research?
  • Tell us about programming that happens outside of academic departments where you have learned something.
  • What opportunities do you have to interact with people and cultures different from your own?
  • What opportunities do you have to gain real-world experience related to your educational and career goals?
  • If you transferred in credits, what was the experience like for you?
  • What do you like best about Oakland City University?
  • Does OCU have sufficient and appropriate classrooms to instruct students?
  • Describe the role of the OCU Student Government Association.
  • How are students given the opportunity to provide input into important initiatives?
  • How are students given the opportunity to provide input into proposed tuition increases?
  • Are our academic programs relevant and current?
Possible Questions for Faculty
  • What do you know about accreditation and have you seen or read the Assurance Argument?
  • How would you describe OCU’s mission? Do you know where you would find the official statement?
  • What are OCU’s greatest strengths?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing OCU?
  • How about challenges specific to your department?
  • Do you know where to find information about academic integrity and policies regarding academic misconduct?
  • Describe any campus processes that could be improved or made more efficient.
  • What kind of changes are taking place at OCU? Do you see these as positive or not?
  • How does your department contribute to OCU’s mission?
  • How is morale on campus?
  • Can you describe the rank and promotion process? What is your impression of the process?
  • Talk about shared governance and how you participate in decision-making at different levels of the university (department, college, institution).
  • How would you describe the relationship between faculty and administration? What works and what needs improvement?
  • What resources are available to support faculty (e.g., library, internal or external grant support, faculty development, travel, etc.)? Are these sufficient in meeting faculty needs?
  • Is your department actively involved in assessing student learning? How has your department used its assessment findings?
  • How do you ensure that all classes – online, blended, off-campus, dual credit – have the same student learning outcomes and equivalent assessments?
  • Are you involved in research? How does the university’s focus on research further OCU’s mission?
  • How does OCU support students who are underprepared or struggling?
  • What do you believe have been the major accomplishments of OCU over the last ten years?
  • How does OCU support the community at large?
  • For some common faculty issues (workload, salary, sabbatical leaves, etc.), what works well and what needs to be improved?
  • Have OCU administrators established a culture of trust within the university?
  • What is the process for making curriculum changes in your academic programs?
  • Who is responsible for academic policy creation/modification?
  • Are you familiar with the institutional learning outcomes?
  • Does your department offer courses or programs via distance education? If so, how does your department ensure the quality of the curriculum?
  • Does OCU provide sufficient technology support?
  • Are facilities appropriately maintained at OCU?
  • What challenges do you believe OCU will need to deal with in the next 10 years?
  • Are the computer software systems helpful in assisting students with registration? With advising? With knowledge of campus events?
Possible Questions for Staff
  • How does your department support the mission of the university? How would you describe OCU’s mission?
  • What do you know about the Higher Learning Commission?
  • What is it like working at OCU? What are OCU’s greatest strengths?
  • How is morale on campus?
  • How about challenges specific to your department?
  • What opportunities do you have for professional development? Are staff members treated equitably in their access to these opportunities?
  • How are staff involved in campus decision-making processes? Do you think that staff have sufficient input into decisions that affect them?
  • How would you describe the relationship between staff and administration? What works and what needs improvement?
  • How are staff evaluated at OCU? What is your impression of the evaluation process?
  • What kind of changes are taking place at OCU? Do you see these as positive or not?
  • Describe any campus processes that could be improved or made more efficient.
  • Do you understand the FERPA policy?
  • Does OCU have academic and financial requirements which are presented clearly and completely to students and the public?
  • Does OCU provide sufficient technology support?
  • Are facilities appropriately maintained at OCU?
  • How do departments across campuses work collaboratively? What works well and what could be improved?
  • Do you feel that the work you do is valued by administration? Faculty? Other staff members? Students?
  • What are the biggest resource challenges at OCU?
  • What challenges do you believe OCU will need to deal with in the next 10 years?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)? What happened to the North Central Association (NCA)?

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is an independent corporation that was founded in 1895 as one of six institutional accreditors in the United States. HLC accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in the North Central region of the United States. 

HLC’s mission is: Serving the common good by assuring and advancing the quality of higher learning.

Through an agreement between the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and CASI (the Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement), the North Central Association was dissolved in 2014. The dissolution of the North Central Association and the liquidation of its assets, announced in July 2014, had no effect on the accreditation of any institution. There was no change in the standards or process for accreditation of institutions by HLC and there was no effect on HLC’s federal recognition as a Title IV gatekeeper.

After 2001, when HLC and CASI incorporated as separate and independent corporations that accredit educational institutions at all levels, the North Central Association had no role in the accreditation process and existed solely to hold the Association’s property, including its name, trademarks and records.

As of the fall of 2014, institutions should revise their descriptive information to delete information indicating that they are members of the North Central Association. Instead, institutions should continue to describe themselves as members of HLC. Any third-party references to accreditation of degree-granting institutions of higher education by the North Central Association should be construed as referring to accreditation of these institutions by HLC.

What is HLC accreditation? Why is it important?

While many academic agencies accredit particular programs of study (education, nursing, business, etc.), the Higher Learning Commission and other regional accrediting agencies are responsible for assuring that colleges and universities meet certain standards in terms of their missions, operations, and activities in teaching and student learning, discovery and promotion of knowledge, and service. Accreditation is an assurance to the public that an institution is properly prepared to do its job. On a more practical level, the HLC and the other accrediting agencies have been designated as the “gatekeepers” for federal funds in higher education, including student financial aid. Unaccredited schools are not eligible for many kinds of federal support. For more information, see the HLC website. In short, HLC ensures students are provided with a high-quality education.

What is an assurance argument?

An assurance argument is a periodic, rigorous, comprehensive review and analysis of an institution’s strengths and weaknesses. Its purposes are vital to both the institution’s external and internal constituencies. Accreditation is merit-based on an institution’s ability to meet the criteria and established standards.

What steps make up the comprehensive evaluation assurance review?

The institution demonstrates that it meets the Criteria for Accreditation by preparing an Assurance Filing, comprised of an Assurance Argument and an Evidence File, using HLC’s Assurance System.

A team of peer reviewers evaluates the institution’s Assurance Filing. The outcome of this review is a recommendation as to whether the institution meets the Criteria for Accreditation. If the Assurance Review is part of a comprehensive evaluation, this review will also include an on-site visit by the peer review team. The Assurance Review conducted in Year 4 of the Open Pathway does not include an on-site visit unless the team determines one is necessary to explore uncertainties in evidence that cannot be resolved at a distance or if a sanction is being considered.

A decision-making body reviews the institution’s documentation and the recommendation from the peer review team and takes an official action.

What will the HLC do?

Overall, accrediting agencies serve two purposes: one is to gauge the performance of an institution in relation to its overarching mission; the other is to promote improvement in the quality of the institution.

Within the two overarching purposes, the HLC will assess the institution’s educational processes and activities. The assessment process is further extended to the institution’s governance and administration; faculty teaching and professional development; financial stability; admissions; student services; institutional resources; continuous improvement; student learning and institutional effectiveness.

What does HLC look for when it accredits colleges and universities?

HLC has established five Criteria statements, as outlined below, each including its Core Components. An institution must present reasonable and representative evidence of meeting each Criterion.

The five criteria for accreditation that will be in effect when OCU comes up for re-accreditation in 2022 are:

  1. Mission
  2. Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct
  3. Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support
  4. Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement
  5. Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness

Components of these criteria and examples of evidence that support these components can be found on the HLC website. Additionally, HLC looks for the university showing continuous improvement.

When will the HLC reaffirmation visit take place?

The campus will prepare the Assurance Argument Report, based on the criteria, and submit it to the HLC in Spring 2022. An evaluation team from the HLC is scheduled to come to campus on March 28-29, 2022.

Why are we being visited for reaffirmation so soon? Didn't we just go through this?

The last full accreditation visit from the Higher Learning Commission was in 2010. OSUIT undergoes regular monitoring and reviews based upon HLC’s Open Pathways 10-Year Cycle.

How is the campus preparing for the reaffirmation of accreditation visit in 2020?
  • An HLC Reaffirmation of Accreditation Steering Committee was formed
  • Criterion Teams have been formed to collect evidence to support each criterion
  • Members of the committee and selected staff and faculty were tasked to draft the Assurance Argument

These groups have worked together to help prepare the campus for the 2022 visit. For more information on how you can help the campus to prepare, please contact Dr. Paul Bowdre by email [email protected]

Who will be on the HLC team?

The campus will be visited by a Peer Review Team of trained Consultant Evaluators. These are administrators, staff, and faculty who have been accepted to the Peer Review Corps by the HLC. All will have gone through training for such visits and will be familiar with the evaluation Criteria. 

What will the team do during the visit?

The team will already have received the complete campus Assurance Argument and will have had access to all supporting documents. During the visit, they will be seeking to validate the content of the argument in terms of the strengths we have declared and data that support them, as well as concerns that need attention or issues that may confront us in the future. Team members will have meetings with key individuals and groups from across the campus and will have open meetings that are less structured. The on-site activities will take place on March 28-29, 2022.

How will the findings be reported?

The HLC team will write an Assurance report that addresses the Criteria and Core Components for accreditation and send a draft to the campus a few weeks after the visit. The team will note the Components that have been met, any that have not been, and any qualifications or concerns regarding them. After receiving the draft, the President will have a chance to correct factual errors, and the final report will be submitted to the HLC no more than 5 weeks after the visit.

What kinds of recommendations might the team make?

The team may simply recommend continued accreditation with no recommended follow-up activities before the next scheduled review in 2023-2024 or the next scheduled site visit in 2029-2030. If an institution is in serious trouble, the team could recommend probation or even withdrawal of accreditation. In between, there is a range of possible actions, including required progress reports on how the institution is dealing with particular issues, monitoring reports dealing with specific issues that require careful and ongoing attention, and contingency reports dealing with changes taking place that affect the mission or nature of the institution. HLC staff estimate that 85% of institutions will have some kind of activity required.

What will happen to the report when the visit is over?

The institution will need to look carefully at the report, both for the validation of the things that we are doing well and for advice about ways in which we can improve what we are doing. Particular issues may be referred to appropriate committees and offices for examination and action. 

At that point, we continue our ongoing commitment to quality improvement as we look forward to the 4-year Assurance Review.  That is similar to the 10-year review, however, it does not include a site visit unless something was found that needed further attention as mentioned above.

What do we hope to learn from this process?

As this is an opportunity for self-reflection, we hope, above all, that the visit will confirm that OSUIT is meeting its mission in meaningful ways. These are great opportunities for the institution to learn much more about ourselves. We also hope to receive good advice about ways in which we can better meet and advance our mission. In the end, it is about affirming, renewing, and furthering our commitment to Student Success, Employee Excellence, and Community Relevance; the cornerstones of what it means to be OSUIT.

Steering Committee and Contributors

Accreditation Liaison Officer

Dr. Daniel Dunivan, Professor of Theology

Criterion Co-Chairs and Teams
Criterion 1 Team Co-chairs Criterion 1 Team

Brian Baker, Vice President for Advancement

Dr. Douglas Low, Professor of New Testament

Patti Buchta, Instructor in Health and Physical Education

Dr. Ronald Mercer, Dean of the Chapman School of Religious Studies and Chapman Seminary

Dr. Stephen Kissel, Assistant Professor in History

Mr. Brent Maguire, Lecturer in Criminal Justice

Recording Secretary: TBD

Criterion 2 Team Co-chairs Criterion 2 Team

Dr. Ron Dempsey, President

Dr. Cathy Robb, Dean of the School of Business


Dr. Jervaise McDaniel, Professor of Business Administration

Stanley Coy, Lecturer in English

Dr. Cathy Gonzales, Associate Professor of Education

Connie Sandefer, Assistant Registrar

Brent Magruder, Senior Director of Enrollment Management

Dr. Nancy Miller, Associate Professor of Education

Recording Secretary: Jennifer Hollinger, Administrative Assistant

Criterion 3 Team Co-chairs Criterion 3 Team

Bradley Knotts, Associate Vice President for Student Life

Dr. Justin Murphy, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences


Dr. Camy Davis, Professor of Education

Dr. Timothy Decker, Associate Professor of English

Takenya Fulks, Lecturer in Business Administration

Dr. Thomas Leuze, Professor of Christian Education

Dr. Sarah Wilson, Associate Professor of Education

Recording Secretary: Elaine Pauw, Associate Director of Academic Success Services

Criterion 4 Team Co-chairs Criterion 4 Team

Dr. Paul Bowdre, Assistant Provost for Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness


Kameron Ashabranner, Lecturer in Physical Education

Dr. Steve Custer, Associate Professor of Business Administration

Dr. Kiev Gracias, Associate Professor of Biology

Heather Hose, Academic Success Coordinator

John ‘Ben’ Markley, Adjunct Instructor

Dr. Thomas Walls, Professor of Missional Studies

Erika Walter, Non-Traditional Programs Support Specialist

Robert Vaughan, Lecturer in Business

Recording Secretary: Abbie Lantrip, Admissions Counselor

Criterion 5 Team Co-chairs Criterion 5 Team

Rev. Clint Woolsey, Vice President for Administration

Todd Wahl, Chief Financial Officer

Dr. Michael Atkinson, Professor of Biology

Liz Carlisle, Director of the Business Office

Dr. Michael Ige, Assistant Professor of Education

Dr. Rodger Minatra, Associate Professor of Business Administration

Recording Secretary: Kathy Bailey, Administrative Assistant to the Executive Office

Federal Compliance Chair & Team

Federal Compliance Chair

Federal Compliance Team

Linda Tipton, Registrar

Dr. Paul Bowdre, Assistant Provost for Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness

Michael McGregor, Acting Chief of the Campus Police Department

Nicole Sharp, Director of Financial Aid

Resource Staff, Communications, and Data Teams
Resource Staff Communications Team

T-Ray Fletcher, Director of Athletics

Stephanie Kirby, Director of Human Resources

Jennifer Lantrip, Associate Director of Recruitment

Nicole Sharp, Director of Financial Aid

Jennifer Stroughmatt, Director of the Center for Calling and Career

Linda Tipton, Registrar

Todd Wahl, Chief Financial Officer

Audrey Sparks, Public Relations Specialist

Andrea Turner, Webmaster

Data Team

Dr. Paul Bowdre, Assistant Provost for Assessment & Institutional Effectiveness

Jennifer Cates, Associate Director of Admissions

Maria Cottier, Associate Director of Information Technology