West Virginia University faculty, staff and students are being asked to take part in the institutions review by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools that is currently under way.

Every 10 years, the HLC requires member institutions to undergo a thorough self-study process and visitation by a team of consultant-evaluators appointed by the commission, said Nick Evans, chair of the steering committee.

The purpose of this process is to accredit colleges and universities to insure that all institutions meet national standards for excellence in higher education,Dr. Evans noted. Institutions must be accredited in order for their students to qualify for federal financial aid and to transfer credits to other colleges and universities. Professional organizations also require regional accreditation before they will accredit programs, he added.

WVU s accreditation visit from 12 consultant-evaluators will take place April 19-21.

This visit will be the culmination of a three-year process of self-study, reflection, discussion and study campus-wide to determine if this University meets HLC standards for re-accreditation. In addition, the visitors may be asked, in their capacity as consultants, to advise the institution on solutions and strategies for a short list of concerns.

The self-study, which began in fall of 2001, has reached its draft stage and is ready for comment from employees and students. The campus community is invited to review the self-study materials athttp://intranet.wvu.edu/provost/nca/nca.htm, or go to the Intranet main page (http://intranet.wvu.edu) and click on the direct link in the left column. The WVU Intranet is accessible only from computers on the University network.

The general public also will be asked for comment later this year.

The self-study is divided into several chapters. The introductory chapter provides background about the institution and how it has responded to the previous (1994) HLC visit. Chapters 2 through 6 each cover one of the five Criteria for Accreditation (CFAs). These chapters will provide in-depth discussion of and evidence that WVU has met each of the criterions. The self-study concludes with chapters 7 (our federal compliance program), 8 (the conclusion and summary of the Self-Study) and 9 (appendixes). The latter includes a breakdown of the so-called General Institutional Requirements (GIRs). These are brief statements testifying about how WVU meets or fails to meet a list of 24 requirements of mission, authorization, governance, faculty, educational program, finance and public information.

The steering committee urges the campus community to participate in the review of and commenting upon the draft self-study. Members of the University community may want to access parts of the self-study that particularly impact their areas. Comments should be submitted by Oct. 15 to ncafeedback@mail.wvu.edu .

In addition, a series of information meetings will be held for various constituent groups: Health Sciences CampusMonday, Sept. 22, 3:30 p.m. at Hostler Auditorium, Health Sciences Center; Downtown CampusFriday, Sept. 26, 1:30 p.m., Shenandoah Room, Mountainlair; and Evansdale CampusTuesday, Sept. 30, 9 a.m., Durrett Hall, Erickson Alumni Center. Members of the steering committee will be present to answer questions and record comments.