Ferris State University was first granted accreditation in April of 1959 which would have been during the tenure of President Victor Spathelf, the 10th president, who retired in 1970. It has been continuously accredited since then, although the University has changed its name since that date. In 1963, the University changed from Ferris Institute to Ferris State College and in 1987, the name was changed to Ferris State University.
In 1977, the University was granted approval to offer its first professional degree in Optometry. At that time, the stipulation was that “programs beyond the bachelor’s degree level be limited to the professional degree program in Optometry.”
The University’s first attempt to add the Master of Accountancy was rejected in 1982, pending an on-site visit. Offering that program was approved in October of 1983. This change resulted in a revised stipulation that limited the University’s graduate-level programs to the Masters in Accountancy and the Doctorate in Optometry. In 1984, HLC approved the addition of a MS in Occupational Education.
The University’s outreach efforts at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City and in Grand Rapids at what was then called the Southwestern Regional Center were added to the locations specified within Ferris’ status with HLC in 1985. By 1990, Ferris was approved to offer courses and programs at any sites in Michigan.
Following a visit in 1995, two progress reports and a focused visit were required as follow-up. The reports were to address income and expenditures for each of the years 1995, 1996, and 1997 as well as a report on assessment of student academic achievement in 1996. The focused visit in 1995 would be focused on (1) the financial stability of the institution, (2) the general education program of the institution, and (3) the institution’s program to assess student academic achievement. The reports were accepted in 1996 and the focused visit was successfully completed in 1998. The merger with Kendall was then to become the subject of a 2000 visit.
In March of 2001, Ferris hosted its next comprehensive visit. Areas cited that needed attention were 1) the inconsistency in administration and expectations related to general education; resolving differences between general education at Ferris and Kendall; and technology planning. A progress report was requested on the Kendall merger by April 2004. Several suggestions were also offered.
The early 2000s resulted in several changes, as the University was approved in 2000 for offering the Master of Science degree in Information Systems Management through the Internet; the merger of Kendall in 2000; and a progress report on the merger in 2001. In 2003, a site in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada was approved, which resulted in a new stipulation that “international offerings are limited to the Bachelor’s program in Technical Education at Red River College in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.” In 2004, the progress report on Kendall was accepted.
As a result of a change request submitted by Ferris to expand its online offerings, in 2006, the University’s ability to offer courses and programs through distance delivery was expanded to include any programs that were in the 2006 catalog. Because of the Commission’s continuing interest in assuring the integrity of off-campus sites, a multi-site visit was conducted to Flint, Grand Rapids, and Lansing in 2007; and in 2008, the University’s ability to participate in a streamlined approval process for additional sites within the state was expanded. In 2008, the University received approval to offer any online degree programs without prior approval.
In subsequent years, the University has added several additional locations where it offers courses and programs, with most in Michigan but with two more recent additions including Palatine, Illinois, at Harper College and Lone Star College in Houston, Texas, where the Doctorate in Community College Leadership will be offered.
In 2010-11, the University’s reaccreditation was extended as the result of a comprehensive visit in April of 2010. That official action was received by the University in spring of 2012, and the next reaccreditation date was set for academic year 2020-2021. In 2012, Ferris was also provided with the option of choosing its accreditation pathway (Standard, AQIP, or Open). The University selected the Open Pathway.
Since that reaccreditation, the University has initiated and been approved for two additional doctoral degree options. In 2010, as a result of a focused visit, Ferris was approved to offer the Educational Doctorate in Community College Leadership and in September 2016, through a review-panel process, Ferris was approved to offer a Doctorate in Nursing Practice.
As the Academic Year 2017-18 begins, Ferris will begin its preparations for its 2020-21 Reaffirmation of Accreditation visit. The 2020-21 visit will be substantially different from the 2010-11 experience, as both the process and the criteria are different. Ferris will be particularly attentive to addressing any recommendations provided by the 2010-11 site visit team. Those recommendations will be shared with all involved with this reaffirmation process.