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Ferris State University Celebrates Reaffirmation of Accreditation from Higher Learning Commission

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Shown here is a winter scene at Ferris State University. Leaders of the University are excited about the reaffirmation of accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

An 80-page comprehensive Higher Learning Commission report marks the second consecutive review from which Ferris State University has earned a clean evaluation in meeting all criteria and expectations for accreditation.

“This affirms the quality of our University, highlighting the value of the education we provide, our focus on mission-driven planning, and our commitment to continuous improvement,” Ferris President David Eisler said of Ferris’ second consecutive clean evaluation. “This result represents the work our people do each and every day to carry out our mission. There are more positive comments about the university and its people in this report than I can recall in an institutional accreditation document. These can be a source of great pride to everyone who works or is associated with our university.” 

The December 2020 final report summarizes the seven-member peer review team’s evaluation of six key components: reaffirmation review of the five HLC criteria and 18 core components; federal compliance report; multi-campus report (Kendall College of Art and Design); COVID-19 response report; October 2020 on-site visit (Big Rapids campus); and an October 2020 multi-campus visit (KCAD). One member of the peer review team visited Ferris in person, while the other six visited virtually. The day-and-a-half process included 25 meetings with Ferris and KCAD faculty, staff, students and trustees.

The HLC Institutional Actions Committee's Jan. 26 final endorsement is the product of a comprehensive process that featured approximately 200 town hall attendees, 175 leadership team meetings over 500 hours, 100 subcommittee members, 30 steering committee members and 100 other meetings on the Ferris Big Rapids and KCAD campuses. 

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Bobby Fleischman spoke of the inclusive nature of the process and the pride that can be taken from the results.

“Our successful HLC reaccreditation highlights the outstanding work engaged by our faculty, as well as the high standards we set for teaching, learning, scholarship and service,” he said. “The HLC Steering Committee, under the direction of our HLC Leadership Team of Jeff Ek, Jennifer Hegenauer and Mandy Seiferlein, did exemplary work in gathering data and drafting the Assurance Argument in a way that should make students and their families proud of their decision to select Ferris as their institution of choice for higher learning.” 

The Assurance Argument highlighted by the provost included 95 pages, more than 31,000 words as a narrative covering how the university met the five criterion and 18 core components.

Seiferlein, associate provost of assessment and accreditation, pointed to three key components that guided Ferris’ HLC reaccreditation efforts: collaboration; transparency; and a focus on continuous improvement. 

“These were fundamental to the successful three-plus-year operation of the Steering Committee and subcommittees,” she said. “By focusing on the identification of evidence to support our compliance with the HLC criteria, we were able to have honest conversations within our committees and with the University at-large about any gaps we found and then work together to solve them.”

Ek, Marketing Department chair in the College of Business, noted widespread participation critical to information gathering during the HLC process. 

“Hundreds of individuals participated in the virtual site visit in October to answer the HLC review team’s questions as they sought to verify our compliance with the criteria,” Ek said. “The high level of engagement during the visit indicates just how invested the entire University community is to the accreditation process and the HLC review team took note.”

Hegenauer, executive director of research, planning and assessment, saluted inclusive participation in the process. 

“Broad engagement across the University community helped to ensure the Assurance Argument we submitted to the HLC accurately reflected how Ferris State University meets or exceeds the accreditation criteria,” she said. “Throughout the project, countless hours were invested across every division of the University to prepare the Assurance Argument, ultimately providing more than 700 pieces of evidence to support our claims.”

Seiferlein emphasized that the HLC reaffirmation process is more than the final report. She added it is about the people who work every day to help Ferris live up to its mission and core values. 

“The report received from the Higher Learning Commission affirms that Ferris State University meets all criteria and expectations for accreditation,” she said. “It is important to note that maintaining accreditation is about much more than ‘checking boxes’ for the sake of compliance. When done well, accreditation is about demonstrating how an institution meets criteria in ways that stay true to the mission of the university and always with a focus on continuous improvement that serves our students.”

She added, “The report we received includes several accolades that highlight just how we do this at Ferris State University, and we are very proud of the external acknowledgment of our culture of continuous improvement.” 

Ferris’ next comprehensive evaluation for reaffirmation will take place during the 2030-31 academic year. 

More report information is available by visiting the HLC Reaffirmation 2020 website.