When it comes to being an accredited institution of higher education, the process of becoming so is sort of old hat for North Central Kansas Technical College.
The college, which has been accredited for more than 40 years, knows in many ways what to expect when that time comes for the Higher Learning Commission to be at the doorstep, ready to examine the school again. The process done once every 10 years won’t happen at NCK Tech until the 2019-20 school year, but now is the midway point. So preparing for that visit becomes all the more vital. In preparation, Dean of Instructional Services Corey Isbell says he feels good where the college is in its standing to become accredited, but it’s just about doing things right and making sure they’re ready to prove they are worthy.
“We’re a long-standing accredited institution of higher education,” Isbell said. “There’s not a lot of people that understand that we’ve been accredited that long (since 1975), but we really have.
“There’s a lot of paperwork that we have to provide to (the HLC), and they’ll send a team out to visit our institution and kind of check on our policies, procedures and our progress. They’ll look at the good things we do for our students and just the overall operation of NCK Tech.”
One of 55 accredited institutions of post-high school in Kansas, according to the HLC website, NCKTech is in the beginning process of its Quality Initiative Project, which is started midway through each visit to be reaccredited. The project is about institutional improvement, and it gives each school a chance to really examine itself from what it’s done best to the areas of where they can look to get better.
“It’s a process thing,” Isbell said. “It’s all about improvement. Institutional advancement and improvement and getting better at what we do. We can all get better. That’s really what they want, and what they want to see and that’s what we try to do.”
As part of the Quality Initiative Project, NCK Tech is taking part in a persistence and completion academy that is done by HLC. Isbell, in his fourth year as a dean at college, will head the college’s group working on the project. The academy will host an orientation in Chicago that Isbell and Jennifer Brown, an instructional coordinator at the Beloit campus and the college’s HLC liaison, will attend.
Once they have been through that process, they will come back and assemble a team of five to eight faculty and staff members who will work through the academy toward the completion of the initiative project.
A project that will take a team’s worth of effort, Isbell said he feels good about where the college stands as an accredited institution and that it will continue to progress. While the HLC will give an institution chances to better itself to become accredited, Isbell is confident NCK Tech has established itself in proving its worth and taken continual steps to making itself better. He points to the college’s general education classes as one the big successes. Isbell said most of the general education classes offered from NCK Tech are able to be transferred to another college.
“As an accredited college, we’ve done some pretty good things with our general education and our technical education,” Isbell said. “Our tech courses and programs are great. I think it all stems from being accredited and having high standards.”
When the time comes for the accreditation visit in the 2019-20 school year, included in the group that comes will be peers the HLC will pull from other Kansas vocational tech and junior colleges who will be a part of the team examining the school.