There are five HLC Criteria for Accreditation that we must address in our Assurance Argument.
The criteria are essentially standards by which HLC determines whether an institution merits accreditation or reaffirmation of accreditation.
HLC Criteria for Accreditation that UMKC’s Assurance Argument must address:
Criterion One. Mission
The institution’s mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution’s operations.
Criterion Two. Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct
The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible.
Criterion Three. Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support
The institution provides high-quality education, wherever and however its offerings are delivered.
Criterion Four. 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.
Criterion Five. Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness
The institution’s resources, structures, and processes are sufficient to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its educational offerings, and respond to future challenges and opportunities. The institution plans for the future.
HLC Accreditation process has evolved since 2009, the last time HLC reaffirmed UMKC’s accreditation
Instead of hundreds of pages organized in binders, we now upload evidence files and write an assurance argument that is at most 35,000 words (in Times New Roman, 12 point font, single-spaced, that is 87.9 pages). Writing an assurance argument is much different from other types of technical writing. The assurance argument connects evidence with UMKC’s assertions about how we comply with accreditation standards.
According to HLC (Smith and Rosen, 2017), there are few things that assurance arguments are not:
- A laundry list of evidence that is not interpreted
- A superficial description or series of descriptions
- A history lesson or sociological analysis
- A marketing brochure, sales pitch, or promotion
- A self-study overview or SWOT analysis
Rather than a self-study, HLC advises an assurance argument is: “A persuasive narrative, backed up by evidence, that assures your institution is in full compliance with the Commission’s Criteria for Accreditation” (Smith and Rosen, 2017). As such, UMKC’s assurance argument will need to strive for critical self-analysis and transparency that does the work for the reviewer:
- Organized by core component so that each criterion argument forms a coherent whole argument
- Links clear evidence that supports each claim
- Affirms expectations have been met
UMKC HLC committees selected a variety of evidence for this process that they determined demonstrated how well the university met expectations of each core component. For example, the committees included the following types of evidence:
- Formal documents such as strategic plans, master plans, and university catalog
- Processes and policies
- Data summaries and analyses
Reference: Smith, J. and Rosen, J. (2017). “The year 4 assurance argument: Process, evidence and Review.” 2017 Pathways Workshop and General Session.