By AMANDA GHANNAM, Guest Writer
The Higher Learning Commission visited the University of Michigan-Dearborn September 23-25 to determine our university’s reaccreditation—we all received at least two emails from Vice Chancellor Henderson encouraging us to attend the Student Forum part of their visit. But what exactly is the Higher Learning Commission, and what does reaccreditation even mean?
Reaccreditation is basically the process of reviewing universities to make sure they are measuring up to educational standards. Graduating with a degree from an accredited university means your education is worth more—it means your degree is recognized as that of a university that measures up to these high standards set by some of the best universities in the nation.
In addition to reaccreditation being a sign of high academic success, a student at an accredited university can receive federal, state, and private financial aid; transfer credits to other accredited universities more easily; has a higher chance of gaining admission into accredited graduate programs in the future, and will have better chances of getting better jobs.
The Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is responsible for reviewing the accreditation of nineteen states—they send a team to review UM-Dearborn once every ten years. So why did Vice Chancellor Henderson want UM-Dearborn students to speak with the HLC team at the Student Forum?
“The administration needed students to make a good impression by showing what a good university we are,” said Latifa Bazzi, junior at UM-Dearborn. “We were there to share our experiences on campus and prove the value of our University of Michigan-Dearborn degrees.”
Bazzi attended the student forum as a member of UM-Dearborn’s Student Government. Student input is a major factor in the Higher Learning Commission’s review of the university and overall decision whether or not to award reaccreditation. Positive feedback and constructive criticism from students are the most useful tools to determine if a university is doing its job, and doing it well.
The Student Forum began at 2:30 p.m. on September 23 and took place in the University Center. Kochoff Hall was packed with 50-60 graduate and undergraduate students. Students were provided with passports excusing them from class and work in order to attend the forum at the request of Vice Chancellor Henderson.
The Student Forum was an opportunity for the Higher Learning Commission team to ask students if the university is living up to its goals, visions, and standards. At the event, the HLC team asked students a variety of questions including what influenced them to attend the forum, why they chose to attend UM-Dearborn, what they like and dislike about this university, and how they felt about our general education requirements.
“The conversation varied from praise about our university’s amenities, small class sizes, sense of community, et cetera, to criticisms about our advising, financial aid, and other areas. I thought the event was a good chance for students to discuss the merits of our university,” said Wedad Ibrahim, senior at UM-Dearborn and president of Student Government. “Overall I was able to interact with various HLC officials over the two days and it was apparent that they admired our love towards UM-Dearborn and the commitment many of our students have to bettering our campus experience.”
The university should find out within the coming weeks whether or not it has qualified for reaccreditation. With so much constructive student feedback available to influence the Higher Learning Commission’s decision, the university will undoubtedly continue to hold its position as one of the best accredited universities in the Midwest.