What is NCA and what do they do?
The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools is one of six regional institutional accreditors recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. It accredits degree-granting institutions in 19 states, including Nebraska. If NCA removes accreditation from an institution, students cannot use federal financial aid to enroll. Professional accreditations (such as AACSB in business) are revoked. The loss of prestige resulting from disaccreditation is severe. UNK’s last evaluation by NCA was in 2004, at which time NCA found cause to schedule a follow up (or “focused”) visit because of weaknesses in our General Studies program. As an institution, UNK is at the last step before disaccreditation because of the General Studies program.
Why did we get a negative report from NCA about General Studies?
NCA found that UNK doesn’t have a “clear, shared definition and understanding of the learning outcomes” for General Studies. It also found that our current program is not a coherent program of study, but rather a collection of courses. It is impossible to retrofit NCA required assessment practices onto an existing, cafeteria style program. The renewed program has to be more coherent and intentional; there needs to be a progression in difficulty of learning levels from courses at the beginning of the program (composition, math, etc.) to the Capstone course at the end.
Can NCA tell us what our General Studies curriculum should be?
No. NCA’s role is to judge the effectiveness of our assessment practices and the overall integrity of the program. Where there are deficiencies, NCA cites them. Like many other institutions, UNK has a General Studies curriculum that was never intended to function as a program. Rather, it is a set of many individual courses from which students can choose. Current assessment practices –required by NCA– cannot be retrofitted onto our existing program. While our current General Studies program represented the sound thinking of its time, assessment results today clearly show that there are better ways to bring about student learning. To respond to NCA’s requirements, UNK must also renew its General Studies curriculum.
What could happen if UNK doesn’t pass the next NCA visit?
A focused visit, which UNK had in 2008, is the last step before an institution loses accreditation. NCA has disaccredited institutions. Losing accreditation means that students cannot use any federal financial aid (Pell grants, loans, etc.) at UNK, and all professional accreditations (such as AACSB in business) are revoked.