"Tulsa Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools." These words appear on countless college publications. What do they mean?
Accreditation is a stamp of approval indicating that a college or university meets the standards established by its accrediting body, a nongovernmental association of schools. The United States has six regional accrediting agencies. TCC's accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), is based in Chicago. The HLC evaluates member institutions on the basis of such institution's unique mission and on the Commission's own criteria, encompassing not only educational offerings but also governance, finances, student learning, planning processes, and engagement with the community.
Accreditation is important to an educational institution not only because it is an assurance that the college is operating according to accepted standards, but also because it is essential if the institution's students are to receive federal financial aid. TCC has been accredited throughout its history. This continuing relationship with the HLC is subject to a review process at least every ten years.
TCC is now undergoing the regular review process necessary for ongoing accreditation. The process begins with a "self-study," a period of intensive self-examination conducted by several committees from the college itself, culminating in a written report in which the committees assess the college's success in meeting its mission and the HLC's criteria. Following submission of the report to the HLC, a team of trained "peer evaluators" from other institutions in the North Central region will be sent to Tulsa. During this "site visit," the team will inspect and evaluate the college's evidence that it meets the HLC's criteria for accreditation. It will also meet with groups of students, faculty, other employees, members of TCC 's governing board of regents, and the community at large, and then it will file a report of its findings.