High-quality academic programs, financial integrity and a strong commitment to the region were among the laudatory findings in the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater's latest institutional accreditation review.
The report — by the Higher Learning Commission — also called UW-Whitewater a university strongly committed to student and faculty research.
Accreditation by HLC is critical and can impact everything from access to federal funding to ease of transfer credits between institutions. Overall, accreditation is a sign of quality — a weighty stamp of approval of a university's academic programs and operations.
"Our work is seen as exemplary by the Higher Learning Commission," said John Stone, interim provost. "We are far ahead of other campuses in terms of meeting the criteria for accreditation. From 2003-2013, about 70 percent of campuses had to do some kind of remedial activity to address concerns in their accreditation review. We met every single criteria."
HLC sent a team of five people to campus Oct. 4-7 to review reports and interview dozens of faculty, staff and students. The commission was impressed by both the efficacy of UW-Whitewater's programs and the methods the university uses to gauge student learning.
Both inside and outside the classroom, in internships, residence halls and extracurricular activities, "UW-Whitewater has established a well-orchestrated system and culture of assessment of student learning, and using assessment results to make improvements," the report read.
"Our academic review process is stunningly well done," Stone said. "We're focused on continually building quality. We look at programs in terms of resources, faculty, student learning outcomes, and ways to update and change the curriculum."
When it comes to financial operations, the university is responsible, ethical and transparent, the commission found — and employees show care and passion for being stewards of public resources.
"A review of UW-Whitewater budgeting and financial process indicates a strong commitment to appropriately managing the resources of the institution even through years of sustained budget reductions," according to the report.
HLC says the university's greatest challenge is declining state support and uncertainty at the state and system level.
In spite of the challenges, UW-Whitewater has forged ahead to strengthen operations, including entrepreneurial efforts like Whitewater University Technology Park and stronger engagement with the region, as evidenced by the campus' recent Carnegie Community Engagement Classification.
UW-Whitewater's next onsite accreditation evaluation by HLC will happen in 2025.