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HLC Reaffirms Rio Salado Accreditation

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HLC Reaffirms Rio Salado Accreditation

The Higher Learning Commission reaffirmed Rio Salado College’s accreditation following two years of preparation that culminated this spring with a formal peer review site visit.

“This was incredible work by the steering team, criterion chairs, subject matter experts and the community college at large,” said Dr. Kate Smith, Rio Salado College president. “It is with immense pride that I am able to share the news of our reaffirmation of accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission.”

Rio leadership received formal notification in May 2022.

Rio Salado College has been accredited by the HLC since 1981. Since the first accreditation, RSC has successfully undergone four comprehensive visits, including one this spring with the Peer Review Team.

The HLC was founded in 1895 as one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. It is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Colleges and universities are required to obtain accreditation in order to offer federal financial aid to students, receive federal grants, and enable students to transfer credits between accredited institutions.

Accreditation serves as recognition of quality education that students can demonstrate to future academic institutions, employers and licensing boards. It also demonstrates that students are receiving a quality education from a leader in online learning.

For the HLC, the accreditation evaluation areas are: Criterion 1 - Mission; Criterion 2 - Integrity; Criterion 3 - Teaching and Learning; Criterion 4 - Evaluation and Improvement; and Criterion 5 - Resources and Planning.

Rio Salado HLC Steering Team prepared for the visit in a number of ways, including a virtual  all-college retreat in Fall 2021, the creation of internal videos surrounding the criterion, and all-employee meetings.

The 10-year accreditation cycle requires institutions to submit an annual Institutional Update, which is reviewed by the HLC to monitor organizational health, compliance with certain federal requirements, and identify any changes that may require HLC follow-up. In Year 4, the college must complete an Assurance Review to ensure it is continuing to meet HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation. During Years 5-9, the college must design and undertake a Quality Initiative project, and during Year 10, it must undergo a comprehensive evaluation to ensure it is meeting the Criteria for Accreditation, pursuing institutional improvement, and complying with certain requirements set by the U.S. Department of Education.

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