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HLC Reaffirms College’s Accreditation

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Antioch College is pleased to announce the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) has reaffirmed the College’s accreditation after routine review at the midpoint in Antioch’s accreditation cycle. The process was facilitated through the hard work of a cross-campus team of staff, faculty, and students. Despite rescheduling due to the pandemic, the process was successful, with many of the site team members from the HLC and ODHE engaging in the campus visit through a series of videoconference meetings and forums. The next reaffirmation for the College’s accreditation will occur in the 2025-2026 academic year.

“Participation from our students, faculty, staff, and trustees displayed the College community’s passion, commitment, and shared purpose,” explains Antioch College Board of Trustees Chair Maureen Lynch. “Reaffirmation of Antioch College’s accreditation is a strong statement on the exceptional experiential liberal arts education Antioch students receive and Antioch’s continued growth since reopening.”

Accreditation was one of many big hurdles for the newly independent Antioch College when it reopened in 2011. Through significant efforts, College leadership designed and implemented the critical systems and protocols required to gain accreditation from the HLC and authorization from the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) on a fast-track basis. In July 2016, Antioch College was successful in those efforts, two years ahead of the normal timeline and despite long odds and many obstacles. 

While on-campus preparations for the five-year accreditation review began in 2019 for an HLC site visit scheduled in April 2020, stay-at-home orders from Ohio’s governor and the pandemic deferred the visit to October 2020.

A cross-campus team led by Vice President of Operations and Business Hannah Montgomery compiled the Assurance Argument, a report based on five criteria presented to the HLC that formed the basis of the reaffirmation decision. She says, “The accreditation process focuses on continuous improvement. Since the last visit in 2015, the College has been systematically incorporating feedback gathered throughout the accreditation process. In 2019, we had small work group sessions for each of the five criteria to formally document such progress, focusing on how we responded to feedback from the last accreditation review.” That work was the foundation of the Assurance Argument. Montgomery explains, “From there, each section and areas that needed updates were assigned to relevant faculty, staff, and students to lead. There was a lot of revising, gathering evidence, and crafting the argument.”

In Antiochian fashion, the effort was inclusive of the College’s whole community. “As an Antioch student, I am extremely proud of the Accreditation Team’s ability to foster inclusion around the college’s accreditation reaffirmation,” explains Noah Greer ’22, who helped compile the Assurance Argument. “Students were directly involved in on-site visits, governance, and curriculum, which are all core components of our accreditation. I think it’s rare to see students, staff, and faculty all involved in processes that can have such an impact on the institution, but at Antioch, we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The pandemic drastically changed the way the on-campus Accreditation Team did its work after the delay in April 2020. “We had to rely heavily on shared documents, phone calls, and video sessions to do that work due to COVID,” explains Montgomery. Despite these challenges, the Assurance Argument was compiled and submitted on time.

Students, faculty, staff, and trustees attended the mostly virtual forums and meetings with the HLC accreditation team in early October and left a favorable impression with the team. The team expressed appreciation for the strong role Co-op plays in Antioch’s educational model, the emphasis on practice and rigor, the breadth of the self-design major, and the evolving role of leadership and self governance at the College. In addition, the team highlighted the importance of the Coretta Scott King Center, the Indigenous people’s Land Acknowledgment, our sustainability efforts including the geothermal system and solar array, and Antioch’s overarching commitment to equity and social justice.

“I believe that the reaffirmation of our accreditation reflects the Higher Learning Commission’s acknowledgment that, despite our small faculty, we continue to offer a strong and unique educational opportunity to our students,” explains Dr. Kevin McGruder, vice president for Academic Affairs and associate professor of History.

Along with the affirmation of accreditation, the HLC noted two interim reports for the College to submit before the next accreditation review. These reports will include updates on the College’s leadership transition and establishing key performance indicators for the College’s strategic plans and goals, as well as data collection and assessment around the College’s educational program.

Accreditation affirmation comes at a time of transition for Antioch. With a Presidential Search Committee assembled, the campus community has embarked on the process of defining the qualities of the next president of Antioch College. This fantastic news from the HLC helps put into perspective the progress this small but mighty institution is making.

The College’s focus on its educational mission and programs like Antioch College Works, which address access and equity in higher education, are its cornerstones and will continue to mark the experience of future Antioch students. Senior Vice Presidents for the College, Sharen Neuhardt, Shadia Alvarez ’96, and John Jacobs ’76, conclude, “The reaffirmation of the College’s accreditation supports the direction in which Antioch is moving and is evidence of the power of community and shared governance.”