In April, 2010, NIACC was accepted into North Central’s AQIP (Academic Quality Improvement Program) system of accreditation. Instead of a ten-year review cycle, AQIP asks colleges to focus on continuous quality improvement and to maintain a self-study document (the Systems Portfolio) that is public and updated annually. AQIP operates three distinct cycles that occur simultaneously. Each cycle has a different duration and sequence of processes.
The one-year action cycle includes a formal review of action projects currently in process. While these projects may vary in length depending upon their scope, NIACC is required to have a minimum of three active projects at any given time. Action projects play an integral role in our AQIP accreditation in that they focus and highlight our institution’s efforts in undertaking specific improvement initiatives and they provide the Higher Learning Commission with evidence that we are seriously committed to a regimen of continuous improvement. For AQIP, the knowledge that NIACC is working on a series of concrete improvement projects provides evidence that quality improvement is alive and active at our college.
Although the Systems Portfolio is updated annually, it receives a formal Systems Appraisal on the four year strategy cycle. That appraisal provides institutions with written, actionable feedback they can use to create strategies and actions that will move them quickly toward achievement of their goals. Following the appraisal there is a Strategy Forum where a group of peer institutions share ideas and develop individual strategies based on feedback.
The seven-year accreditation cycle involves a formal review of evidence from both the action cycles and strategy cycles that demonstrates that an AQIP organization continues to comply with HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation and that continuing its participation in AQIP will result in measurable performance improvement. A Check-Up Visit to the institution a year or two before its Reaffirmation of Accreditation review confirms the improvements it is making as well as the accuracy of the evidence it has submitted.