The University of Nevada, Reno has been accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities for 75 years and was formally reaffirmed in February 2017. NWCCU is the regional authority on educational quality and institutional effectiveness of higher education institutions in the northwest area of the United States including Nevada with a seven-year accreditation review cycle. According to Joseph Cline, chemistry professor and vice provost for undergraduate education, the University performed well, receiving commendations in three areas and three recommendations focused on how the University should improve its assessment processes.
Cline explained that accreditation is a status awarded to recognize that a university's educational and degree programs meet external standards for rigor and quality. Accreditation status validates the value of a university's programs to students, employers and other stakeholders. Cline mentioned that the University's individual professional programs in nursing, medicine, engineering and others have special accreditation status allowing graduates access to professional employment and licensure, however, the University also possesses an overall accreditation status that has now been reaffirmed.
"The University continues to be regionally accredited, which is the highest and most prestigious level of institutional accreditation," Cline said. "This status means that other institutions of higher education recognize and accept course credits earned by students at the University, it makes University graduates eligible for admission to graduate degree and professional programs, it gives University students access to federal financial aid programs, and gives University faculty and staff access to a variety of competitive grants and contracts."
In its notification of reaffirmation, the NWCCU commended the University's leadership for guiding the institution through the difficult challenges it faced during the Great Recession; its array of plans used to improve the institution and for the use of collaborative processes and shared governance, including students, in developing these plans; and recognition of the NevadaFIT first-year academic orientation program. The committee also offered three recommendations, that the University should more systematically assess its accomplishments in the Discovery and Engagement thematic components of its mission; that the University use these improved assessments to inform planning, decision making, and resource allocation in Discovery and Engagement activities; and that the University provide a more formal mechanism to assess its mission fulfillment.
The next step for the University will be to provide a report to NWCCU in September 2017 regarding how the University has addressed the recommendations from February. Cline also explained that 2017 marks the first year of the new seven-year accreditation cycle.
"In September, the University will also submit its year-one accreditation report," Cline said. "Over the longer term, the University has annual assessment processes in place that connect these accreditation activities with its Strategic Plan. The results of these annual assessment processes will involve, and will be reported to, the University's students, faculty and staff."