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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

How Is University Accreditation Affected By State Funds?

Chicago State University had a visit from the Higher Learning Commission this week regarding its accreditation status. That came after the school declared financial crisis about a month ago due to the Illinois state budget impasse.

But how does state funding affect university accreditation?

Higher education officials say taking away accreditation is generally treated as a last resort. But if a school loses its state funding, it could put its status at risk.

That’s a situation all of Illinois’s state colleges and universities are facing, according to Higher Learning Commission president Barbara Gellman-Danley. She says nearly all of the commission’s accreditation criteria can be impacted if the state is in a situation where they don’t invest in higher education.

“If the mission is being compromised, that would cause a problem. If the finances are pushing the institution to the brink, that’s a problem,” Gellman-Danley said. “Because we don’t believe under those circumstances students are getting the appropriate education from an accredited institution.”

Gellman-Danley says the commission asked every Illinois public school to update officials on their financial situations. She says a school is required to give a “teach-out” plan for students who face degree incompletion if the school faces closure due to the state’s financial problems.

“Under those circumstances, and by our regulations, colleges are required to send us a plan for how those students will be taken care of by another institution with whom – with which – they have worked closely to determine that that can happen,” Gellman-Danley said.

Accreditation is a voluntary process, but it’s mandatory for schools who want federal financial aid. If a school loses its accreditation, they lose that money.

Gellman-Danley says the commission is sensitive to the situation Illinois state schools are in due to the state’s financial issues, but they still have to watch out for the quality of higher education.

“We’re a non-partisan organization; we’re a non-partisan agency. But it is our hope that the governor and the legislators can come together and find a way to fund higher education,” Gellman-Danley said. “It is the key economic driver of a state, and it is our hope that our students will not be driven outside the state of Illinois.”