UNK receives 10-year reaccreditation, recognizing its commitment to academic excellence

KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney aced its most important test.

After two years of on-campus preparation and an extensive external review, the Higher Learning Commission gave final approval last month to UNK’s reaccreditation.

“UNK is accountable to the people of Nebraska, and to ensure the quality of our operations we go through regular external reviews,” said Chancellor Doug Kristensen. “We hold ourselves to the highest standards, and feedback from experts is an important part of continuous improvement.”

UNK has been continuously accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) – and its forerunner, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools – since 1916. HLC is an institutional accreditor recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to accredit degree-granting colleges and universities.

The 10-year reaccreditation – lasting until the 2033-34 academic year – recognizes UNK’s ongoing commitment to academic quality, student success and public service.

Institutional accreditation validates the quality of a university’s academic programs at all degree levels while also examining areas such as governance and administration, financial stability, stewardship of resources, and support for students, faculty and staff. The review ensures institutions remain true to their mission and engage in continuous improvement.

Accreditation can also impact eligibility for faculty and staff to receive grants; students to receive federal and state financial aid or transfer credits to another institution; and graduates to sit for licensing exams or pursue graduate-level education.

The reaccreditation process consists of four components: a self-study, federal compliance review, student opinion survey and on-site visit from a peer review team. UNK met all criteria and core components within the review – mission, integrity, teaching and learning quality, resources and support, teaching and learning evaluation and improvement, and institutional effectiveness, resources and planning.

“I would like to congratulate the UNK team who compiled information and wrote our HLC report. The excellent teamwork and clear vision of our campus were on display and recognized by the HLC reviewers. Their approval was a significant accomplishment and demonstrates the great things that are happening on campus,” said Julie Shaffer, interim senior vice chancellor of academic affairs.

The full HLC report is available here.

Among the key findings within the report:

UNK meets the needs of rural Nebraska

“The University of Nebraska at Kearney’s actions demonstrate its commitment to serving both the local community and the central region of the state of Nebraska, with the well-being of UNK linked to the well-being of rural Nebraska. As an active partner with the local communities, it is in the University’s interest to actively support the growth and development of communities. A current profound example is the development of the Rural Nebraska Healthcare Education Building on UNK’s campus in partnership with the University of Nebraska Medical Center.”

“UNK has partnered with their local community on rather expansive projects. A premier example is the development of University Village which is located on property that UNK owns on the south side of the campus. This is being developed with a broad vision to enrich the housing, commercial, and programming activity in the area in a way that unites the University and community into one integrated experience.”

UNK supports students

“As a public university, UNK strives to be accessible to potential students, through the minimization of potential financial, cultural, and bureaucratic barriers. This is addressed through remission programs such as Nebraska Promise aimed at making college more affordable, and pipeline programs such as Kearney Bound, where 250 talented, but challenged high school students have been mentored since the program’s inception in 2006. By meeting the requirements of the Kearney Bound program, these students receive full support for tuition, books, fees, and room and board at UNK. The Thompson Scholars Learning Community and the Loper2Loper Mentoring program also provide resources to support students.”

“Addressing its mission as a residential campus, UNK prioritizes a wide range of services needed to support the holistic development of students. In addition to the development of academic skills in a safe learning environment, UNK provides opportunities for leadership development, through student government, the Chancellor’s Leadership Course, and student organizations. Multiple opportunities exist for students to participate in athletics and/or the fine arts. Support services are inclusive of health and counseling services as well as tutoring support.”

“Consistent with UNK’s mission to be a premier undergraduate institution the Team noted the existence of several high-impact programs inclusive of independent student research and scholarly activity, study abroad, learning communities, honors programs, and the recent expansion of experiential learning experiences for all undergraduate students. For students seeking structured academic support UNK provides the Learning Commons, which provides tutoring and success coaching both in person and on Zoom; the Writing Center and the Academic Success Office, which includes Disability Services and TRiO Student Support Services.”

“Students who were interviewed during the visit reported that faculty office doors ‘are always open’ and were very satisfied with their ability to connect with their professors.”

UNK faculty are active researchers and scholars

“With scholarship central to UNK’s mission, tenured and tenure-track faculty are expected to engage in scholarly activities both for their professional development and to impact their teaching practice. UNK supports faculty in this role through release time. Faculty’s active role in mentoring undergraduate scholarly activity was confirmed both by faculty and students during several sessions where individuals very proudly referred to the research accomplishments of students. In addition to time, scholarly activity in some disciplines requires space and equipment. The Team’s campus tour, which includes the science building, confirmed the availability of not only faculty research areas but also areas dedicated to students’ projects.”

“All academic programs at the University of Nebraska at Kearney are either accredited or participate in regularly scheduled program reviews, activities that ensure continuous improvement and currency. All academic programs, regardless of the mode of delivery, have learning goals and associated measures and targets which are reviewed by program faculty in annual assessment reports.”

UNK is focused on student success

“The University of Nebraska at Kearney’s General Studies Program provides students the opportunities to develop abilities, skills, and knowledge that prepare students to be informed citizens. Their general studies program is organized into 11 Learning Objectives/Program Essential Requirements (LOPERs). LOPERS 9-11 are designed to teach students the dispositions that prepare students for responsible, productive lives in a democratic, multicultural society.”

“The General Studies Program is designed to support the University’s mission to be a ‘premier undergraduate institution, with excellent graduate education, scholarship, and public service’ through exposure to broad and integrative knowledge, analytic inquiry, diverse perspectives, and civic/global learning.”

“Experiential learning opportunities are embedded throughout the curriculum and became a University graduation requirement for undergraduates starting in the 2020-2021 academic year.”

“The education offered by the institution recognizes the human and cultural diversity and provides students with growth opportunities and lifelong skills to live and work in a multicultural world.”