Accreditation FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions About Accreditation

What is accreditation?

  • Assuring and advancing the quality of higher education.
  • Required to be eligible for federal student financial aid
  • Validates USAO’ standing in requests for public or private support.

Who is USAO’ accreditor?

  • The Higher Learning Commission (HLC, for short).
  • USAO last received 10-year continuance of accreditation in 2010. 

When is USAO’ visit with the HLC?

  • External review team will be on campus March 30-31, 2020.

What will occur during the HLC visit?

  • A peer review team will spend two days on USAO’ campus.
  • Team members will tour campus, meet with administrators, students, staff, faculty, and board members in both formal meetings and open forums, and evaluate assurance argument.
  • The team will seek to verify the information provided in the Assurance Argument and review USAO’ policies, procedures and strategic plans.
  • During this time, the team members will be determining whether USAO meets the standards for reaccreditation. 

What can I do to prepare for a successful visit?


  • What can USAO be most proud of in services offered to students?
  • What area is of most concern in Student Services?
  • What is your impression of the campus climate?
  • Does USAO have appropriate policies and procedures in place?
  • Is there equity among departments relative to funding, staffing, space, support service?
  • How are planning and budgeting tied together?
  • How is quality documented within your department?
  • Tell us about significant changes in recruitment and retention over the past 5-10 years.
  • Is enrollment rising/falling/stabilized? What are the reasons for this?
  • Describe USAO’ retention
  • Are you aware of how the accreditation process works?
  • What can you say that would help the team to make a fair evaluation of USAO


  • What can USAO be most proud of in services offered to students?
  • What is the aim of the Interdisciplinary Studies core curriculum?
  • What are the best attributes of this university?
  • Do students actually receive what USAO promises in the catalog, materials and website?
  • What kinds of changes are taking place within the university? Do you see these changes as positive or negative? How will these changes impact USAO?
  • Do students have an opportunity to provide the administration with input?
  • Does USAO offer programming in support of diverse populations?
  • Did you know an HLC Accreditation Team was coming?
  • If someone gave USAO $1 million, how would you recommend it be spent?


  • How does USAO assure its Interdisciplinary Studies core curriculum is high quality?
  • What is USAO doing to assure an environment that is welcoming, inclusive and increasingly diverse?
  • Describe USAO’ diversity efforts regarding student and faculty recruitment and retention?
  • Are the faculty and staff participating in the planning for the future?
  • Is the morale of the faculty and staff positive?
  • How does USAO provide support for student learning and effective teaching?
  • How does USAO assure quality in its educational programs?
  • What improvements have resulted from assessment?
  • How do program assessment results impact your planning process?
  • Do faculty have the necessary infrastructure and resources to support effective teaching and learning (i.e., technology, laboratories, libraries, performance spaces, museum collections)?
  • In what ways do faculty and students contribute to scholarship and creative work at USAO?
  • How does USAO encourage or support student or faculty research, creative activity, discovery?
  • How does USAO ensure the acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge responsibly?
  • Tell us about the trends in enrollment over the past 10 years. Is enrollment rising/falling/stabilized? What are the reasons for this?
  • What programs are growing? What programs are not growing?
  • Describe USAO’ retention efforts
  • How were you involved in the accreditation process?
  • Have you read any of USAO’s accreditation materials?
  • Do you believe that the narrative accurately represents USAO? What, if anything, would you add? What, if anything, would you change?