The College of the Muscogee Nation (CMN, Okmulgee, OK) has been working with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) in hopes of attaining full accreditation. A candidate since 2012, the college has made steady progress toward accreditation since it began the pre-application process six years ago.
Established in 2004, CMN serves an average student body population of 200 students, a majority of which are Muscogee (Creek) citizens. The college is founded on the idea of preserving the past and cultivating futures for Native American students.
Accordingly, CMN has incorporated Native culture and language into the design of its core values, curricula, strategic plan, and its campus environment. The college currently offers four associate’s degree programs, in tribal services, Native American studies, gaming, and police science.
The college began its journey down the road to accreditation 10 years ago. The process started in earnest in 2008, with HLC’s “initial accreditation” requirement, which consists of two parts. First, an applicant must pre-apply by submitting several documents to ensure that the institution is eligible for accreditation. Once that condition is satisfied, the applicant must demonstrate that it is able to meet the specific criteria for candidacy, as devised by HLC.
CMN overcame these hurdles, completing an extensive self-study that addressed HLC’s criteria for candidacy. Following a site visit and an appearance before HLC’s Institutional Actions Council, the commission’s board of trustees awarded CMN the status of “candidacy for accreditation” in November 2012.
Next came the “candidacy” phase— a four-year time period when institutions are expected to maintain HLC’s candidacy criteria and progress towards the fulfillment of the commission’s full accreditation criteria. During that time, CMN earned regular membership with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and became eligible to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Education Title IV financial aid and from the American Indian College Fund.
In 2013, CMN began working on another self-study, which seeks to meet HLC’s candidacy criteria, as well as federal compliance requirements. The college has worked to demonstrate its efforts to implement a plan for the assessment of teaching and learning outcomes and to update its strategic plan.
While seeking to satisfy HLC’s requirements, the college’s academic affairs office has worked diligently to create a framework for an assessment plan that incorporates Muscogee cultural values. The result is an extensive report entitled “Preserving the Vision of Our Ancestors: An Educational Legacy,” which outlines the college’s core values of vrakkueckv (respect), fvtcetv (integrity), mecvlke (responsibility), eyasketv (humility), and hoporenkv (wisdom), and acknowledges the importance of the Muscogee language.
An HLC site review team will visit the CMN campus in 2014 to evaluate every function of the college. In preparation for the visit, CMN’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness will hold mock interviews with each member of the faculty and staff. The Dean of Student Affairs will also hold sessions to encourage student involvement.
In further preparation, CMN will host a community meeting with officials from the Muscogee Nation and the City of Okmulgee. HLC’s site visit will conclude with a final session to list their findings and their recommendations for the next phase.
Although the site visit will mark a milestone in CMN’s road to accreditation, it’s not the end of the journey. The college will again interview with HLC’s Institutional Actions Council in Chicago. The council will then make a recommendation to HLC’s board of trustees who, in turn, will make a final determination on the college’s status of “initial accreditation.”