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Defiance College placed on probation by accrediting agency

The college was out of compliance for accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission, including financial and academic issues.

DEFIANCE, Ohio — Defiance College was placed on probation by the Higher Learning Commission on June 22 due to not meeting its standards to maintain its accreditation status.

The private college did not meet the criteria for its "resource base" due to unstable finances that include a lack of plans to balance the school's budget and reduce debt, according to HLC, an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

The college met four other requirements, but with concerns, HLC said. The commission's evaluation found the college does not adequately assess its programs' quality and does not have a strategic enrollment plan.

In a letter to Defiance College president Dr. Richanne Mankey, HLC writes, "The Institution has been placed on Probation because it is out of compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation. The Institution meets Core Components 3.A, 4.A 4.B, and 5.C with concerns. The Institution does not meet Core Component 5.B. The Institution is required to host a comprehensive evaluation no later than December 2024 to determine whether the Institution has ameliorated the findings that led to the imposition of the sanction."

In a statement, Mankey said Defiance College is prepared to address the financial concerns raised by HLC.

The statement, in part, reads:

"We remain accredited. In fact, we met 17 of the 18 criteria for evaluation including all academic criteria. Like many institutions of higher learning in this challenging time in the higher education marketplace, our concerns relate to finances. We will continue to offer degrees and the sanction does not impact any part of the student experience. Our plans to address these financial concerns are in place and we have two years to demonstrate to the HLC that our planning has brought about a change in our financial position."

Defiance College is still accredited while on probation, which "affords an institution a reasonable period to address HLC’s concerns," according to the commission.

Defiance College is still accredited by other accrediting agencies: the Ohio Department of Higher Education, the Ohio Department of Education for Teacher Education, the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the International Accreditation Council for Business Education, the National League for Nursing, the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the Council on Social Work Education.

A team of peer reviewers will then evaluate the college to see if it has resolved the issues and submit a recommendation to the HLC Board of Trustees on further steps to take with the school's accreditation. The board will then decide to remove the probation or take further action, which can include removing accreditation entirely, during its June 2025 meeting.

HLC said that most other colleges and universities will continue to accept credits from Defiance College for transfer or admission.

Defiance College is located in the city of Defiance in northwest Ohio. It is affiliated with the United Church of Christ. It has a student population of about 650, according to the college's website.

HLC criteria for accreditation

HLC tracks five criteria for accreditation, according to its website:

  • "The institution’s mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution’s operations."
  • "The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible."
  • "The institution provides quality education, wherever and however its offerings are delivered.
  • "The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs, learning environments, and support services, and it evaluates their effectiveness for student learning through processes designed to promote continuous improvement."
  • "The institution’s resources, structures, and processes are sufficient to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its educational offerings, and respond to future challenges and opportunities."

In its notice, HLC said the decision to place Defiance College on probation was based on the following findings:

"Defiance College ('the Institution') meets, but with concerns, Criterion Three, Core Component 3.A, 'the rigor of the institution's academic offerings is appropriate to higher education,' for the following reasons:

  • The Institution needs a more consistent program review process for continuous quality improvement.
  • The Institution lacks an assessment system for all academic programs to ensure that learning goals and program quality are consistent across all levels and modalities.

The Institution meets, but with concerns, Criterion Four, Core Component 4.A, 'the institution ensures the quality of its educational offerings,' for the following reasons:

  • The Institution lacks a robust and consistent process for program review.
  • The Institution lacks meaningful program review data.
  • The Institution does not currently evaluate program health or viability.

The Institution meets, but with concerns, Criterion Four, Core Component 4.B, 'the institution engages in ongoing assessment of student learning as part of its commitment to the educational outcomes of its students,' for the following reasons:

  • The Institution lacks an assessment system for all degree programs atall levels: Associate, Bachelor's Master's, and Certificates as well as all delivery modes.
  • The Institution fails to use what data it collects in substantive and meaningful ways for programmatic improvement, improvement of student learning, planning, or budgeting.
  • The Institution needs to focus on using assessment data to improve student learning.

The Institution does not meet Criterion Five, Core Component 5.B, 'the institution's resource base supports its educational offerings and its plans for maintaining and strengthening their quality in the future,' for the following reasons:

  • The Institution lacks a budget strategy and plan that is informed by enrollment data (both historical and projected) as well as an understanding of its current fiscal capacity or whether it shows a pathway to a balanced budget
  • The Institution needs a plan to retire existing debt that is expected to come due in the next 5 years, a strategy to improve management of investments, improved revenues to offset expenses, and an updated drawdown policy to preserve unrestricted endowment assets.
  • The Institution needs to demonstrate actions to stabilize the balance sheet, increase revenue opportunities, and reduce debt.

The Institution meets, but with concerns, Criterion Five, Core Component 5.C, 'the institution engages in systematic and integrated planning and improvement,' for the following reasons:

  • The Institution's strategic budget and financial planning has not benefitted consistently from program review data resulting from program reviews or learning outcome assessments.
  • The Institution lacks a strategic enrollment plan that assesses the forces impacting the enrollment landscape, defines target market groups and determines ROI or projects enrollment yields."

Editor's note: This article has been amended to reflect that HLC is a regional commission, not a national one. Statements from Defiance College have also been included.

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