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Frequently Asked Questions

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Accreditation

Accreditation is the result of a positive external review by an authorized agency such as The Higher Learning Commission (HLC): A Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Accreditation assures the public that a college, university, school, or program can do its job.

While many academic agencies accredit particular programs of study (nursing, business, physical therapy assistant, etc.), The Higher Learning Commission and other regional accrediting agencies are responsible for assuring that colleges and universities meet certain standards in terms of their missions, operations, and activities in teaching and student learning, discovery and promotion of knowledge, and service. Unaccredited schools are not eligible for many kinds of federal support.

Six regional associations are responsible for the accreditation of colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning: North Central, Middle States, New England, Northwest, Southern and Western Associations.

The Higher Learning Commission of The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools provides two programs for maintaining accredited status: the Program to Evaluate and Advance Quality (PEAQ) and the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP). The College is reviewed as part of PEAQ, which employs a five-step comprehensive evaluation process to determine continued accredited status.

  1. The organization engages in a self-study process for approximately two years and prepares a report of its findings in accordance with Commission expectations.
  2. The Commission sends an evaluation team of Consultant-Evaluators to conduct a comprehensive visit for continued accreditation and to write a report containing the team’s    recommendations.
  3. The report of the evaluation team and other documents relating to the comprehensive visit are reviewed by a Readers Panel or, in some situations, a Review Committee of the HLC.
  4. The Institutional Actions Council (IAC) takes action on the Readers Panel’s recommendation.
  5. If a Review Committee reviewed the visit, the Review Committee takes action.

The Board of Trustees validates the work of IAC or a Review Committee, finalizing the action. Evaluations for initial and continued candidacy and initial accreditation follow the processes outlined above.

In 2005, the HLC adopted a new set of criteria for evaluation:

  • Criterion One: Mission and Integrity
  • Criterion Two: Preparing for the Future
  • Criterion Three: Student Learning and Effective Teaching
  • Criterion Four: Acquisition, Discovery and Application of Knowledge
  • Criterion Five: Engagement and Service

HLC expects that ARCC has evaluated examples of evidence to support each criteria and its components. In addition, the Consultant-Evaluators also expect to see evidence that the organization is future-oriented, learning-focused, connected, and distinctive.

Mission and Integrity
The organization operates with integrity to ensure the fulfillment of its mission through structures and processes that involve the board, administration, faculty, staff, and students.

Preparing for the Future
The organization’s allocation of resources and its processes for evaluation and planning demonstrate its capacity to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its education, and respond to future challenges and opportunities.

Student Learning and Effective Teaching
The organization provides evidence of student learning and teaching effectiveness that demonstrates it is fulfilling its educational mission

Acquisition, Discovery, and Application of Knowledge
The organization promotes a life of learning for its faculty, administration, staff and students by fostering and supporting inquiry, creativity, practice, and social responsibility in ways consistent with its mission.

Engagement and Service
As called for by its mission, the organization identifies its constituencies and serves them in ways both value.

The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools web site: www.ncahigherlearningcommission.org

Financial Aid

No. You can apply for financial aid any time after January 1. To actually receive funds, however, you must be admitted and enrolled at the university.

The need analysis process for financial aid uses the family’s income and tax information from the most recent tax year (the base year) to judge your eligibility for need-based financial aid during the upcoming academic year (the award year). Since the base year ends December 31, you cannot submit a financial aid application until January 1. After all, your parents might earn a year-end bonus or realize capital gains from selling stocks on December 31. If you submit the financial aid application before January 1, it will be rejected.

Yes. Most financial aid offices require that you apply for financial aid every year. If your financial circumstances change, you may get more or less aid. After your first year you will receive a “Renewal Application” which contains preprinted information from the previous year’s FAFSA. Note that your eligibility for financial aid may change significantly, especially if you have a different number of family members in college. Renewal of your financial aid package also depends on your making satisfactory academic progress toward a degree, such as earning a minimum number of credits and achieving a minimum GPA.

Submit a FAFSA. To indicate interest in student employment, student loans and parent loans, you should check the appropriate boxes. Checking these boxes does not commit you to accepting these types of aid. You will have the opportunity to accept or decline each part of your aid package later. Leaving these boxes unchecked will not increase the amount of grants you receive.

No. Parents are, however, responsible for the Federal PLUS loans. Parents will only be responsible for your educational loans if you are under 18 and they co-sign your loan. In general, you and you alone are responsible for repaying your educational loans.

On the other hand, if your parents (or grandparents) want to help pay off your loan, you can have your billing statements sent to their address. Likewise, if your lender or loan servicer provides an electronic payment service, where the monthly payments are automatically deducted from a bank account, your parents can agree to have the payments deducted from their account. But your parents are under no obligation to repay your loans. If they forget to pay the bill on time or decide to cancel the electronic payment agreement, you will be held responsible for the payments, not them.

The federal formula for computing the expected family contribution is different from those used by many universities. In particular, the federal formula does not consider home equity as part of the assets.

Not immediately. The subsidized Stafford loan has a grace period of 6 months and the Perkins loan a grace period of 9 months before the student must begin repaying the loan. When you take a leave of absence you will not have to repay your loan until the grace period is used up. If you use up the grace period, however, when you graduate you will have to begin repaying your loan immediately. It is possible to request an extension to the grace period, but this must be done before the grace period is used up. If your grace period has run out in the middle of your leave of absence, you will have to start making payments on your student loans.

Yes. If you are receiving any kind of financial aid from university or government sources, you must report the scholarship to the college financial aid office.

Unfortunately, the university will adjust your financial aid package to compensate. Nevertheless, the outside scholarship will have some beneficial effects. At some universities outside scholarships are used to reduce the self-help level.

The money you earn from Federal Work-Study is generally subject to federal and state income tax, but exempt from FICA taxes (provided you are enrolled full time and work less than half-time).

Call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 1-800-730-8913 (if hearing impaired) and ask for a free copy of The Student Guide: Financial Aid from the US Department of Education. This toll free hotline is run by the US Department of Education and can answer questions about federal and state student aid programs and applications. Or visit the website.

Yes. Many families mistakenly think they don’t qualify for aid and prevent themselves from receiving financial aid by failing to apply for it. In addition, there are a few sources of aid such as unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans that are available regardless of need. The FAFSA form is free.

Distance Learning

When someone completes coursework away from an actual school campus, it is generally called distance learning. This is an umbrella term for many types of learning, including online classes and classes available through the mail. Many distance learning programs are connected to traditional schools, others exist independently.

Distance learning allows students to learn from the privacy and convenience of their own homes. Many people who are balancing jobs and family with school enjoy the freedom of being able to schedule their classes around their lives. Most online programs allow people to work at their own pace, which means that students may take longer to complete assignments if they need extra time or can speed through material that is easy for them.

Financial aid is available to students that are enrolled in regionally accredited schools. Some form of aid may also be available to students enrolled in other types of schools. Government assistance, such as loans and grants, are generally only given to students who are enrolled in regionally accredited institutions. But, everyone can search through the huge number of scholarships offered by private organizations. Additionally, there are many organizations that hold yearly contests that offer monetary rewards to current students.

Different schools have different requirements for their students. Most schools require that students supply their own hardware, including a computer that is able to access the internet at relatively high speeds and view multimedia applications (If you’re still running anything that has a tape drive, it’s time to upgrade). Standard software is also a general requirement. Students will likely need to have a word processing program, an email client, and a multimedia player. Much of the required software is available in freeware versions. Before you purchase anything, check to find out what your schools’ individual requirements are.

Choosing the right school is essential. At TopCollegeDegrees.com we made sure that the school you choose is accredited by the proper regional association.  We also, make sure that it would offer you the help and support you need. Interview counselors or admissions officers will contact you from the schools you are considering before you enroll and be sure to ask them questions that will are not covered on their website or brochures. Ask about their accreditation, the programs that they offer, the quality of their staff, their years in service, their curriculum, the multimedia elements of their program, and anything else that is important to you.

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