The title was taken from one of the many memes spawned by this year of massive change. 2020 has been a remarkable year, and NWCCU has seen many changes as well. Some of these were planned far in advance, others have been quick pivots in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Planned, but a long time coming…
We opened the (virtual) doors to the Institutional Portal this year. This long-anticipated tool is intended to give our institutions direct access to their NWCCU records. This will allow our ALOs to keep their records current rather than resubmitting the same data year after year. We used the Institutional Portal as part of the 2020 Annual Report this past summer. There are still a few kinks to work out, but it is a great step forward.
This year, NWCCU also received authorization to directly access IPEDS data for all of our US institutions. This allowed us to shorten the data portion of the annual report! We plan to pull enrollment and financial data as soon as the newest IPEDS data becomes available early next year.
PIVOT, PIVOT, PIVOT!
When the pandemic hit, the US Department of Education quickly granted accreditors and institutions the “flexibilities” needed for a rapid pivot to remote education. But despite multiple extensions, the flexibilities came with an expiration date of 12/31/2020. Some guidance timeframes have been extended. For example, the flexibilities related to Federal Financial Aid have been extended through the end of the pandemic, and the flexibilities regarding veteran education requirements have been extended through 12/31/2021. But the flexibilities to continue offering remote instruction are currently scheduled to end at the end of this year, and there is no reprieve in sight. To allow our institutions to continue remote instruction into the new year, NWCCU quickly needed to find a way to review and grant approvals for distance delivery of programs from most of our institutions.
We were able to modify the Academic Program List in the Institutional Portal to allow our ALOs to request approval to offer any program via distance education with just a few clicks. Each request made through the Institutional Portal automatically generated the substantive change request and notified the NWCCU Liaison to review the requests. Our process allows us to approve programs very quickly, which has been important as we have already received over 4,500 requests from just 14% of our institutions.
Looking to the future…
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the financial stresses facing many institutions of higher education in our country. NWCCU is planning to dig deeper into the financial health of our institutions, to try to be a part of the solution. We are planning to expand the financial information collected through the Institutional Portal to help our liaisons better assist their institutions. Much more on this project in the coming months.
NWCCU processes have been changing rapidly as we seek to better support our institutions, and the students they serve. We look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.
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