Higher Learning Commission Approves SMC Online Programs


For the second time in six months, Southwestern Michigan College has received a positive report card from its accrediting body. The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which in July reaffirmed the College’s Accreditation for another ten years, in November approved SMC to offer online programs in addition to online courses. The approvals are tied directly to Southwestern Michigan College’s recent inclusion of the Associate of Applied Science in MRI Technology and the Associate of Applied Science in Neurodiagnostic Technology (EEG), but also means that the College has approval to expand to other online programs based upon what the HLC review team cited as “thorough planning, long-term resource commitments, faculty leadership, and robust student support.”

Dr. Joe Odenwald, SMC President said, “This approval is further evidence of how quality is inherent in everything we do. To come from never offering an online course in March 2020 to having this approval says everything about the faculty and staff at Southwestern Michigan College.”

The two-person HLC team, Dr. Kristin Stehouwer, Provost, Northwood University, and Dr. Gary Heisserer, Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning, Missouri Valley College, met with administrators, faculty and staff of the College who played key roles in developing the online courses, programs and support services. In their final recommendation, they cited SMC’s “commitment to quality,” a summative statement echoing strengths cited by the team that recommended the 10-year Reaffirmation of Accreditation.

“What I was most pleased with,” stated Dr. David Fleming, Provost, “is that the Higher Learning Commission recognizes the deliberate way our faculty and staff have built an online platform from scratch in just over a year.  We were able to do that because we already had proactive student support services, whether it be in our financial aid, advising, library or tutoring services.”

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The HLC team members praised how “SMC moved student support into the online environment because of the pandemic and now continues to support all students through  online and virtual options.”

“The unsung heroes for this recommendation were our initial Online Task Force and later our Distance Education Advisory Committee,” said Fleming.  The Distance Education Advisory Committee, chaired by Fleming and Professor of Business/Instructional Design and Technology Specialist Jim Benak, will now be charged with continuing to monitor the success of SMC’s online offerings as well as proposing additional programs that students can take entirely online at Southwestern Michigan College.