By: Cory Berlekamp
According to a public disclosure document from the Higher Learning Commission, an accreditation organization for post-secondary institutions, the Winebrenner Theological Seminary’s accreditation has been “On Notice” since June 29, 2017.
Before that, WTS’s status was “On Probation” since June of 2015 for “non-compliance” of “Criteria for Accreditation” according to the document. The document went on to explain that the notice could be lifted after WTS was able to provide evidence that they addressed the issues by a written report from WTS in December 2018 and a visit from a HLC team pending a decision from their Board of Trustees in June 2019.
“The team from the Higher Learning Commission came and visited Winebrenner to evaluate our operations in a couple areas they are looking for,” said Brent Sleasman, the president of WTS. “The HLC has a set of criteria that every school accredited by HLC and are held to the same standard.”
The criteria that WTS had to comply with dealt with demonstrating “quality of its educational programs”, “commitment to educational achievement and improvement” of student learning, WTS’s base supporting their current programs and “strengthening their quality in the future”, and that they engage “in systematic and integrated planning”.
According to Sleasman, HLC’s team came to WTS on Jan. 7 and 8.
“After that visit in January, the team puts together a report and we get a copy of that and get a chance to review and check for what they call ‘errors of fact’ to make sure that the details and numbers are correct,” explained Sleasman. “We don’t get a chance to change their interpretation of that and then they produce their final report.”
Sleasman took the position at Winebrenner in December 2015 just a few months after the notice of probation was handed down to WTS. According to him, he has worked at getting WTS back on track by getting them to the point of being in compliance with HLC standards, this is what he says “On Notice” is.
“I always equate that (“On Notice”) to a family that has multiple kids,” said Sleasman. “One of the kids the parents say ‘We love you, you’re in the family, we are just going to watch you a little more closely than your siblings’.”
In an article published by the World Heritage Encyclopedia on unaccredited institutions of higher education they explain that bible colleges and seminaries opt out of accreditation due to political and religious beliefs. Sleasman is proud of WTS’s accreditation from the HLC which keeps them at the same standards of the University of Findlay.
“There are other accreditation agencies but HLC we feel is important because it lends credibility and it speaks to the quality of education at Winebrenner to be able to be accredited by the HLC.”
According to Sleasman, he is confident of HLC’s visit and is hopeful of WTS’s status going back to normal in June.
“We felt good with the visit. The team had a favorable response but obviously nothing is final until the decision in June,” said Sleasman. “I feel we put our best foot forward and had a positive visit.”