Accounting Program Reflects on Higher Learning Commission Criterion 3

Faculty members Marie Saunders and Lyle Stelter explain how their program approaches Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support

Dakota County Technical College is hosting a Higher Learning Commission (HLC) Reaccreditation Visit Monday and Tuesday, April 26–27, 2021. The HLC accredits colleges and universities in a 19-state region in the United States.

The upcoming HLC visit culminates a comprehensive evaluation of DCTC, an HLC member institution, to confirm that the college continues to meet the Criteria for Accreditation and is pursuing institutional improvement and complies with requirements set by the U.S. Department of Education. Evaluations are conducted by teams of peer reviewers.

HLC accreditation provides current and potential students assurance that they are receiving a quality education that will be recognized as such by potential employers or licensing boards as well as by other colleges or universities in case of student transfers or pursuit of a higher degree.

Also, employer-paid tuition reimbursement programs often require that employee participants enroll in accredited institutions. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education recognizes accreditation as a marker to allow the institution to disperse federal (Title IV) student financial aid.

More about HLC regional accreditation…

According to the HLC, “Regional accreditation validates the quality of an institution as a whole and evaluates multiple aspects of an institution, including its academic offerings, governance and administration, mission, finances, and resources.

“HLC’s institutional accreditation includes all degree levels as well as onsite and online offerings. Institutions of higher education in the United States may also seek accreditation through national or specialized accreditation agencies.

“National accreditation associations, like regional accreditors, accredit the institution as a whole. Specialized accreditation agencies accredit programs, departments or schools within a college or university.”


DCTC Institutional Accreditation

The Higher Learning Commission

Accreditation Overview

Dakota County Technical College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Serving as an independent corporation, the HLC is one of two commission members of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), which was founded in 1895 as one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States.

The Higher Learning Commission accredits degree-granting postsecondary educational institutions in the North Central region. HLC accreditation provides valuable, external verification of the quality and integrity of DCTC academic and educational programs based on the college’s institutional mission.

According to the HLC Handbook of Accreditation: “The Higher Learning Commission is a membership organization whose members are the organizations accredited by a Commission. Therefore, the terms member organization and accredited organization are synonymous. Reference to membership is limited to accredited colleges and universities.”

Higher Learning Commission
230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
Chicago, IL 60604

Accounting Program

Marie Saunders and Lyle Stelter

Accounting Faculty: Marie Saunders and Lyle Stelter

The Criteria for Accreditation are the standards of quality by which HLC determines whether an institution merits accreditation or reaffirmation of accreditation.

Criterion 1. Mission
Criterion 2. Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct
Criterion 3. Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support
Criterion 4. Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement
Criterion 5. Institutional Effectiveness, Resources and Planning

Marie Saunders and Lyle Stelter serve as instructors in the Accounting program at DCTC. The following Q & A details how Marie and Lyle are meeting the objectives of Criterion 3: Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support.

Accounting Criterion 3 Q & A

DCTC News: How do you make sure Accounting program coursework is up to date and requires levels of student performance appropriate to credentials awarded?

Marie Saunders & Lyle Stelter: To maintain up-to-date coursework, the Accounting program depends on feedback from its Advisory Committee. The committee consists of a diverse group of individuals from a variety of industries. During our committee meetings, the program instructors present the current curriculum and ask for advice on what is pertinent to today’s standards.

Based on this feedback, the faculty will adjust its curriculum. Case in point: Recently, the program added two certifications to two separate courses. ACCT 1306 Spreadsheets teaches Excel 2019 and offers the MOS Excel 2019 Specialist certification as the final for the course.

In addition, ACCT 2200 Accounting Computer Applications uses the QuickBooks Desktop Premier version to teach the course learning outcomes. At the end of this course, in addition to a comprehensive final, the students complete the Intuit QuickBooks Desktop User certification test.

Another requirement is the completion of the Advanced Accounting test from the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI). NOCTI is an organization that tests students on the skills needed to perform in their career.

More specifically, the test is intended to measure the job-ready skills of the students completing the Accounting program. The students’ skills are compared to others in the state as well as nationally. In the past, our students have done well in the rankings.

DCTC News: How does the Accounting program curriculum recognize human and cultural diversity while preparing students to work in a multicultural world?

Marie Saunders & Lyle Stelter: As instructors, we choose materials carefully to be inclusive and equitable. We participate in Equity and Inclusion training provided by the college to ensure that each faculty member has a lifestyle of equity and inclusion for all students. The field of accounting itself is guided by generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) that are driven by transparency in information.

The college has a chapter of the Business Professionals of America (BPA), which promotes student leadership, equity and inclusion, and career development. The college has done an outstanding job of being financially supportive of students to ensure that all students are able to participate in this professional growth opportunity.

DCTC News: How do you stay current with advances in the accounting field and continuously adept in your teaching roles through professional development?

Marie Saunders & Lyle Stelter: The Certified Management Accounting credential is administered by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). A Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is expected to complete 30 Continuing Education Units (CEU) to ensure the CMA is staying current in the field. These CEUs are from a variety of sources pertaining to managerial accounting and must include two hours of ethical professional development.

As an example, data analytics has always been an important part of the accounting field. The IMA has now offered a certification in this area. The IMA also offers training courses in the area of equity and inclusion.

The campus also expects faculty to maintain their professional development. At the end of every spring semester, faculty complete a professional development plan where we outline our activities. One criterion is the maintenance of the any professional certification. Other criteria include our campus and community involvement.

One of the courses taught on campus is ACCT 1406 Income Tax. Income tax regulations are perpetually changing and updates are recommended to stay current in the field of Income Tax preparation. The faculty member teaching this course participates in the University of Minnesota Income Tax Update course annually. In addition, time is spent reviewing areas in which practitioners need additional expertise.

DCTC News: What infrastructure and resources does DCTC provide students and faculty to promote effective teaching and learning?

Marie Saunders & Lyle Stelter: DCTC continuously offers workshops and webinars to support faculty in different methods of course delivery. The college’s director of Teaching & Learning, resources for DCTC and Inver Hills faculty, provides faculty support along with a weekly Faculty Resource Bulletin and meetings. These include resources such as: Course Design, Brightspace/D2L training, and use of Open Educational Resources to name a few. The faculty contract includes funds for other professional development that faculty members use to support their growth outside the campus community.

The ability to offer courses and the Accounting degree in an online format has allowed our program to reach students that may not have had the opportunity in the past. Faculty also use the textbook publisher’s innovative learning platforms to increase the flexibility for student completion of coursework and learning outcomes.

More about Accounting at DCTC…

As a student in the Accounting program at DCTC, you will be trained to analyze, interpret and record financial information regarding the operations and financial condition of businesses and organizations.

Working with spreadsheet and accounting software, you will acquire the skills necessary to prepare financial statements, tax returns and government forms.

You will also learn federal and state tax and payroll laws. Accountants need to be lifelong learners with the ability to work with all aspects of business.

Award options

Accountant A.A.S. degree (60 credits): Provides basic and intermediate accounting skills to prepare you to enter the workforce as an accountant, or to transfer and obtain advanced degrees.

Accountant diploma (54 credits): Provides basic and intermediate skills to prepare you to enter the workforce as an accountant.

Accounting Clerk diploma (32 credits): Provides basic accounting skills you’ll need to obtain a career as an accounting clerk.

Small Business Accounting certificate (16 credits): Provides accounting skills for an entrepreneur to start or manage a business, or for administrative personnel involved in the accounting function of a business.

Learn more about Accounting at DCTC by contacting:

Marie Saunders
Accounting Faculty

Lyle Stelter
Accounting Faculty

Karianne Loula
Academic & Financial Aid Advisor

Learn more about BPA at DCTC by contacting:

Marie Saunders
Accounting Faculty
BPA Chapter Faculty Advisor

Amy Evanson
Administrative Technology Faculty
BPA Chapter Faculty Advisor

Accountants and Auditors

Interpret budget statements in order to give financial advice.


This is a very high-wage career that pays well above the statewide median of $21.49/hour


Median: $33.06/hour
High: $40.61/hour

Seven-county Twin Cities metro

Median: $34.10/hour
High: $42.18/hour


In Minnesota, there are 23,210 workers employed in this very large career, which is currently in very high demand and seeing high growth compared to other careers. Growth rate in the Minnesota is 6.5 percent.

There will be a need for about 26,113 new Accountants and Auditors to meet market demand between 2018–2028. This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.

Minnesota State CAREERwise Education