BY BILL F. STEWART
The Fresno Bee
April 30, 2014
The recent focus on City College of San Francisco and its possible loss of accreditation has put many California community colleges under the spotlight … and rightly so.
Accreditation has been described as a public statement that a certain threshold of quality has been achieved or surpassed. Each institution affiliated with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) accepts the obligation to participate in a cycle of periodic self-evaluation and external reviews by a team of peer reviewers.
The colleges of State Center Community College District — Fresno City College and Reedley College — have undergone examination by ACCJC and have worked diligently to resolve the issues raised in the commission’s report in 2012 when they placed the colleges on “warning.”
On Oct. 15, 2012, the colleges submitted follow-up reports to the commission. In a letter dated Feb. 11, 2013, ACCJC acted to remove the warning, and reaffirm accreditation and required the colleges to submit another follow-up report.
In a letter dated Feb. 7, 2014, that was received by Fresno City College and Reedley College, the commission stated that “the Colleges provided evidence that they met the associated Standards.”
It is not uncommon in the accreditation process for questions and issues to be raised that require a response from the institution. As a result, both colleges are now in good standing with ACCJC and all accreditation issues have been resolved.
In the past, I have participated on accreditation teams and chaired many others in California, across the nation and in Europe. So to understand accreditation and how the colleges respond, it’s helpful to look at how the process has evolved over the years.
There have been significant shifts in the focus of accreditation over time. In the 1960s, accreditation focused on processes to ensure institutional viability. By the 1990s, it had shifted to students moving through the institution. By 2002, ACCJC approved its new accreditation standards that ushered in an era of student and institutional outcomes, assessment and collection of data and analysis. This provided the framework for guiding institutional process development, decision making and demonstration of institutional effectiveness with regard to student learning outcomes and student achievement. During this major shift many California community colleges were warned for not meeting all the new standards.
The most recent shift in accreditation is highlighted by the revised 2014 ACCJC Accreditation Standards expected to be approved this summer, which introduce three additional areas of accountability. The areas are: 1) a response to local interests in clarifying and simplifying Accreditation Standards; 2) addressing regional and national interests in student completion, time to degree, and quality of degree; and 3) addressing regional and national interests in productivity and student equity.
Our new Willow International Community College Center is going through the process to become Clovis Community College, the third accredited college in State Center Community College District.
Willow International was granted candidacy status effective March 6, 2013. There is one final step that needs to be taken before it becomes Clovis Community College. Willow International must submit another self-evaluation report documenting how the college meets the eligibility requirements, accreditation standards and polices.
This report is being completed and will be submitted to ACCJC in February 2015. The commission will send an external evaluation team in March 2015 to evaluate Willow International’s readiness to become a college. If everything goes as planned, the commission could make the final determination to grant initial accreditation to Clovis Community College in June 2015.
The districtwide governance process has continuously worked to address the issues raised by the accreditation standards. Key districtwide task forces and formalized committees have continued the work of districtwide planning to ensure ongoing, districtwide dialogue.
The bottom line is this: Fresno City College, Reedley College and the future Clovis Community College will be stronger as a result of the accreditation process and will continue to provide outstanding educational opportunities for students for many generations to come.
Bill F. Stewart is the interim chancellor of State Center Community College District.