Regulations or Scrutiny? or What’s New on the Accreditation Front?
by Jill Lewis, Instructional Services Manager-Program Review, Accreditation Liaison Officer
Be prepared, an accreditation crackdown may be on the horizon. The U.S. Department of Education (U.S.D.O.E.) is on a mission and is taking significant steps to align higher education practices with the 47 countries which make up the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). European and American quality assurance agencies are facing similar challenges, and national policy discussions continue. Debates continue on issues of agencies not setting “black and white” standards, the ability of institutions to comply with the standards at all times, using outcomes as a sole measure of educational quality, and the determination of what level of learning is sufficient. Here is how issues flow down to our level:
U.S.D.O.E. → CRAC → WASC → ACCJC → CCCs → GCC
Accountability pressures continue as our accrediting agency, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) has gradually increased the level of scrutiny it applies to institutions. This has been primarily focused in the area of SLOACs in order to meet the fall 2012 “SLO Proficiency Level” mandate. Fortunately, GCC was able to secure a spot in the first annual WASC/ACCJC Assessment Academy which started in the summer. Sarah McLemore responded to the campuswide call and was accepted to participate in the eight-month program. The academy program develops assessment expertise to implement campus workshops and to develop plans and support for assessment efforts, campus infrastructures and collaborative projects. This group also addresses national issues concerning assessment, accreditation and accountability. The benefits of Sarah’s experience have been evidenced this year in her valuable collaboration with the Program Review Committee, SLO Committee and Institutional Planning Coordinating Committee, in moving forward to meet the college’s “fall 2012” SLO Proficiency deadline and the ubiquitous, never-ending “continuous cycle of improvement” mandated by accreditation.
How and when the college will report proficiency has finally been determined. GCC’s SLO Proficiency Level will be evidenced in our regularly scheduled accreditation Midterm Report due in March 2013. Specific reporting details such as a matrix format will be decided by the commission at their next semi-annual meeting in January 2012. While the March 2013 timeframe may sound like a slight reprieve from the original fall 2012 deadline, without a doubt we still have a great deal of work to complete in many areas in order to publish 100% compliance! I urge all divisions, departments and programs to take SLOAC completion very seriously, as we would not want to jeopardize the college with another possible sanction.
Some of the latest issues under accreditation scrutiny include:
Institutions must establish a clear policy for the award of credit (student work necessary to earn a credit hour). Accreditation teams are now being asked to examine at least five courses to determine if the conversion of clock to credit is correct.
Institutions must establish a clear policy and procedure to ensure the integrity of distance education and additionally ensure that the student registered for the course is the student doing the work and getting the grades/credit for the course. Institutions must identify all D.E. courses and examine how D.E. course credit meets federal regulations. The commission is being pressured to monitor all D.E. growth over 20% and guarantee that it is not fraudulent. Colleges are additionally being asked to guarantee student identity in an effort to know “who is taking your courses….” Institutions must report any program in which 50% or more of the courses are delivered via D.E.
State Authorization Rules:
Colleges must specify publicly in which states they are “authorized” to offer D.E. classes. Example: If you have a student in Utah taking a GCC D.E. course, you must have an official letter of authorization from the state of Utah allowing GCC to offer classes to its
Additionally, the commission has begun its periodic review of the standards. The current standards were developed in 2002. GCC used these “new” standards for the first time with our 2010 Self-Study report. It is possible that the current standards could be replaced in 2012/2013. (Oh my, the fun never stops….)
Would you like to learn more about accreditation? The ACCJC offers an Accreditation Basics self-paced online workshop. The workshop is mandatory for all new accreditation team members, but is available for anyone interested in learning about the principles of accreditation. If interested, go to: http://www.accjc.org/events
(Scroll down to “Training” and allow about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete the workshop.) &