Cuesta College accreditation in jeopardy
February 21, 2008
BY KAREN VELIE
Cuesta College administrators said this week the institution faces the threat of finding itself without accreditation.
The Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), located in Novato, has issued a warning to Cuesta College to heed its recommendations or risk losing accreditation.
Accreditation is an established process for evaluation and quality assurance for education used by the American higher education community, according to the ACCJC’s Website. If accreditation were to be revoked, course credits would no longer be transferable to other colleges and universities, and students would be unable to collect financial aid.
ACCJC provides regional accreditation, which it describes as “the most highly regarded form of institutional accreditation, and that sought by most academic institutions with comprehensive missions.”
“We are concerned with our students being able to transfer and obviously accreditation is important for image,” said Cuesta College Interim Vice President of Student Learning Toni Sommer. “We can operate without accreditation. We probably don’t want to.”
Forewarned in 2002 that issues regarding program reviews and unit-planning processes could result in the loss of the college’s accreditation, Cuesta College officials admit they fell short in properly addressing the commission’s recommendations.
“We thought the problems were fixed, but they wanted it even tighter so we tightened it up again,” Sommer said. “We were approved by the visitation team. It was the Commission that put us on warning. So we were a little surprised when the letter came.”
According to the Commission’s Web site, a warning was issued on the basis of a progress report and a November 6, 2007 on-site visit.
“I also wish to inform you that under the U.S. Department of Education regulations, institutions out of compliance with standards or on sanction are expected to correct deficiencies within a two-year period or the Commission must take action to terminate accreditation,” according to a letter from the Commission to Cuesta College on January 31, 2008.
The Commission’s letter also voices concerns regarding staffing issues at Cuesta College.
“The team noted that out of ten senior administrative positions, six were interim, one was vacant, and that the interim president was also serving as interim vice president for student learning,” according to the Commission’s letter.
The Commission asked Cuesta College to “correct the deficiencies noted” and to follow up with a progress report by March 15, 2008.
“Cuesta College’s Planning and Budget Committee is working on the issues. The issues are fixed and there are plans in the works to have all position permanent by June,” Sommer said.
“Basically, we have gone through two writes and reviewed issues and made a draft letter that goes to the faculty senate on January 29, and then to the board meeting on March 5,” Sommer added. “We will send it on to the Commission on March 6.”