Friday, February 7, 2014

Accreditation reaffirmed for Grossmont, Cuyamaca colleges

Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges received the welcome word today that they earned the highest level of endorsement by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

The accrediting committee’s seal of approval - formally referred to as a six-year “reaffirmation of accreditation” – was issued following its biannual meeting in January to consider accreditation applications.

Separate evaluation teams visited both colleges for a week last October to prepare their recommendations to the commission. Grossmont College’s team complimented the college for the transformative changes that had occurred since the last accreditation in 2007. Cuyamaca College was praised for its student-centered focus and its high level of student engagement in governance and the decision-making process.

Grossmont College in El Cajon, with about 19,000 students, has been serving East County since 1962, while Cuyamaca College, with about 9,000 students at its Rancho San Diego campus, has been serving the area since 1978. Both colleges are part of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.

The 19-member accrediting commission evaluates all associate degree-producing colleges both private and public in the western region, including all 112 publicly supported two-year colleges in California. Accreditation is crucial because it provides quality assurance to the public. For the 2.4 million students in the system, it means transferability of units to other colleges and universities, and federal financial-aid eligibility.

I am thrilled that independent evaluators, with their reaccreditations of both colleges, have confirmed my strong belief and confidence in the excellence of our institutions,” Chancellor Cindy L. Miles said. “It is a strong endorsement of the superb education our colleges provide and reflects the exceptional quality and dedication of our faculty, staff, administrators and trustees.”

The highly anticipated decision comes as tougher requirements have been implemented requiring more documentation of student learning and success. This has been a particularly ticklish issue for colleges under the gun to provide assessments of instructional courses and programs, as well as data showing levels of course completion and achievement of academic goals.

“In the past, accreditors focused primarily on resources and procedures, taking it for granted that good processes mean good results, but the climate has changed,” Miles said. ”Now, accreditors seek much study and transparency of student success, particularly as the public has demanded more accountability.”

The separate teams praised both colleges for their facilities, many of them made possible by the 2002 passage of Proposition R – a $207 million bond measure – that are inviting and designed to support learning. They also commended the Governing Board and district leadership for having open communication and keeping good relationships between the college and the district. 

            The onsite evaluators at Grossmont College noted a “pride of ownership in the culture change that thrives on campus.

            “While the college’s self-evaluation report was very articulate and well written, it could not fully describe the deep, highly reflective, and profound changes in the culture of the college,” the chair of the visiting accreditation team said in a report summary. “The institution has become a data-driven, student learning-focused culture that continuously reflects on how to better serve students and the surrounding communities.”

Grossmont College’s visiting team also commended the college for its innovative college leadership, headed by President Sunita V. Cooke, and its programs that help first-year students and students struggling in English and math.

            “This is a fabulous day for Grossmont College,” Cooke said. “Many people at our college worked so hard to make this happen. We take great pride in this achievement.”

Cuyamaca College also received praise from its accrediting team for its improved communication and shared governance system that allows faculty and staff to take on new leadership roles.

            “This is great news for the college, great news for our students, and a huge compliment to everyone who works to make our college great,” Cuyamaca College President Mark J. Zacovic said.

  The accrediting commission identified a small number of issues that will be addressed in a follow-up report due in October.

Grossmont College was asked to report on recommendations that included ensuring that a sufficient number of faculty and staff are working at the college; providing easy access to student grievance procedures; and regularly reviewing the district and Governing Board policies.

Cuyamaca College was asked to address recommendations to improve planning and the student learning outcome process; provide adequate access to the library and tutoring resources; and develop a hiring plan to ensure a sufficient number of qualified, diverse faculty and staff.  

 “We are very pleased by the findings of the commission and applaud the district and colleges for their diligence in ensuring student success, particularly in light of the prolonged budget challenges,” Governing Board President Bill Garrett said.  “Now it’s time to briefly celebrate the end of this six-year accreditation journey, then return to the task of working on behalf of students and to start the cycle all over again.”