Cleveland State Community College has been given a warning by its accrediting organization, the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, as part of its decennial review.
Every 10 years, SACS completes a review of the colleges under its purview, and a review of Cleveland State’s 10-year report submitted in 2013 led to requests for more information in three different areas, and a finding that needs to be addressed before the accreditation can be renewed.
Dr. Bill Seymour, president of Cleveland State, said the college remains fully accredited for the time being, and he believes there to be no danger of that changing anytime soon.
“It is important to note that Cleveland State’s accreditation remains intact,” Seymour said. “I have every confidence that we will make the improvements required by our accrediting body.”
He said the exact details of what the finding entails will not be made available to the school until next week. However, “preliminary information” indicates that SACS will be seeking more information on three specific areas. One item cited for correction was from the accrediting organization’s list of “core requirements,” which he said made it a “finding” that SACS wants the college to address.
The requirements a college must meet to retain accreditation are outlined in the SACS document “Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement.”
The finding concerned core requirement item 2.5, which dictates “the institution engages in ongoing, integrated and institution-wide research-based planning and evaluation processes that (1) incorporate a systematic review of institutional mission, goals and outcomes; (2) result in continuing improvement in institutional quality; and (3) demonstrate the institution is effectively accomplishing its mission.”
Seymour said that finding represented an area on which he had already been working to improve.
The 10-year report was submitted before he became the college’s president in January, and he said he had already begun working on incorporating more long-term planning and goal-setting into the culture of the college. For example, Seymour said he now requires faculty to set annual goals to later be revisited when the college does future faculty evaluations.
In July, he said the college will begin a campuswide “strategic planning” process that will last all the way through March and include meetings with everyone from faculty to local business leaders.
“They don’t assess what you are going to do, only what you have done,” Seymour said.
Two other areas mentioned as part of the SACS reaccreditation process include matters related to faculty and student support. Seymour said his understanding, based on a conversation with the college’s SACS liaison, is that the organization is only requesting more information on those two areas before moving forward with the decision, whereas the finding requires a corrective action.
Section 18.104.22.168 of the “Principles of Accreditation” requires that “the institution identifies expected outcomes, assesses the extent to which it achieves these outcomes and provides evidence of improvement based on analysis of the results in each of the following areas: educational programs, to include student learning outcomes, administrative support services and academic and student support services.”
Seymour said SACS wants more information on the college’s academic and student support services.
Section 3.7.1 reads that “the institution employs competent faculty members qualified to accomplish the mission and goals of the institution. When determining acceptable qualifications of its faculty, an institution gives primary consideration to the highest earned degree in the discipline. The institution also considers competence, effectiveness, and capacity, including, as appropriate, undergraduate and graduate degrees, related work experiences in the field, professional licensure and certifications, honors and awards, continuous documented excellence in teaching or other demonstrated competencies and achievements that contribute to effective teaching and student learning outcomes. For all cases, the institution is responsible for justifying and documenting the qualifications of its faculty.”
Seymour said the SACS interest in getting more information related to that section “relates to documentation for a small number of faculty credentials.”
He stressed that the report from SACS will require additional work by the school, but he believes the college’s accreditation is not in danger of being lost.
“Obviously, we were hoping for a better result,” Seymour said. “But we are working on it.”
More details on the accrediting organization’s feedback are expected next week. Once the information has been received, Cleveland State will have a year to correct the finding.