Cleveland State Community College is still awaiting concrete details on the actions needed to rid itself of the warning it recently received from its accrediting institution.
The board of trustees of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges on June 19 denied the “reaffirmation” of Cleveland State’s accreditation.
The college was placed under a “warning” for a year, the action coming after a second review of the documents the college submitted as part the review process its accrediting institution requires every 10 years.
“We understand that it does cause concern in the public,” Cleveland State President Dr. Bill Seymour said. “I think the general concern is, ‘Are you going to lose your accreditation?’ ... We feel very confident that’s not going to happen.”
The warning concerned three different areas outlined in the SACSCOC document “Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement.”
Cleveland State’s warning stemmed from one of the findings being a “core requirement,” Seymour said.
The warning concerned SACSCOC 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.”
Two other areas mentioned as part of the reaccreditation process include matters related to faculty and student support.
Section 126.96.36.199 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.”
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 pointed out that colleges that receive their accreditation under SACSCOC must comply with roughly 80 different standards.
As part of the 10-year re-evaluation process, SACSCOC representatives visited Cleveland State last October, which he said resulted in 10 or 12 findings that needed to be corrected.
The college was given the opportunity to correct those items and compile them in a report it had to submit this past March. By then, the college had whittled the number of findings down to three, but that was enough for it to receive a warning.
On Thursday, SACS released a “disclosure statement” that offered explanations of the action taken regarding Cleveland State.
However, the statement merely reiterated the initial announcement of which areas of SACSCOC’s principles were violated with the addition of rules related to what being under a warning means for the college.
The college has until June 2015 to address the concerns raised by its accrediting institution. If not met, there is a possibility the warning could be continued, or more serious actions like the college being put on “probation” or having its accreditation rejected could be taken.
“The SACSCOC board of trustees will consider the accreditation status of Cleveland State Community College following review of a first monitoring report submitted by the institution addressing the standards cited above for non-compliance,” the statement read. “Commission staff will not speculate on what decision might be made by the board of trustees in June 2015.”
Though specifics haven’t been given, he said he and others in the administration have already been looking at ways to correct what they think may have led to the warning.
“We have a pretty good idea,” Seymour said, “We’re getting geared up to respond to this in the best way possible.”
In terms of section 2.5, concerning planning and evaluation, the college is set to begin a long-term strategic planning process that will allow community members to work with college officials to help set goals. Seymour said that should begin in August and last several months.
Section 188.8.131.52 concerns providing academic support services for students, something Seymour said the college has already been doing well.
The college president compared a college reporting its results to an accrediting institution to a student being required to show his or her work in a math class. The student may get all the answers correct, but receiving full credit for those answers requires showing the work done to reach them.
“We’ve got to do a better job of documenting,” Seymour said. “We do a lot of good things.”
He added that section 3.7.1’s emphasis on faculty credentials leads him to believe it concerns the college needing to send in more information about those credentials, and “it really can’t be more than a couple instances.”
Seymour said he expects to receive a letter by late July that should go into more specifics and give the college “better guidance” on what to do to ensure the accreditation sticks. In the meantime, he said he plans to schedule a meeting with an official from the accrediting institution to receive more advice on how to proceed.