SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - After months of speculation and concern, Cuesta College will remain an accredited school.
Here's a look at the formal announcement:
Cuesta College has made significant progress with the regional accrediting agency that evaluates two-year colleges in California and remains accredited.
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges removed the college from show-cause status and placed it on warning, which is the least severe level of sanction. In a letter dated Feb. 11, 2013, the commission noted that the college seems poised to demonstrate that it will fully resolve the remaining issues in the next few months. Furthermore, the commission found that Cuesta College has fully resolved most of the deficiencies that had been identified in the 2012 commission action letter, and recognizes that the college has implemented its integrated planning process, but needs more time to assess its effectiveness.
"I am very encouraged by the action, and we still have some work to do," said Gil Stork, Cuesta College superintendent/president. "We have taken great strides in reaching our goal to achieve compliance with the accreditation standards. The entire district is united in this objective. The response from faculty, administration, staff, students and community partners over the past 12 months has been nothing short of spectacular. This response by the commission is a great vote of confidence that ACCJC recognizes the exceptional work of the college and matches our confidence that we will achieve full compliance."
"I want our students, their families and community members to know that we are on target to resolve any remaining deficiencies listed by the commission. Cuesta remains accredited, as it has been through this entire process. Other colleges and universities continue to accept our students and courses for transfer. Financial aid remains unaffected by the commission's decision."
Cuesta's governing body, the San Luis Obispo County Community College District Board of Trustees, is focused on accreditation as well.
"Resolving these deficiencies is our top priority," said Pat Mullen, board president. "The board continues to provide its full support and direction to Dr. Stork to do whatever is needed to correct these issues."
Accreditation is the primary means that educational institutions assure and improve quality. California community colleges must apply to the ACCJC, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Education. The process focuses on self-evaluation, peer review and quality improvement. Institutions are either reaffirmed or placed on sanction, which include four levels: warning, probation, show cause and termination of accreditation.
In February of 2012, the commission imposed the most serious sanction — show cause — and gave officials a year to show why Cuesta's accreditation should not be withdrawn. The college was faulted for institutional planning and assessment; technology resources; and financial planning and stability.
The action galvanized the campus. Stork replaced the accreditation liaison officer with then-Dean of Academic Affairs Deborah Wulff, who guided a campus-wide effort to address the deficiencies in a follow-up report to the ACCJC.
"I was very pleased with the response by our Accreditation Steering Committee and the entire college," said Wulff, who was named interim assistant superintendent and vice president of academic affairs. "We were able to resolve every issue identified by ACCJC including laying an excellent foundation for integrated planning. The college has worked hard to create integrated plans and has implemented them well — we just did not have the time available to complete the assessment cycle before the commission made its decision. A cycle typically lasts a school year, and we will be able to complete the process on that time frame."
The report from ACCJC's visiting team acknowledged the college's compliance with technology and fiscal stability, although the team said more time is needed to assess the college's planning cycle.
According to the visiting team's report: "This new (planning) model … demonstrates that the college has created linkages between program review, enrollment management, resource allocation, technology planning, facilities planning, and financial planning on the one hand and the college educational master plan and strategic plan on the other. As a result, there is good cause to believe that the college will fully conform to this recommendation by completing the planning cycle … in June 2013."
Cuesta must next complete a follow-up report and submit it by mid-October to the ACCJC. An evaluation team will visit in the fall. The 19-member commission will meet in January of 2014 to decide whether sanctions will be lifted.
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