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COC Receives Highest Possible Accreditation Rating

Posted: February 6, 2009 8:03 p.m.
Updated: February 6, 2009 5:03 p.m.
 
This week, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges took action to reaffirm its highest accreditation status upon College of the Canyons - completing a nearly two-year long self-study and application process.

In reaffirming accreditation status, without the placement of additional requests or conditions, the Commission also commended the college for its strong commitment to: student success, collaborative governance, the fostering of numerous community partnerships, the use of data-driven planning and evaluation processes, technology use including student and faculty training and support, the provision of a wide array of student support services, and the presence of professional development opportunities for faculty and staff.

"Credit for our successful accreditation belongs to each member of the college's faculty, staff, administration, and Board of Trustees," said Chancellor Dr. Dianne Van Hook. "Every day they devote themselves to serving our students in the best way possible, and to establishing and pursuing high standards of excellence to foster student success, and to partnering so that opportunities that don't exist elsewhere are thriving at COC. It is rewarding to me that their efforts and the outcomes we have achieved were so evident to the visiting team."

Assistant Superintendent, Vice President of Instruction, Mitjl Capet, was the college's accreditation liaison who shepherded the preparation of the self-study report and coordinated the accreditation team's visit.

"Accreditation is about accountability," Capet said, "and our outstanding accreditation results reinforce the fact that College of the Canyons has been found to be accountable to its students, to the community and to the high ideals and standards of higher education.

"When we say we are going to do something, we plan for it, we do it and we evaluate what we've done, and that is what the visiting team and the accreditation commission are focused on," Capet said.

Accreditation is a voluntary process colleges and universities undergo to evaluate and assure the quality of education used by the American higher education community - and to subsequently make those results known to the public.

"Accreditation isn't something that happens once every few years," said Sue Bozman, vice president, district communication, marketing and external relations, who served as one of the self study report's two editors. "It is an ongoing process of continued introspection and commitment to institutional improvement, and that's how we approach it at College of the Canyons."

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) is the corporate entity, consisting of three separately organized commissions within the western region, which is responsible for monitoring and evaluating institutions of higher education. The commission responsible for community colleges is The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), which evaluates and accredits public and private postsecondary institutions that offer two-year education programs and award the associate degree.

Including an intensive institutional self-study and outside peer evaluation of an institution's adherence to set standards of good practice, and an ongoing analysis of the overall quality of programs and services offered by the candidate institution, the accreditation process is conducted not only to assure the quality of the institution, but to encourage institutional improvement - with all accredited institutions expected to use the report to improve their educational programs and services.

As such, all schools receiving accreditation status from the ACCJC are required to file a midterm report in the third year after the institution's evaluation. College of the Canyons will next undergo the comprehensive accreditation reaffirmation process in fall 2014.

During the Commission's peer evaluation of the campus and its operations in October, and in the official accreditation report, Commission visiting team chair Dr. Robert F. Agrella, Superintendent-President of Santa Rosa Junior College, praised the college for an array of accomplishments, while also recognizing the members of the college community for the attitude they display and important role they play in the community.

"You are to be commended for your entrepreneurial attitude, enthusiasm and spirit that you display," said Agrella during the team's exit interview. "When you walk across the campus and you meet with people and begin talking with individuals here there is a spirit and enthusiasm that comes through, and that's important. I think that's part of the flavor of an institution."

In addition, the Commission's visiting team was highly complimentary of the college's commitment to the support of tutorial centers and computer labs, and learning and career centers located at both the Valencia and Canyon Country campuses. "I think that really shows your support for student success," Agrella said.

Yet another area praised by the visiting team was the college's ability to recruit an appropriate amount of staff and faculty, while searching for new and innovative ways - including online instruction and accelerated class and program options - to serve a continuously surging student population.

"You've done an outstanding job in bringing in faculty and students, and do as good a job as possible in online instruction," Agrella said.

Included in the visiting team's exit interview were just three recommended areas of improvement at College of the Canyons: an acceleration of the college's timeline to transfer the storage of past student records to a digital format; a program review of its library services designed to improve the effectiveness of the libraries at both the Valencia and Canyon Country campuses; and the continued focus on developing increased student learning outcomes - a recommendation handed down to all institutions undergoing the re-accreditation process.

"For an institution of your size and complexity to have just those three recommendations is to be lauded," Agrella said.

Agrella went on to say that he had never prepared an accreditation report with fewer recommendations before reiterating that the Commission's recommendations are not to be taken as criticisms of the institution, but instead are measures designed to help institutions bring those standards to a higher degree.

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