Pierce College will likely have its status as an accredited college reaffirmed in the early winter, after the preliminary report supported the success seen at the college in year three of its seven-year accreditation cycle.
A peer-evaluation committee consisting of out-of-state members of the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities gave Pierce College commendations in three categories. Pierce College didn’t receive any recommendations from the committee; had recommendations been given, Pierce College would need to adjust or improve the areas of concern.
“We had three commendations. The first commendation had to do with mission fulfillment. The first year, we got a recommendation to fix it. This year, we received a commendation. An evaluator said ‘You’ve made great gains to go from having a recommendation to a commendation in only two years,’” District chancellor, Michele Johnson, said.
Johnson, an integral part of the continuous accreditation of the college, explains the process of accreditation and the results of the preliminary report.
The college undergoes a series of evaluations at the one-year, two-year, three-year, five-year and seven-year mark. Because the NWACCU recently switched to a seven-year accreditation cycle, this year three visit was the final visit before year seven.
“Each one of the accreditation visits build off of the last one,” Johnson said.
In the first year, Pierce College had to identify its mission, core themes and indicators of success. It continued to develop and revise the mission in year two. The third year is a bit different.
“This third year report is looking at your capacity to respond to your mission,” Johnson said.
The third year report focuses on aspects of the college’s resources including governance, human resources, educational resources, student support resources, library and information resources, financial resources and physical and technological infrastructure.
“That’s what this whole thing is about: do you have the resources to meet your mission?” Johnson said.
Pierce College also responded to their recommendations from the year two accreditation report by increasing specificity of measures of success and further developing their mission statement.
“It’s our full circle of improvement,” Johnson said.
Another thing is different about this visit; this is the first year that the preliminary accreditation committee hasn’t come to Pierce for an on-campus evaluation. Pierce submitted a self-evaluation to the evaluators which was supplemented by videos of students and staff.
“We wanted them to have a flavor of Pierce College,” Johnson said. “We wanted them to know who we are.”
According to Johnson, the evaluators loved the inclusion of the videos.
Along with the commendation regarding mission fulfillment, Pierce College received commendations on its well laid-out assessment and class outcomes and on its budget.
“The third commendation,” Johnson said, “and I would have been disappointed if we had not received this, was on budget and having an inclusive budget process. We have a very elaborate and inclusive process.”
Pierce College received no recommendations in the preliminary evaluation, though it’s possible that it’ll receive a recommendation in the final report due to recent changes in procedures in the state auditor’s office.
The NWACCU will meet in January or February to read the reports and take action; this action can ensure reaccreditation or give a warning that standards haven’t been met and the college is on a path to becoming unaccredited.
Pierce College, due to the preliminary report responses, fully expects reaccreditation.
“We take it as an opportunity… so that the services we give to our students and our community are top quality. That’s what we care about,” Johnson said.
Johnson, along with the Pierce College District Executive team and Institutional Effectiveness Committee, have set goals to continue to increase the measures of success at Pierce College; essentially, they want to increase student success.
“What happens at the end—that seventh year—we show all the proof that we fulfilled what we began at year one,” Johnson said. “And then we begin again.”
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