Q: What is accreditation?
A: Accreditation is the process for evaluating and assuring the quality of education used by the higher educational community. Community colleges, like COS, go through the accreditation process every six years by Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) which operates under, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The process focuses on self-evaluation, peer review, and quality improvement.
Q: Why is being accredited important?
A: Accreditation allows all coursework by College of the Sequoias students to be transferable to other accredited institutions. In addition, accreditation means Financial Aid is available.
Q: What is the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges?
A: ACCJC operates under the corporate entity the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and is one of seven regional accrediting commissions. ACCJC accredits associate degree-granting institutions in the Western region of the United States — California, Hawaii and a few other locations. The accrediting organization is authorized to operate by the U.S. Department of Education through the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. For more on the ACCJC, visit http://www.accjc.org.
Q: What is an accreditation sanction?
A: Institutions are either affirmed or placed on sanction, which has four levels: warning, probation, show cause and termination of accreditation. A sanction signals that there are institutional issues that need to be addressed. While on sanction, a college’s accreditation continues as the institution works to resolve the deficiencies.
Q: What is College of the Sequoias’ current accreditation status?
A: In February 2013, the Commission placed College of the Sequoias on the highest level of sanction by issuing an order to "Show Cause." This was in response to the seven recommendations, five of which were the same as the 2006 report; at that time COS was placed on warning. Upon arrival of the visiting team in October 2012, it was found that there was no sustained progress on these standards and that COS was substantially non-compliant in critical areas.
Q: What does “Show Cause” status mean?
A: Under this designation, COS has until October 2013 to show cause for why we should continue as an accredited institution by correcting all areas of non-compliance. Failure to achieve this compliance will result in the ACCJC revoking the College’s accreditation, and result in college closure.
Q: What are the deficiencies identified by the accrediting commission?
A: For specific information, please see the COS Accreditation Response Task Force Webpage at www.cos.edu/accreditation. Here is an overview:
- Planning: COS must integrate, strengthen, and formalize its planning process, systematically reviewing and revising them to ensure informed decisions for continuous improvement
- Campus Dialogue: COS must improve the campus climate by encouraging all constituents to participate in an inclusive dialogue that embodies a culture of respect, civility, and trust.
- Research Capacity: COS must increase the research capacity in order to compile and provide data to guide institutional planning and resource allocation, program review and assessment, and decision-making for institutional effectiveness.
- Student Learning Outcomes: COS must make progress on student learning outcomes by regularly assessing those outcomes and use the results to improve student learning and strengthen institutional effectiveness. The College needs to include effectiveness in producing student learning outcomes as a component of the evaluation of faculty and staff who are responsible for assessing student learning and demonstrate how it is using data for improvement.
- Student Support Services: COS must improve student services and library services for evening students, online students, and students that attend the Hanford Center in order to ensure the equitability of those services.
- Human Resources Processes: COS must improve human resource processes to include the hiring procedures for all employees and establish a clear connection between employee evaluation and improvement.
- Evaluation of Processes: COS must develop and implement a systematic evaluation of its decision-making and budget development processes and use those evaluations as a basis for improvement.
Q: What happens next?
A: COS will remain accredited while addressing the deficiencies identified by the ACCJC. President Carrizosa has appointed an Accreditation Response Task Force which includes Senior Management, Administrators, Faculty, Staff, and Students. Broken down into six committees, each group will address different standard deficiencies. In October 2013, the College will submit a report in which addresses the accreditation commission’s concerns and the actions undertaken by the College. A visiting team and ACCJC officials will visit the campus between October 2013 and January 2014, and the full commission will meet in January of 2014 to decide whether sanctions will be lifted.
Q: Where can I get more information?
A: The College has created an accreditation web page, which is regularly updated: http://www.cos.edu/accreditation