Following up accreditation at SMC
During the summer Santa Monica College's accreditation was reaffirmed, but under the provision that a number of follow-ups are conducted.
Performed every six years, accreditation has two main components: a self-evaluation and a peer review. The self-study includes evidence of institutional effectiveness, improvement in instructional programs, student support services, human resources, physical resources, technology resources and financial resources. The institute grades itself on every aspect of the school from resources to the class availability.
Randal Lawson, SMC's vice president of business services, served as the accreditation liaison officer and the primary contact for the Accrediting Commission. "I believe that the reflection and self-assessment that characterized the development of the self-study are extremely valuable in identifying areas of strength and weakness and planning to capitalize on the strengths and address overcoming the weaknesses," said Lawson.
The second component is a peer review performed by professionals in the educational field who visit and evaluate the institution. This part was a four-week study examining aspects such as counseling for first-time students and the attempt to keep at 75 percent to 25 percent full time instructors to part-time instructors.
In the run up to the findings of the accreditation review, rumors circulated regarding the status of Santa Monica College's accreditation looking grim. However, Lawson insisted it was because the accreditation process, done by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, "has teeth." Therefore, many reputable community colleges were put under strict sanctions, and this "tended to make all of us a bit nervous about the outcome of accreditation comprehensive visits" he said.
Although SMC has had its accreditation reaffirmed there are still follow-ups that the accreditation commission must check up on. These follow ups are due on October 15. While no reason was given for the follow ups, Lawson said that, "one possible reason I was given was that the commission may be confident that we are very close to completing our response to the recommendations they are targeting."
While Lawson admits that the follow ups being so soon is unusual, he also believes that it could be a new trend for the Accreditation Commission because several other institutes are undergoing follow ups in October.
SMC is optimistic that two of the nine recommendations will be accepted by the Accreditation Commission. But if the Accreditation Commission does not accept the follow up report, the speculative consequences would be a follow up report due in March 2011as opposed to the normal mid-term report that all institutes are subject to in March 2013. Nothing will be known for sure until January 2011 after the Accreditation Commission meeting.