Merced College assuring accreditation is intact

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 12, 2013 

— Merced College officials say they are worried some people think the college is not accredited.

However, college officials might be approaching the end of the process to try to resolve the institution's "warning status" with its accreditation.

Anne Newins, vice president of student personnel services, said potential and current students have periodically contacted her about the college's accreditation situation.

She assures them that not only is the college fully accredited, but also that all of its courses and students aren't affected by the warning status, Newins said.

The college has been on warning status from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges since the summer of 2011. A warning is issued when an institution doesn't meet one or more of the commission's four standards.

The college had to make improvements in three areas: program review, planning and resource allocation, and governing board development.

College officials are getting ready to submit a second follow-up report to the commission detailing how the school has addressed the commission's concerns and recommendations. The report is due March 15, Newins said.

Marie Bruley, president of the college's Academic Senate, acknowledged that such hurdles could influence people's view of the institution.

"I'm sure the confusion regarding the accreditation of a school can hurt their image just because there's a lack of understanding," said Bruley, who's among those who have been involved in putting together the follow-up report.

There are a lot of steps that need to be taken before an institution loses its accreditation, Bruley said. "We are a long ways from that," she said.

Merced College is at the first level of sanctions, Bruley said, which means the commission wants to see what progress is being made in addressing areas of concern.

The report college officials will mail to the commission in early March went to the board of trustees during its meeting a week ago, Newins said. A draft is posted online for public viewing on the college's website.

There will be a few additional editorial changes before it's mailed out, but the content will remain the same, Newins said.

After the March 15 deadline, representatives from the commission will visit the campus. Typically, a college will get two weeks' notice before commission officials make their appearance, she said.

A lot of work went into the report, Newins said. Copies were sent to every employee, and she spoke multiple times to the Academic Senate, other governance groups on campus, the board of trustees and the college counsel.

"We are confident that we met the concerns; however, the final decision is made by the accrediting commission," said Newins, who also was involved in putting together the report.

Bruley was optimistic, saying the report accurately reflects the things that had to be changed at the college. But, she said, "it's hard to say what the accrediting commission will conclude."

Still, she said, she thinks the college will be taken off warning status.

Because of heavy pressure from the Department of Education, the commission is strict with its guidelines, she said. "Warnings are a way to just monitor the schools and their progress," she said.

Representatives from the commission were not available to comment Monday. A staff member at the Novato office said it only meets twice a year.

The commission will make a decision on Merced College's warning status in June and the college will have an answer in early July, Newins said.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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