Merced College’s accreditation has recently been fully reaffirmed by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. This is tremendous news for our institution, our students and the community we serve.
In its evaluation, the ACCJC gave Merced College numerous commendations, recognizing our outstanding work on developing a comprehensive program review process, our development of multiple measures, the progress we’ve achieved toward an accelerated pathway to college-level English, our robust professional development program and our use of institutional planning handbooks and our comprehensive student services program at the Los Banos Campus.
Clearly, we are meeting the needs of our students and our community.
Of course, with commendations come recommendations, which are welcome. The good news is the recommendations are not insurmountable. We have already begun to address them and are excited about the prospect of improving operations. Our accreditation was reaffirmed for 18 months with a follow-up report to address six recommendations for further improvement.
Accreditation is a vigorous process and an ongoing cycle of institutional research and program evaluation that focuses on positive student outcomes and continuous quality improvement. At Merced College, accreditation has become an essential part of a culture of excellence in which student success is the final product. From the moment a student enrolls to the day he or she transfers to a university or graduates with a degree or certificate, the student’s success is our top priority.
While we are a forward-looking institution, Merced College has a storied past, contributing over the past 55 years to the education, economic growth, social reform and transformation of our communities. I am proud of our contributions and thrilled about the direction we are headed.
As a part of a branding study, we conducted numerous campus and community forums, asking staff, students and community members what they thought of when they heard the words “Merced College.” We found that most came up with these three words: community, opportunity and quality.
I assure you the health and well-being of our college is very strong through the lens of these three words.
We also recognize that our students come to us with real struggles and challenges, including lack of transportation and family support, lack of childcare and insufficient income. Some are homeless, others in foster homes; some deal with disabilities and many lack an understanding of how to navigate our system. About 70 percent of our students depend on some form of financial aid and more than 50 percent are the first in their family to attend college.
For most, we represent an opportunity for a better and more promising future.
Last spring, we received a $1.5 million grant to improve the number and rate of students completing transferable gateway courses. Our new Interdisciplinary Learning Center will provide peer mentors and faculty support.
The Student Services Division is preparing to launch another leading-edge program called “15 to Finish,” to promote awareness of expectations for on-time educational attainment. 15 to Finish will lead to a substantial increase in student success and retention, degree and certificate completion and a faster and higher rate of transfer to four-year universities.
We’ve also improved our campus, as we continue to remodel areas of our Student Union Building, including the cafeteria and bookstore. With a generous investment from a donor, we’ll unveil a major redesign of our veterans center.
Merced College is moving into the future with innovative instructional programs, unparalleled student services and better facilities. We are prepared to meet the needs of our students and diverse community.
I’m proud to be a part of an outstanding team of professionals and an incredible community of educational partners helping make this happen.
Chris Vitelli is Superintendent/President of Merced College.