College of the Canyons virtually hosted a visiting team from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which marked the final step in a two-year-long self-study and application process toward reaffirming the college’s accreditation status.
During the four-day visit March 7-10, the team validated the college’s Institutional Self-Evaluation Report through virtual interviews with students, faculty, staff, administrators and community members to determine how well COC meets the standards, eligibility requirements and commission policies established by the accrediting commission.
The 11-member team reviewed the college’s ISER and supporting materials, which were substantiated by visiting 50 online course sections, meeting with more than 100 college representatives, and holding two open forums to collect feedback from students, COC staff, faculty and administrators, as well as community members.
In its exit interview, during which the team provided an oral summary of its initial findings, the team noted the caliber of institutional leadership throughout the college, including the collaborative spirit and professionalism that was displayed throughout the visit. Overall, the team was impressed with the college’s spirit of innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship.
Among the many college programs and initiatives that were noted as exemplary were Leadership Education in Action (LEAP), NASA High Altitude Student Payload (HASP), as well as the college’s biodiversity initiative and commitment to civic engagement.
The visiting team was also impressed by the college’s data visualizations and institutional research support, the COC board of trustees’ practice of holding joint meetings with Associated Student Government, the expansion of noncredit programming, and the work that is being done to address differential success rates among disproportionately impacted student populations.
The team’s sole preliminary recommendation in its exit report was for the college to continue its efforts to focus on assessing and revising board policies and administrative procedures.
“We are extremely pleased with the team’s preliminary findings,” said COC Chancellor Dianne G. Van Hook. “At COC, we are committed to continuous improvement, innovation, an entrepreneurial spirit, the development of partnerships to meet our community and workforce training needs and focusing on removing barriers for our students. We are looking forward to receiving the commission’s final report and implementing its recommendations.”
COC began preparing for its ISER during spring 2020, when ACCJC Vice President Gohar Momjian provided training to students, faculty, staff and administrators who would write the college’s ISER. The ISER is a comprehensive report that forms the basis for the renewal of the college’s accreditation by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges/Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC/WASC).
“The positive preliminary feedback we have received from the ACCJC team is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our staff, faculty and administration over the last two years,” said Omar Torres, chief instructional officer at the college. “Like everything we do at COC, it has been a team effort.”
Accreditation is a voluntary process colleges and universities undergo to evaluate and assure the quality of education used by the American higher education community — and to subsequently make those results known to the public.
WASC is the corporate entity, consisting of three separately organized commissions within the western region, which is responsible for monitoring and evaluating institutions of higher education.
The commission responsible for community colleges is ACCJC, which accredits public and private postsecondary institutions that offer two-year education programs and award the associate degree.
The accreditation process is conducted not only to assure the quality of the applying institution, but also to encourage institutional improvement. Upon achieving accreditation status, institutions are then expected to use the report to improve their educational programs and services.
COC last had its accreditation reaffirmed in 2015, with the WASC conferring its highest accreditation status on the college.
At that time the commission also commended the college for, among other things, its successful fiscal management, cultivating robust community partnerships, fostering a student-centered learning environment and promoting effective student leadership.
The visiting team will submit its final report to ACCJC, which will render a decision about the college’s accreditation status on June 22.
“We are truly appreciative of the professionalism exhibited by the visiting team and their objective approach to the spirit, intent and structure of the accreditation process,” said Torres.
COC can expect to receive the commission’s final reaffirmation of accreditation decision by July.