LMC begins accreditation process

Dale Satre , @DaleSatre

Los Medanos College is due for its Institutional Self Evaluation Report and site visit in Fall 2020 for re-accreditation, and Dr. Chialin Hsieh, LMC’s Accreditation Liaison Officer, isn’t wasting any time.

The Accreditation Steering Committee, a standing committee responsible for guiding LMC through the accreditation process, recently formed the Accreditation Work Group to tackle the challenges ahead.

“Many people don’t like this process because it’s a lot of work,” Hsieh said. “But it’s very important for students, because transfer credit and financial aid depends on getting accredited.”

Every six years, community colleges all around must submit an Institutional Self Evaluation Report to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), which is run by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

According to their website, the ACCJC serves as an objective yardstick for the quality of colleges’ education under four main standards: institutional effectiveness and integrity; student learning programs support services; resources, such as human resources, facilities and technology assets; and the college’s leadership and governance. The standards vouch not just for the colleges’ teaching, but also for students’ learning.

The accreditation process consists of four phases. In Phase 1, the Accreditation Work Group interviews faculty and collects data on the quality of education and curriculum. Phase 2 identifies LMC’s strengths in teaching, and what factors can be improved. In Phase 3, the work group focuses on long-term planning for the college’s goals to keep students’ education competitive and up-to-date. The last, phase 4 will be the report going to the Student Senate, Classified Senate, Academic Senate and the college district governing board for feedback, before finally being submitted to the ACCJC.

The work group started meeting for Phase 1 this month, to identify role assignments and plans for completing them. In October, the committee is scheduled to conduct the interviews, and complete its preliminary report by February 2019.

Phase 2 is scheduled to run from March through June 2019, and Phase 3 is planned to run from June through December 2019. The concluding Phase 4 is planned from January 2020 through June 2020, before the report heads to the college district and the ACCJC.

Numerous California community colleges run into trouble with the accreditation process. In 2012, the ACCJC sanctioned City College of San Francisco and threatened to take away the college’s accreditation over deficit spending concerns and records showing that 92 percent of the budget went to salaries and benefits. The sanctions were lifted in 2017, but the battle cost the college millions in legal fees and lost enrollment.

LMC’s last accreditation was finalized in January 2015, when ACCJC recommended improving the college’s financial aid disbursement and the quality of student resources at the Brentwood Center. In their follow-up report, LMC President Bob Kratochvil and the Steering Committee outlined the improvements that LMC had made, and the college was re-accredited.

Hsieh was upbeat about the work group taking on the mission this year and stressed the importance to students.

“Students are very important to the accreditation process,” Hsieh said. “We depend on them to give us the full picture.”

Hsieh said she welcomes student involvement and opinions during the work group meetings, and encourages those interested to contact the LMC Associated Students to serve as student representatives.