Some pressure's off, but college still has challenges
College of the Redwoods has escaped its accreditation sanction, but remains on probation as it works to meet additional recommendations set by the regional accrediting commission.
CR President Kathryn Smith said the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges notified her Wednesday that it had removed the school's sanction. CR's current probation status is less severe, and its challenge now is to show the commission that the college is financially stable, she said.
In its recent letter to CR, the ACCJC stated that CR must have sufficient cash flow and reserves to maintain stability as well as document a funding base, financial resources and plans for financial development. CR must also continue to implement a strategic hiring plan which addresses employee equity and diversity and continue to develop a comprehensive professional development program.
CR is required to submit a follow-up report to the ACCJC by Oct. 15 showing evidence that it has addressed the commission's recommendations. Commission representatives will visit CR following the submittal of the college's report, according to a CR press release.
CR has been working to address numerous recommendations from the ACCJC, which placed the school on show-cause status in February 2012. CR had received the sanction due to its failure to meet accreditation standards on a variety of recommendations, including student learning outcomes and strategic planning.
One challenge CR must overcome by October is balancing its budget, Smith said. In the past the school has relied on its reserves to cover its deficit, but those savings have run out. Even though CR and other schools dodged mid-year budget cuts due to voter approval of Proposition 30, any additional money is going to go to institutions in more populated areas, she said.
"We are at a situation where we must cut our expenditures and/or increase our revenue," Smith said. "We cannot continue to spend more than we bring in."
To reduce expenditures and increase revenues, the CR board will look at transferring faculty resources from courses with low enrollment to high-demand classes, Smith said. That may mean laying people off, she said, but the school's revenue is based on its enrollment.
Smith said CR has pent-up demand in its speech and biology programs. It also has to meet a requirement from the Chancellor's Office that focuses on basic skills to bring students up to college level courses, she said.
"We're trying to help our students and serve their needs and demands," she said. "A class that has 24 students gets us twice as much money as a class that has 12 students. This could affect all of our campuses."
Other revenue-enhancement ideas include renting our space at CR's Eureka, Mendocino and Garberville campuses, Smith said. There has also been some preliminary work done to erect cell phone towers at some of CR's campuses.
When it comes to creating a diverse workforce, CR's challenge is its location in a rural area, Smith said. She said the college will be studying the community's demographics to see who is represented and who isn't represented on CR's faculty.
After receiving the ACCJC's show-cause sanction, CR was required to develop a plan for closing the school in addition to addressing the commission's recommendations. There are three levels of sanction ranging from a warning to show-cause, Smith said.
"I think our eyes were opened last year when we got this letter that put us on show-cause," Smith said. "I think everybody came together and worked together very well with the target in mind - to get off show-cause. It shows what the College of the Redwoods staff and board and students and everybody can do when they come together and work in the same direction."
For more information on CR's accreditation status, go to redwoods.edu/Accreditation/_documents.asp.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org.