Del Norte campus not at risk of closure, school official says
College of the Redwoods has regained its good standing with the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, officials announced Friday.
Two years after CR faced show cause, the ACCJC's most serious sanction, the commission reaffirmed the community college's accreditation and lifted the school's probation status. CR had been on probation through the ACCJC since February 2013.
"This takes a lot off of our shoulders," said Anita Janis, director of the Del Norte Education Center. "We worked long and hard on this one across the district. It hasn't been just one person or a particular employee group. It's wonderful to see where we've come from and where we've managed to get to through this whole process."
The ACCJC placed the college on a show cause sanction in 2012 due to its failure to meet the commission's standards on institutional planning and student outcomes. Student learning outcomes address the skills and information students can expect to leave each course and program with, according to Janis.
CR has also addressed the commission's concerns regarding employment equity and diversity, professional development and financial stability, according to a college press release. CR must submit a special report regarding finances to the ACCJC by April 15. The report must detail a three-year budget to address a CR retiree benefit trust fund and an institutional cash-flow plan, according to the press release.
A special trustee had also worked with CR's Board of Trustees to help guide the college through the changes it needed to make. His work with the college is expected to end in June, Janis said.
At the Del Norte campus and districtwide one of the main goals has been better measurement of student achievement, Janis said. Faculty and staff have held numerous meetings and training sessions on student assessment. Faculty members are also helping their newer colleagues through the process, she said.
CR officials are also reaching out to local K-12 schools across the region as they work to implement the Common Core State Standards, Janis said. According to her, the goal is to create a smoother transition between high school and college.
"We realize that if public schools are teaching the literary masters and we're having them come here and expect them to know how to be very skilled writers, there's a huge disconnect," Janis said, using language arts as an example. "We need to figure out what it is they are teaching, what we are expecting and what (students) are finding here."
While CR worked through its show cause and probation sanctions, it maintained full accreditation status, according to the college's press release. All its degrees and certificate programs as well as student credits were fully valid.
Even though the school's accreditation was still valid, CR's show cause sanction may have had a negative impact on student attendance, according to Daniel Potts, president of the college's student senate and Del Norte campus student.
"It was felt all the way across the whole district," he said. "A lot of students, instead of choosing to stay locally, went to other colleges that were not under sanctions. But now that we're off, everybody has breathed a sigh of relief."
As trustees continue to address CR's financial stability, President Kathryn Smith has suggested temporarily suspending operations at the school's Mendocino Coast and Garberville sites beginning in the 2014-15 academic years. Smith also suggested reviewing staffing and program needs at the Klamath-Trinity, Del Norte and main campus sites, according to the Board's Feb. 4 agenda packet.
According to the staff report, the college's uncertain accreditation status influenced student enrollment at the Mendocino Coast Education Center. And since completing a remodeling project at the Garberville Instructional Site, the campus has not attracted "a viable number of students" for the classes offered at the site.
At the Del Norte campus, enrollment has decreased slightly in the past year despite an increase in the number of courses offered, Janis said. During the 2012 fall semester, CR offered 66 class sections and had 207 full-time equivalent students enrolled. In fall 2013, the Del Norte campus offered 73 class sections and had an enrollment of 199 full-time equivalent students, Janis said.
Despite the fluctuation in enrollment, and a rumor to the contrary, things at the Del Norte Education Center will "remain status quo," Janis said.
"We have a very healthy enrollment," she said. "We have a lot of different populations coming together. People come here from the high school if they don't know what they want to do. Non-traditional aged (students) who thought they knew what they wanted to do and found a different thought process come here. It will be difficult for them to leave the area if they are bound by jobs, families and other commitments in the community."
If the Mendocino Coast Education Center does close, some 250 full-time and part-time students may look at either transferring to Mendocino Community College in Ukiah, attending classes at CR's main campus or enrolling in online classes, Potts said. He said he met with the college president, who told him the Del Norte campus would not be downsized.
"The Del Norte campus is financially viable," Potts said. "It's self supporting. CR is relevant as a viable education."
For more information on CR's accreditation issues, visitwww.redwoods.edu/
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org .