Faculty and staff breathed a sigh of relief this past Wednesday, when they learned that the college will be recommended for reaccreditation.
Rebecca Nickoli, corporate college services vice president at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, read excerpts from the first draft of the Higher Learning team’s report to a standing room only crowd of faculty and staff in the Al Snipes Board Room.
The report was positive, overall, indicating that OCCC had met all criteria for reaccreditation, with only a few suggestions on areas for improvement made by the HLC team.
President Paul Sechrist said that while he’s pleased with the results, he wants it to be clear that this is not the end of the process.
“There are a lot of people saying, ‘does this mean we’re reaccredited?’ And it actually doesn’t,” he said.
“This is the team who comes to make the recommendation. The commission in Chicago will review the material the team submits, and then make the final decision.”
“But the team’s recommendation is to reaffirm OCCC’s accreditation through 2021 with no focused visits in between,” he said.
Among the positive comments read by Nickoli were compliments on the quality of programs and facilities.
“We’ve all been really jealous while we’ve been here, looking at your facilities,” Nickoli said.
That’s a welcome affirmation, Sechrist said.
“When you’re here every day, you know where the areas are that you wish you could improve,” he said.
“So to have a third party come in and say how nice the facilities are, and that they’d love to work here is a nice reminder that we really are a great college.”
Among the concerns voiced by the team was a need for clarification over online classes.
Nickoli’s comments indicated a concern that online classes did not have a standardized set of procedures and goals separate from on campus classes.
Sechrist said that while such policies are in place, they’ve never been given formal documentation.
“Up until now, we’ve considered online classes to be just another way of getting the knowledge out, of teaching students what they want to know. We didn’t believe that separate documentation was needed,” he said.
“But the HLC team thinks those classes do need their own policies and procedures, and we’re going to work to improve in that area.”
Another concern of note was a suggestion for more transparency in decision making when it comes to the budget for the fiscal year.
“What happens, basically, is the various departments submit their requests as to what they want or need on the budget. And there’s an openness in terms of knowing what those requests are,” Sechrist said.
“Then at some point, decisions are made, but then not explained why. So she’s encouraging us to give a little more attention to making sure that more employees understand the reasons for funding certain things, and not funding others.
“They really just want us to explain things better, which is something we plan to do,” he said.
Nickoli said the team was impressed by the level of community outreach, and believed that OCCC had fulfilled its goal in becoming a community leader, as opposed to a community partner.
Finally, Nickoli said that, based on their preliminary findings, the college had met all criteria, and the team would not recommend further visits or follow-up investigation prior to the next accreditation study, scheduled for 2021-22.
After the presentation, Sechrist thanked all present for their hard work, and said he believed the college was best described as “good people doing good work for the right reasons.”
Although Nickoli read from the team’s first draft, she politely declined to comment beyond that, and said that it would not be ethical to share a copy of a rough draft of a preliminary recommendation.
“But this is just a wonderful place, with a lot of really neat things going on,” Nickoli said.
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