Accreditation commission removes Merced College's 'warning status'

Years of work pay off for school

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comJuly 8, 2013 

— The "warning status" placed on Merced College's accreditation by a review commission was removed this week by that organization, a move college officials said is important to the school's image.

The action comes after several years of work by the entire college community, and an ongoing effort to ensure Merced College doesn't face any sanctions in the future, officials said Friday.

The college had been on warning status from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges since June 2011, said Robin Shepard, spokesman for the college.

A warning is issued when an institution doesn't meet one or more of the commission's four standards.

"The commission was telling us that we had to resolve some deficiencies to meet their standards," Shepard said. "The college took it very seriously, and we worked very hard over the last three years to resolve these recommendations and try to get out of the status that we're in."

Some of the areas that needed improvement were Merced College's student learning outcomes and program review — a "self-reflection" process where college officials review programs and implement improvements.

Shepard said the college also hired a consultant to help them resolve the deficiencies.

Although a warning is the least severe of four sanctions that can be placed by the commission, its removal is a huge step for the community college, Shepard said.

Threats to the college's accreditation are taken seriously because they can affect the public's perception of the institution.

"Accreditation is really like a report card to the public that assures them that we have quality programs," Shepard said. "When colleges maintain accreditation, it means students will be eligible for federal financial aid, and assures the public that our programs will be accepted by other institutions."

Merced College President Ron Taylor was not available for comment Friday, but expressed his appreciation in a news release.

College 'gratified'

"Merced College is gratified that the accrediting commission has recognized our hard work to resolve the recommendations from our previous reports," Taylor said.

"Our faculty and staff are to be commended for the quality of work, for the care with which they implemented program improvements, and their continuing commitment to improve the teaching and learning environment," according to the release.

Cindy Lashbrook, vice president of the Merced College Board of Trustees, said overcoming the warning sanction involved efforts from all across the campus, including faculty, staff and students.

"The staff pulled together on this. It was touch-and-go, and it could have gone either way," Lashbrook said. "It was really serious to have a warning, and they couldn't keep us at that level again — so either we would have been escalated to the next level or it would be removed."

Now that the warning has been removed, Lashbrook said, the college has to work on keeping it that way. "We're already working on making sure that we don't get anywhere near this again for a long time," she said.

A comprehensive evaluation is completed every six years, and another mid-term report at the halfway point of three years. After the warning was placed on Merced College in 2011, two follow-up reports were completed that included team visits from the commission.

The most recent team visit to Merced College was in early June, according to commission documents.

Though the removal of the warning is a significant milestone, college officials said there's still plenty of work to do.

"Accreditation is an ongoing process and we're going to continue to make improvements," Shepard said. "The work has to continue because accreditation is a year-round activity."

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or

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