Modesto Junior College, Columbia College accreditation is reaffirmed

naustin@modbee.comFebruary 11, 2014 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textNan Austin
    Title: Education reporter
    Coverage areas: K-12 education, Yosemite Community College District
    Bio: Nan Austin has been a copy editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 24 years. She has an economics degree from CSU Stanislaus and previously worked at the Merced Sun-Star and Turlock Journal.
    Recent stories written by Nan
    On Twitter: @nanaustin
    E-mail: naustin@modbee.com

Yosemite Community College District campuses are back in the good graces of junior college evaluators. Modesto Junior College accreditation is no longer on probationary status, and the warning status for Columbia College was removed.

Colleges need accreditation to accept federal financial aid, offer courses with transferable credit, participate in league sports and award diplomas. The two colleges remained accredited throughout, with no change for students in course credit or transfer eligibility.

Having the sanction removed took collaboration by employees and students, said MJC President Jill Stearns, adding that she was “thrilled” by the news the college’s full accreditation had been reaffirmed. “The evaluation team chair noted, ‘The respect among campus leaders is evident.’ It is a joy and privilege to work with such a dedicated team,” Stearns said.

Columbia College President Angela Fairchilds said the news the warning status was lifted “was received with elation” at her campus. “The faculty, staff and administration have worked diligently to address the recommendations from the evaluation team and make the necessary improvements,” Fairchilds said.

In February 2012, Modesto Junior College was one of 10 campuses placed on probation, and Merced and Columbia colleges were among 14 campuses to receive the lower-level “warning” status from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Merced College regained full accreditation status in 2013.

MJC was cited for failing to meet the standards to define and link the student population to programs, planning and integrating student learning outcomes, evaluating and tracking faculty performance and, most critically, failing to provide similar services, facilities and staffing across its two Modesto campuses.

That last issue remained a concern for evaluators in a late 2012 reappraisal but was addressed by library and student service upgrades for the MJC West Campus, as well as better communication of how the two campuses worked together, YCCD Chancellor Joan Smith has said.

“(I am) proud of the collective efforts by the colleges, and they should take a moment to appreciate their efforts,” Smith said.

Both colleges provided evidence – which visits by accrediting teams verified – that they had addressed recommendations to the commission’s satisfaction. Accreditation is reaffirmed by the commission every six years.

“The periodic process of self and peer review requires colleges to examine and provide evidence living up to their commitments to students and the community, and continuously improve,” a YCCD statement says.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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