SACSCOC On-Site Review Committee praises college QEP; reaccreditation efforts moving forward
A group of college administrators from peer institutions across the South congratulated Athens Technical College faculty and staff members Thursday, October 24, 2013, and indicated that the college is on track to achieve reaffirmation of accreditation, a crucial designation for all institutions of higher education.
The On-Site Review Committee of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) stated that it had found the college in compliance with all core requirements, comprehensive standards, and federal requirements as established in the Principles of Accreditation. Dr. Augusta Julian, chair and president of Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Lexington, Kentucky, confirmed that the team had NO recommendations for the college. As a result, the committee will endorse the college for reaffirmation of its accreditation by the Commission on Colleges. Accreditation by SACSCOC signifies that an institution has a purpose appropriate to higher education and that its resources, services, and programs enable it to accomplish and sustain that purpose.
Once it is initially accredited, a college must undergo reaffirmation five years later, and after that, every 10 years. Athens Technical College first earned accreditation through SACSCOC in 1988, and was the first technical college in Georgia to achieve the designation.
The on-site committee charged with confirming compliance and evaluating the acceptability of the college’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) comprised eight members from peer technical and community colleges from several states, including Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Texas. The team also included an observer and a SACSCOC staff member.
The QEP is a comprehensive and carefully outlined plan for improving some aspect of student learning and/or the student learning environment. Athens Technical College spent the last year developing its QEP, which focuses on the first-semester experience of students. The plan provides a foundation for academic and career success by requiring a First-Semester Seminar of new students and completion of an accompanying professional development program of faculty and staff.
In sharing the committee’s findings, Dr. Julian congratulated the college representatives for their efforts.
“This is a great tribute to your work, your data, the college’s leadership, and the efforts so many of you have put into this process,” she said.
During the committee’s presentation, Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, QEP lead evaluator and vice president for academic affairs at Amarillo College in Amarillo, Texas, told the audience, “It’s obvious that you are deeply committed to student success.”
Dr. Lowery-Hart also noted that the committee was very impressed with the college’s proposal for a Student Success Certificate to be earned by faculty and staff as well as the culture of using data as evidence at the college. He said the committee found no issues or concerns with the QEP, but did offer some ideas and advice for improving the plan.
“You need to make sure that you are not just giving information to students, but that they are integrating it into their lives,” he said.
He also urged the college community to step back and evaluate the long-term solutions for teaching the new course and to build long-term systems and timelines for recertification of faculty and staff members participating in professional development. Dr. Lowery-Hart concluded by praising Athens Technical College’s work on the QEP and the expectation of the role it will play in changing student lives and outcomes.
“You have a great foundation on which to build, and we predict that you will have success years from now and something which the rest of us wish to emulate,” he said.
Committee members also lauded the positive input they received from students with whom they spoke.
“They are all very proud of the programs and the college,” said Dr. Maria Fraser-Molina, vice president at Pamlico Community College in Grantsboro, North Carolina. “We were impressed by their understanding and appreciation of what the college is doing.”
Photo caption: At left, Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, QEP lead evaluator and vice president for academic affairs at Amarillo College in Amarillo, Texas, offers his team’s evaluation of the Athens Technical College QEP.