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    Palomar’s accreditation up for review during Spring site visit

    The setting sun lights up Palomar College's Planetarium, September 29, 2014. Angela Marie Samora/The Telescope
    The setting sun lights up Palomar College’s Planetarium, September 29, 2014. Angela Marie Samora/The Telescope

    During the first week of March 2015, Palomar will host a visiting team under the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).

    This site visit, done once every six years, will determine the college’s accreditation status. A colleges accreditation status is pivotal for its students because it determines whether or not the grades and credits they receive at the institution will transfer on to other colleges or if the college will receive federal financial aid.

    In preparing for the college’s accreditation process, Berta Cuaron, vice president of Instruction and Accreditation Liaison Officer, states that a self-evaluation report was conducted a year prior where writing teams have been editing submitted drafts from the previous spring.

    The 350-page, self-evaluation report was then submitted to a smaller leadership writing team that is currently fine tuning the document in preparation for its final approval during a scheduled meeting for Dec. 9 to then be submitted to ACCJC.

    “Part of our job in writing our report is to take a real honest look at ourselves and say okay, we know we have these flaws, what are we going to do about it,” Cuaron said.

    The report has the college staff go through set standard requirements to respond and show evidence on how the institution meets those requirements. These standards insure that the college is serving on their mission as well as serving the needs of the students and the community. Palomar colleges mission is to provide an engaging and supportive learning environment for all students and promote the learning outcomes necessary in pursuing transfer-readiness, general education, career and technical training, and lifelong education.

    On the week of March 2 Saddleback College President Dr. Tod Burnett and a team of eight to 10 individuals, selected by ACCJC to include faculty, staff, and administrators throughout the state, will conduct a site visit. The visit will span four days on the college campus where they will be attending meetings and interviewing college faculty, staff and administrators, validating what the college has reported within their self-evaluation.

    Cuaron said she hopes for a team that will be collegial and inquisitive during their visit.

    “You hope they will come and say tell me about this, can you explain this to me. That’s what we look for,” she added.

    At the conclusion of the team’s visit they will leave with a rough report of their findings, praising the college on what they have done well and citing any areas the college will need improvements. The commission will then send out an action letter to the college either reafirming their accreditation or placing them on warning to get into compliance with a few recommendations. If the college cannot show compliance to set regulations then they will face probation or termination of their accreditation after that.

    No San Diego county community college has ever lost its accreditation or is currently on warning from the accrediting body.

    During Palomar’s last site visit in 2009, ACCJC came down hard on the college, issuing 11 recommendations for improvements and placing the college on warning for two years until the college was fully reaffirmed June 2011.

    “We rallied and worked hard together to say okay we’ll show that were better than what they thought they saw,” Cuaron said.

    She added that the biggest impact from the report is its affect on the students.

    “We really had to reassure our students that we’re going to turn things around, your education here is solid, your credits are solid and that was really the most important thing for us because we didn’t want our students penalized for this.”

    Cuaran said that it’s important for the students to get involved and be aware of the accreditation process. The more students understand what allows the college to function the better they are to fully take advantage of the services being offered them.

    “It’s a lot of work to maintain good solid accreditation. You really have to focus on it year after year,” Cuaron said.

    The final report from the commission will not be given to the college until June 2015, but Cuaron said she is confident that the commission will reaffirm their accreditation and that the recommended improvement plans, if any, will be the same as what the college has reported as well.

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    Palomar’s accreditation up for review during Spring site visit