Undeserved Community College Accreditation: Abuse of Power?

In the summer of 2013, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), the accrediting agency responsible for oversight of California’s massive community college system, came under fire for withdrawing its accreditation of the City College of San Francisco. Among the ACCJC’s findings was that the college failed to balance its budget and was deficient in staffing and facility repairs. Upon making their recommendation for revocation available to the public, ACCJC faced a firestorm of criticism, with supporters of the college claiming that the commission’s decision was fueled by political bias.
 
Additional criticism has since been leveled against the organization for not following its own policies during the accreditation process. In fact, ACCJC has been reprimanded by the U.S. Department of Education for failing to meet federal guidelines in its review of the City College of San Francisco. Furthermore, ACCJC is accused of violating conflict of interest laws by appointing the husband of the commission’s president to an accreditation review team.

 
What has resulted is a nationwide spotlight on the methods by which community colleges and other institutions of higher learning gain accreditation. Critics of the current system contend that without federal oversight – accrediting organizations are self-regulated – commissions are apt to abuse of power and work under a cloak of secrecy. While these allegations are specific to ACCJC, the criticisms of its policies and procedures have been echoed nationwide. Together with a general confusion regarding the process . . . read more

The essential difference between competency-based education (CBE) and traditional programs is that CBE measures learning without regard to time. They utilize direct measures of assessment to determine understanding of content, as opposed to requiring a certain number of credits or contact hours of class time in order to earn a letter grade. Students instead demonstrate what they know when they know it well enough to be deemed competent. In essence, it is much like an AP exam, only on a far larger scale: AP students must pass a test with a certain level of competency in order to earn credit for the course. Students in a competency-based program must do the same for each course they undertake.
 
The first program completely based on competencies rather than credits was green-lighted by the Department of Education in August of 2013 at College of America, a community college associated with Southern New Hampshire University. Since then, there has been a push for this type of system to be implemented at community colleges across the country. This movement is the result of several shifts in the landscape of higher education in recent years. As the cost of a college education continues to rise, community colleges, universities, federal agencies, and private entities have been exploring a less expensive way for students to obtain a degree or certification. The individualized pacing of CBE is seen by many as a solution to this problem, as it is a system of learning completely free of time-based instruction.

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Community college campuses have historically had a reputation for having many older students who have returned to college after raising a family, serving in the military, or working for many years. While the average age of a community college student is still 29, there are many younger faces beginning to walk the halls of community colleges. In fact, from 2002 to 2011, the number of high school students enrolled in college courses increased by 67 percent, to 1.3 million students.
 
High School Partnerships Fuel Enrollment
 
This shift towards a younger student population is largely the result of partnerships with local high schools. Kids as young as 13 and 14 years of age are enrolling in college courses and earning what’s known as dual credit – courses that count toward both high school and college graduation requirements. General education courses such as English, math and science are far and away the most popular courses taken by high school-aged students. But others take advantage of non-core course offerings such as humanities, fine arts, and physical education, as well. The result is that students are graduating with an associate’s degree before they even graduate from high school.
 
Baltimore County’s Diploma to Degree Program

 

In Baltimore County, Maryland, students who demonstrate exceptional academic skills can enroll in the Diploma to Degree Program. The program represents a partnership between several local public high schools and the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). The program provides free tuition for participants, so . . . read more

A new program sponsored by the State Bar of California’s Council on Access and Fairness is creating new partnerships between 24 California community colleges and six law schools that will create a new pathway to law school for thousands of community college students. The Community College Pathway to Law School Initiative is a “pipeline program” that will offer community college students a host of resources to help them achieve their dream of practicing law. From tutoring and mentoring services to financial aid counseling and early exposure to law-related courses, the program will increase access to law school by making the transitions from a two-year institution to a four-year institution to law school occur in a much more smooth manner.
 
Seeking to Improve Diversity
 
At the heart of the program is a desire to increase diversity in California’s law schools, which traditionally have been overwhelmingly white. For example, about 70 percent of the University of California at Davis’ Law School identifies as white. Furthermore, throughout the first decade of the 2000s, although the number of available seats in law schools throughout the country increased, the percentage of black and Mexican-American students filling those seats declined. However, not all law schools in California lack diversity. The law school at the University of California at Irvine, which opened in 2009, boasts a 45 percent minority enrollment.

 

While UC Irvine has had success in attracting minority students, the percentage of minority applicants denied admission . . . read more

How to Tell if Community College is Right for You

So you’re ready to make a big decision about your next step in life – is community college the right choice for you?

A community college offers students a wide range of benefits and is a good choice for many people. Some students go through a lot of preparation to determine what they want to do after they graduate and where they want to go in life. Adults too may find themselves at a cross roads where they have the option to return to college for a degree or further training. Thousands of students, in every state, enroll in community college and find the experience to be very worthwhile. Community college might be especially good for you if you can answer yes to any of these points.

1. Cost is a major factor in your decision. 

Tuition is usually a lot cheaper at a community college than it is at a four year college or university. You can save money by taking classes at a community college, and even if you transfer on to another college for a higher degree, those first few years of education will cost you less at the community college. Two years at a four year school could cost  you $40,000 but those same two years at a community college may cost half that or less! This option is great for recent high school graduates, adult students, and returning college students who need more education and training . . . read more
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