WCC gets unconditional 10-year accreditation recommendation after successful HLC team visit
Editorashrodes@wccnet.edu It’s congratulations and cake after the North Central Association Higher Learning Commission (HLC) review team recommended an unconditional 10-year accreditation renewal concluding its three-day visit to Washtenaw Community College on Oct. 14. That’s a rarity that happens with about one in five reviews. “I’m very excited about the unconditional recommendation of the evaluation committee,” said WCC President Larry Whitworth. “Very few schools get the kind of report that we did, and I’m extremely pleased.” “This is the best outcome we could have hoped for at this point,” said Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences Bill Abernethy, who led the college’s two-year preparation for the visit. The cake in Abernethy’s office reading “Congratulations Bill” reflected the feeling of administrators across campus. The eight-person review team, consisting of community college representatives from the north central region, will pass its recommendation on to the HLC for final approval. The HLC has accredited the college since 1973. The college prepared for the review, which happens every 10 years, by preparing a 312-page Self Study Report to illustrate how the college fulfills the HLC’s five criteria: mission and integrity; preparing for the future; student learning and effective teaching; acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge; and engagement and service. Faculty and staff were fundamental in the preparation process. “When I sat here 2 1/2 years ago having to start from nothing, I thought, ‘I don’t know how we’re ever going to get this done,’” Abernethy said. “But people really willingly, cheerfully helped out with it.” “It was really a huge effort of the part of our faculty and our staff working together to make this happen,” Whitworth said. “It had nothing to do with me; it had to do with a lot of people working hard to make sure that what we’re doing is on target.” When the team was at the college, members had various meetings with WCC representatives, and evaluated the Self Study Report to confirm WCC is doing everything it says it is. “They asked many searching questions,” Abernethy said. “(The visit) was not a blow off, it was an ordeal.” About 10 students met with three HLC team members at the open student meeting, but the discussion was confidential. The team will send a written report to WCC, but it gave the college feedback at an exit meeting on Oct. 14. The team highlighted quality of programs, strong community resources, excellent facilities, high enrollment and the morale of faculty and staff, among other points. The team mentioned parking and program review as areas the college could improve on. “Nothing very important,” Abernethy said. Once the college gets the report in November, it will correct any factual errors, and the review team will send the final report to the HLC by Dec. 14. The HLC has until February to present the final result. “It’s not over until the fat lady sings,” Abernethy said. “The recommendation is reviewed by a board, so it’s not final yet.” When the final decision is made, Abernethy can have his cake – and eat it too.