Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NWCCU pressures us.... and who pressures NWCCU?

by Shirlee

Assessing student learning outcomes through PCC's SACs was put in place in response to pressure from our accrediting agency, The
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The NWCCU upped the pressure on us in 2010 by saying that PCC was not in compliance with their standard on assessment for on-going improvement of teaching and learning. Many people here at PCC then stepped up to the plate in 2010-11 to create and implement assessment plans and to file reports on what they learned. For many faculty members, it was the first time accreditation had ever been directly considered.

Even though the pressure on us has lessened a bit, you still might be interested in knowing that the six regional accrediting agencies are feeling some pressure of their own. There are three separate bodies that each take a chunk of oversight of higher ed -- (1) the Federal government, through the Dept of Education, (2) state governments, who write and enforce a wide variety of requirements and standards, often directed to technical or vocational education and (3) the five regional accrediting agencies, including NWCCU,who require a routine of self-study and then provide peer review. These three bodies have intertwining connections. For example, eligibility for financial aid from the Feds is tied to attendance at a college or university accredited by one of the accrediting agencies.

It is this financial connection that is one prominent focus of a new advisory committee to the Dept of Education. In their report, the committee explores the reasons for and against severing this link between accreditation and financial aid. One possible future route they outline is to allow states to monitor educational quality -- reducing the power and role of both the federal Dept of Education and the accrediting agencies. Another possible future route puts more power into the Dept of Ed, and weakens the state role and the importance of the accrediting bodies.

The report is only 11 pages long, so you might just give in a glance. To get to the report, please navigate to and then click on the hot line labeled "discussion draft." What gets decided is ultimately going to effect what we do here at PCC, so it might be of interest to you for that reason. But you might also find some sort of emotional resonance in seeing the agency that pressured us to hasten our assessment process now experiencing it's very own pressure from this advisory committee.

If you are a good and compassionate person, you may feel some sympathy for them. Or, if you are another kind of person, you may have another kind of reaction.....

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