Cuesta College is now free of all accreditation sanctions following a five-year battle to retain its status with the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.
The college was notified Friday that its accreditation was reaffirmed, and officials held a news conference Monday morning to share the news.
President Gil Stork said it was an emotional experience to see the reaffirmation in writing after so many years of working to fix the perceived deficiencies identified by the commission.
“It didn’t happen in a vacuum,” Stork said. “It happened by a college community coming together and working toward a goal.”
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Cuesta’s final sanction was removed just in time for the college to enter its next accreditation comprehensive review.
The regional accreditation commission, overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, evaluates two-year colleges in California once every six years.
Cuesta’s next self-evaluation is due to the commission in mid-June.
The newest report is already well underway, Stork said, adding that lessons learned during the recent accreditation review — such as the importance of producing an evidence-based report — have made the process an easier one.
“We already have nearly 2,000 pieces of evidence to support the 2014 evaluation,” he said. “Accreditation has become a way of life.”
Other changes made by the college during its struggles included Stork's appointment of Vice President Deborah Wulff to take over accreditation duties from Cathleen Greiner, then the vice president of academic affairs.
Under Wulff’s guidance, Cuesta launched a webpage that makes the college’s accreditation process more transparent to the public and clearly outlines what is being done to fix deficiencies.
Kevin Bontenbal, Academic Senate president, worked alongside Wulff in the past years to fix Cuesta’s deficiencies.
“It hasn’t always been an easy road, but in the long run I think we have a much healthier and stronger institution as a result of the efforts everyone has put forward,” Bontenbal said.
The community college was notified that it was not meeting nearly a dozen standards in 2009.
In 2012, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges put Cuesta on “show cause” status — one of the final steps before accreditation — and told the school it needed to fix insufficiencies in three areas: planning and assessment, technology resources, and financial planning and stability. If it failed to do so, the school would have its accreditation revoked.
After meeting most of the demands for accreditation, Cuesta retained its accreditation and was downgraded in 2013 to a warning status, the least serious form of sanction.
In October, the college submitted a follow-up report to the commission, and an evaluation team visited the campus in November.
The 19-member Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges met from Jan. 8 to 10 to make the latest determination.
In the final report used by the commission to make its decision, a visiting team that evaluated the college wrote, “If Cuesta College maintains its current course, there is every reason to believe that this college will sustain these changes and improvements and achieve the level of excellence it seeks.”