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WASC Reaffirms Hartnell College Accreditation and Lifts Warning

July 7th, 2008

Hartnell College received official notification late Thursday that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), has lifted the warning on Hartnell and fully reaffirmed the college's accreditation.

“This reaffirmation by the Commission reflects the volume of work that we all have done here at the college,” said Superintendent/President Dr. Phoebe Helm. “It also reflects the shift in attitude we have and the fact that all the people of this college--administrators, faculty, staff, and the board-- have chosen to hold hands and go forth together to improve this college.”

In a letter dated June 30, the Commission announced that it had reviewed the Progress Report submitted by the College and the report of the evaluation team that visited the campus April 29 and 30, 2008, and took action to accept the report, remove the college from Warning, and reaffirm accreditation at its June 4-6 meeting.

By the terms of the letter, the College is required to submit another report by March 1, 2009. That report will be followed by a visit from Commission representatives.

Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs and Accreditation Kathleen Rose views this good news as an affirmation of the power of working together and a commitment to a total transformation of the culture.

"We certainly never again want to be in the spot we were in last year. This action will allow us to continue the good work of creating a student-centered college that creates high standards for student access and success,” said Dr. Rose.

That commitment to change will be especially important for the work still ahead, as the Commission required that Hartnell show proof, in its March 2009 report, that it has fully resolved three recommendations related to (1) implementing an integrated process for ongoing program review, planning, budgeting, and hiring, (2) planning for staffing and maintenance for new buildings, and providing the necessary technology support for new and existing buildings, and (3) engaging in a broad-based dialogue that leads to the identification of Student Learning Outcomes and regular assessment of student progress. Federal standards require full resolution of these concerns within two years, which for Hartnell means March 1, 2009. The penalty for failure could include termination of accreditation.

“I am ecstatic about this news,” said Dr. Ann Wright, president of the faculty association. “It is a real testament to how seriously people here took the warning, and how hard we all worked-and I mean a lot people-to meet the Commission’s requirements. We don’t ever want to be in that place again, and we have put a lot of structures in place so that we can keep the college on the right track.”

Hartnell had been notified just one year earlier that it had been placed on Probation. At the Commission’s next meeting in January 2008, the Commission reviewed the College’s progress report and the report of its visiting evaluation team and upgraded Hartnell to a warning status. At the next opportunity, the commission lifted the warning status.

“It has been very rewarding to be part of this effort that resulted in such good news for Hartnell,” said Board Chair Kari Valdes. “The Board has worked very hard over the last year to understand how to be more effective and informed. We have felt like an important part of the community, and we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dr. Helm for having the wisdom and experience to mobilize us and guide us in the right direction.”

“We have a changed attitude at Hartnell that we expect more of ourselves and each other, and it is reflected in a heightened enrollment, image, performance, and behavior,” said Dr. Helm.

Hartnell has been an important part of this community for nearly 90 years. Untold thousands of area residents have attended Hartnell to improve their job and educational prospects. Currently, half of all students who finish high school in the Salinas Valley go on to college. Of those, half go to Hartnell.

"I think everyone in the community knows what is at stake here,” said Dr. Helm.. “If we can continue the hard work and stay focused on our higher goals of continuing to make the college a better college, I feel confident that we will be able to fully resolve the Commission’s recommendations by March.”

NOTE: All documents related to the accreditation process may be found on Hartnell's website at: www.hartnell.edu/accreditation