The Higher Learning Commission recently visited Columbia College's Freeport, Crystal Lake and Lake County, Ill. campuses. The visit was prompted by a recent change in federal regulation that requires every regional accrediting body to visit at least three campuses of higher education institutions operating five or more off-campus programs at the mid-point of their accreditation cycle. The visits sought to determine the overall quality of campus operations, institutional support and oversight provided to the off-campus programs.
Mike Randerson, vice president for Adult Higher Education, said the report couldn't have been better.
The commission noted that the college has "well-organized, efficient formal policies and procedures for instructional and operational oversight" of its many off-campus sites located throughout the United States and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The report also stated that students and adjunct faculty were "consistent in their praise of the site staff and Columbia College." Specifically, students complimented the instructors, citing their work experience as an enhancement to their instruction. According to the report, the "individual attention to students, the smaller classes, the 'invitational learning' environment and the resources provided" were all listed as strengths by the students.
Upon receiving the report, Randerson said, "It is clear that the directors and staffs of these three campuses were religiously executing the policies and procedures established for conducting day-to-day operations in both academic and administrative arenas; they were providing excellent customer service as voiced by our students; solidly supporting our adjunct faculty as voiced by the faculty, and, in general, were running the college programs the way they were intended and the way we purport them to be. No negatives were mentioned in any portion of the report."
Dr. Terry Smith, executive vice president and dean for Academic Affairs, said that a totally clean visit report is rare.
Melissa Stutz, director of the Crystal Lake campus, is equally pleased with the commission's positive report. "We wanted to demonstrate the operational consistency from campus to campus," she said. "There is a model set in place and we have shown that not only are we using the model, but the model works."
Dr. Gerald Brouder, president, said that this report lays a solid foundation for the next accreditation visit in 2012, when the commission will visit three different Nationwide Campuses plus the Day, Evening and Online campuses.
"Our solid processes, policies and procedures, when executed faithfully by professional, dedicated and competent staff and faculty, will withstand outside scrutiny of any kind," said Randerson. "More importantly, such an approach will lead to quality education and satisfied students who know we have served them well."
Stutz added, "This report shows that a Columbia College student, whether at the home campus or any one of the 34 sites, will not only receive a top-notch quality education, they will receive a top-notch quality experience; quality education, quality faculty, quality staff, quality service, quality care - because we do care and it shows."