Accreditation review around the corner

Students wait in line at the Financial Aid counter.

By Ruben G. Betancourt
Pulse staff reporter

San Antonio College, St. Philip’s College and Northwest Vista College are under a 12-month warning status after receiving their reaccreditation reviews. Starting this fall, Palo Alto College will also undergo a reaccreditation review.

On Dec. 4, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission denied reaffirmation—continued accreditation—and placed three campuses within the Alamo Colleges District under a 12-month warning status.

“The college receives valuable feedback from our accreditor to ensure compliance and improve the service and learning afforded to our students,” said Joseph Coppola, Palo Alto College Faculty Senate president.

A disclosure statement released by SACSCOC, states that the colleges have failed to comply with the following: board/administrative distinction, acceptance of academic credit, academic policies, responsibility of curriculum (autonomy), reaffirmation of accreditation and subsequent reports and federal requirement: Title IV program responsibilities.

Over the next year, the three Alamo colleges will have to correct these issues. If these problems are not corrected, more sanctions will follow with the risk of not being recognized by the United States Department of Education. This means losing federal funding, including financial aid, for students and the campuses.

At the start of the 2017 spring semester, students were worried and started asking questions about accreditation.

Jancie Gonzales, a Palo Alto sophomore Digital Arts major, said, “There was a Facebook article…It said all Alamo Colleges might lose accreditation and a whole bunch of my friends shared it…It slightly worries me, but I just have hope that all of their stuff is taken care of. They have all their paperwork, they have everything they need, so that way they can protect their students from something like that happening.”

Thomas Garcia, a Palo Alto freshman Criminal Justice major, said, “Well if (Palo Alto College) would be under review…I would probably be a bit more worried…”

Throughout the Alamo Colleges District, all campuses promptly began providing students and the community information about where they stood with SACSCOC. On Jan. 17, Dr. Yvonne Katz, Board chairwoman, sent an email to all of the Alamo Colleges District students assuring them that San Antonio College, St. Philip’s College and Northwest Vista College remained accredited and all of the issues were being resolved.

Palo Alto College will submit its Fifth-Year Interim report on Sept. 15 to SACSCOC. This is considered a mid-point review, which is submitted every five years. The main decennial (10-year) review will not be due until 2022. The standard procedure for a Fifth-Year Interim report does not include an on-campus visit unless the college is starting a program that offers offsite classes. Currently, PAC is working with Southwest High School, which is an offsite location where students are enrolled in dual credit courses at Southwest ISD and can earn more than 30 college credit hours. Since PAC is implementing this new program, SACSCOC will conduct an on-campus visit this fall.

Dr. Mike Flores is confident that PAC will do well on its evaluation.

“We’re in good stead with our accreditor. We are working internally to ensure that we provide that we are assessing our programs, and that we are assessing student support services and student satisfaction,” said Flores.

As PAC prepares for their Interim Report, their three sister colleges are also preparing for their second review in December. At this time, the SACSCOC board will determine if the issues have been resolved and if the warning status will be lifted.