Community college gets accreditation warning

Golden West College must address concerns related to academic success and financial planning in order to remain an accredited community college, a regional agency announced this month.

Golden West, located in Huntington Beach, is one of three schools in the Coast Community College District. All three received a warning from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) last year.

Every six years, the regional organization evaluates colleges’ compliance with a set of regulations used to assess whether they should receive accreditation — a stamp of educational quality that determines whether students can receive federal financial aid or grants and transfer credits to a university.

Each of the district’s colleges — Golden West, Orange Coast College, located in Costa Mesa, and Coastline Community College, which has campuses in Newport Beach and other cities — was alerted to numerous governance and educational practices that put accreditation at risk.

This month, the ACCJC granted the district, OCC and Coastline a “good cause extension” to give the institutions more time to come into compliance with recommendations. The commission removed OCC and Coastline’s warning status, but did not clear Golden West, according to a letter from the ACCJC.

The commission took issue with Golden West’s ability to measure its academic objectives and prove that students were learning information outlined in course syllabuses, according to the letter.

It also recommended that the college improve its financial planning process to consider long-term financial goals as well as future enrollment, the letter states.

Since the college received the warning in July 2013, officials have been working on addressing the commission’s concerns.

Golden West administrators are developing a program in which students can declare a specific major, such as psychology or biology, and the college will guarantee their seats in the classes they need.

This would allow students to bypass long waiting lists for classes necessary for transfer to four-year institutions and the completion of their degrees, said Omid Pourzanjani, vice president of instruction and student learning at Golden West.

Upon completion of the program, a student would have guaranteed admission to a California State University campus, Pourzanjani said.

While the idea is innovative among community colleges in California, more work must be done to prove to the commission that the program is viable, Pourzanjani said.

“We don’t want to create a quick plan to adhere to the commission’s request as a Band-aid solution and then have a process we’re never going to look at again,” he said.

If the college can’t show improvements by March 2015, it may be placed on probation or asked to once again show why it should remain accredited. If the college remains out of compliance after the next visit, its accreditation could be terminated, according to the ACCJC.

Pourzanjani said the commission’s most recent letter did not come as a surprise to college officials.

Still, he expects the college will be completely prepared when the commission returns for a follow-up visit next spring.

“We’re not anxious or nervous,” he said. “This is what we were expecting. We’re getting it done, but we’re not going to rush.”