At its May 22 meeting, the Dodge City Community College Board of Trustees heard from Dr. Scott Searcy, DCCC director of accreditation, about progress the college has made regarding issues raised by a team from the Higher Learning Commission.
Searcy delivered optimistic, if limited, news to the trustees.
"It’s nothing we weren’t expecting," Searcy said. "They had some very good advice for us."
The HLC is an academic governing body that certifies accreditation criteria of colleges across the nation. The final analysis and report by the HLC will likely not be available for public dissemination until October, but Searcy recently received a preliminary report.
In the interim, DCCC has the chance further build on its relationship with the commission. As such, the report is subject to change and so Searcy was able to publicly disclose only limited information about the findings.
Preliminary indications are that the college is doing the right things and headed in the right direction. The college will receive further suggestions from the HLC.
Last September the HLC moved to extend the process on all schools for which there had been recommendations, so accreditation renewal for the school is delayed.
Searcy said the while DCCC would have been happy with what the HLC team recommended, but the extra time can be a positive for the school. It’s a chance for the school to provide additional evidence of compliance, according to Searcy.
"It will give us the opportunity to have a ‘visit anew’ as they call it," Searcy said. "If we can show evidence that we have made changes in policy, or we finished another budget year with a balance – anything that counts in our favor – we can put it on the table and help us argue that we are even better than the team thought we were."
Searcy said administration is addressing budget concerns as well as taking steps to ensure faculty qualifications adhere to board policy – topics the HLC analyzes in an attempt to ensure colleges are being operated capably and with regard to fiscal responsibility.
The college has made a great deal of progress in steadying the course, and there is still work to do to continue to improve and withstand scrutiny on all levels. Continued work could mitigate some of the issues identified by the visiting team, according to Searcy.
"We’ve got people who are really serious about working on the issues and have been working on the issues this last year," Searcy said. "We would be comfortable with the team’s recommendations and if we buy into those it would not be a mistake. It shows we are being constructive about remaining in compliance with HLC expectations."
Board Chairman Gary Harshberger called for the school to put the recommendations into action as promptly as possible to demonstrate that DCCC is actively in compliance with directives.
Harshberger lauded the efforts of college staff "for really getting out in front on this and seeing the things we need to work on."
Trustee Dan Reichenborn also praised the efforts of the administration to clarify a number of financial issues during a work session Monday.
"The help I got from the administrative staff was just outstanding," Reichenborn said. "They filled me in on a lot of things I needed to know and a lot of missing pieces."
Representatives of Dodge City Community College are slated to meet with the Institutional Actions Committee in August.