Students enrolled in the Northern Marianas College’s School of Education need no longer worry about their eligibility for federal financial aid such as Pell grants.
On Tuesday, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges vice president Susan B. Clifford notified NMC president Dr. Sharon Hart that the commission has approved NMC’s proposal to include the School of Education’s four-year baccalaureate program under the commission’s accreditation purview.
“The Committee on Substantive Change at their meeting on Oct. 24, 2013, acted to approve the NMC proposal,” Clifford’s Oct. 25 letter reads.
Hart said this positive response to NMC’s request lifts the air of uncertainty that surrounded the college’s School of Education after the U.S. Department of Education came out with a ruling in July that the college was in violation of its policy for having two accrediting bodies.
“There was a major issue that was raised due to the fact that NMC holds dual accreditations with both the junior and senior commission of the Western Association Schools and Colleges,” Hart said. “We were at a potential of losing all our Title IV funding going to all of our students enrolled in our baccalaureate degree program.”
She said USDOE contacted NMC in August and told them “we will give you 18 months to come under one accrediting commission.”
It turned out NMC needed less than three months to fix the problem.
“Quite often the substantive change could take up to a year to just develop. We did all of this in just a six-week period,” she said. “What needed 18 months to do, we turned around and we have literally done all of that in over two-and-a-half months. I really want to congratulate our School of Education, faculty, and especially our students for hanging with us.”
The report was due for submission to the junior commission by Sept. 30. Last week, the college was visited by two teams representing the ACCJC.
Hart said one team was on-island for the show-cause visit and to look at NMC’s show-cause report; the other team was focused on the college’s request to place NMC’s baccalaureate degree program under ACCJC.
The next step now, Hart said, is for USDOE to approve ACCJC’s request for them to also be able to accredit four-year programs within community colleges.
NMC Board of Regents chair Juan T. Lizama congratulated NMC—its leadership and students—for hurdling the problem with its dual accreditation.
School of Education director Charlotte Cepeda was also delighted with the good news. “This is wonderful news for the School of Education. We do have very dedicated students who have amazing goals and are willing to provide services to the community,” Cepeda said. “This will allow for financial aid and for them to get the assistance they need to reach those goals.”
Students Gina Mareham and Esco Hocog were appreciative of NMC’s efforts that will allow them to continue getting federal financial aid.
“It’s very exciting and a great load off our shoulders. We can now move forward and we’re no longer in limbo. We can really work hard and go out to the community and give our services,” said Mareham, who is in her third year and taking up rehabilitative human services.
Hocog, who is enrolled in the elementary education program, echoed Mareham.
“Everyone at the School of Educaiton will be very happy. This thing came out of nowhere but we’re so happy we will continue to get federal financial aid and now until like forever,” she said.
Both Mareham and Hocog said they will work on-island after graduation.