The CNMI made history anew after its lone community college, which has been in severe sanction for eight years now, finally moved up the ladder and acquired full reaffirmation of its accreditation.
The Northern Marianas College was formally informed by the Accrediting Commission on Community Junior Colleges on Friday of its decision to lift the show cause order imposed on the college almost a year ago. The decision grants NMC the highest level of reaffirmation, requiring no visits or reports after the commission action.
In a three-page decision, ACCJC president Barbara Beno, Ph.D., said the commissioners were fully satisfied with all the submissions made by NMC including the show-cause report submitted on Oct. 15 last year, the external evaluation team’s report that inspected the college on Oct. 21-22, the supplemental report turned in last December, and the oral testimonies of NMC representatives during the Jan. 8 ACCJC meeting in San Francisco.
“The commission found that NMC has resolved the deficiencies that were identified in the Feb. 11, 2013, action letter. The commission acted to remove show cause and reaffirmed accreditation,” Beno stated in the order addressed to NMC president Dr. Sharon Y. Hart.
Beno specifically cited the efforts made by NMC and its Board of Regents to change the composition of the board by removing the three honorary members.
ACCJC also noted NMC’s efforts when it facilitated legislative changes that made NMC’s mission a responsibility of the college and not the Legislature.
The creation of a policy on minimum qualifications for faculty also got the approving nod of the commission as well as the filling of all administrative vacancies.
Next up is a mid-term report that NMC must submit to the ACCJC in October 2015, with information showing the college has sustained the changes made to meet accreditation standards.
“The commission therefore requests that the college mid-term report provide evidence that these changes have been sustained and provide a college analysis of how will they are working,” she stated.
According to Beno, “professional self regulation is the most effective means of assuring integrity, effectiveness, and educational quality.”
Even before the formal letter was received Saturday (Saipan time), the commission’s decision was shared with the public Friday when NMC called for a news briefing at 11:30am. The jam-packed D-1 room saw hundreds of mixed faces—students and employees, college executives and government leaders—all cheering the great news.
Hart, standing on the podium before the crowd, began her address by specifically recognizing the groups of people behind the college accreditation success.
For staying together through thick and thin, Hart thanked students and employees alike for not jumping ship—as is the usual scenario in institutions when accreditation is at its most severe sanction.
“You decided to stay with us because you believe in this institution. Thank you for staying…because we couldn’t have done this all without you and your help,” said Hart, who was given a standing ovation after announcing the then informal decision.
There are four sanctions under ACCJC: reaffirmation, warning, probation, and the severe status of show cause. For the past eight years, NMC has been in the last three conditions until Friday.
Without accreditation, NMC will not be eligible to receive most federal financial grants and aids offered to students. In transferring credits, most colleges and universities honor only those from accredited educational institutions.
Full speed ahead
Associated Students of NMC president Alex Shen, who was among those in the crowd cheering while holding a poster that read “Accreditation Reaffirmed: Full Speed Ahead,” was in high spirits Friday.
Shen said all the hard work paid off. “I am so happy and relieved! This is really for our students!” he told Saipan Tribune.
Shen is convinced that with the latest accreditation decision, more students will be encouraged and inspired to “Start Smart” at NMC.
Shen said it is obvious that changes instituted at the college are working and will continue to work for students.
On Friday, a special cake and balloons were part of the “accreditation celebration” held for students on campus.
In their remarks, Gov. Eloy Inos and BOR chair Frank Rabauliman were one in saying that the reaffirmation of NMC is a “huge accomplishment” and a “big relief” for everyone.
Describing the amount of work and the costs associated in resolving the accreditation process as “exhausting,” Rabauliman is nevertheless elated that the result is satisfying and a huge relief for students and stakeholders.
For his part, Inos told Saipan Tribune that key now for the college is “sustainability” and he vowed his administration’s continued support. He recommended that the college place its key people to monitor each and every standard to ensure these are being met at all times.