LTCC Accreditation Reaffirmed at Highest Level
January 29, 2018
Lake Tahoe Community College just received the highest level of accreditation possible from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC). The commission reaffirmed the college’s accreditation for seven years on the basis of a comprehensive evaluation. This reaffirmation puts the college in excellent standing until its next full accreditation review in Fall 2024.
To have its accreditation reaffirmed is the highest level a college can achieve in the accrediting process. It means that LTCC substantially met or exceeded all of the Eligibility Requirements, Accreditation Standards and Commission policies of the ACCJC.
“On behalf of LTCC’s Board of Trustees, I want to thank all the staff, faculty, students, community members, and our administrative team for your incredible effort and participation in completing our Accreditation Report,” said LTCC Board of Trustees President Kerry David. “Despite the college’s small size and the various challenges it has faced, LTCC has always, throughout its history, kept its accreditation status in great standing. It speaks to the importance of accreditation and the college’s ongoing commitment to excellence.”
“This reaffirmation of accreditation by an independent group reinforces what we know to be true: that this college provides a quality, comprehensive education and valuable services to our students and community,” wrote LTCC Superintendent/President Jeff DeFranco in a communication to college staff. “Everyone at LTCC should be proud of this accomplishment because each and every one of you, through your work and commitment to the college, made this possible.”
The ACCJC reaches its conclusions based on evidence, reports, a self-evaluation document, and various plans that colleges submit in the process. This information is coupled with an on-campus ACCJC team visit, where the team compares all of the evidence it received with what they see and hear from college constituents on campus. LTCC hosted a 10-member visiting team from the ACCJC in October 2017.
In its resulting report-out to LTCC, the evaluation team found that the college had a comprehensive, well-written self-evaluation document and related evidence developed through broad participation from all groups on campus – staff, students, faculty, and the administration. In addition, the visiting team found that the college had done its job of identifying gaps and issues on its own, and had taken the initiative to draft its own action plans for continuous improvement.
To compare what LTCC is doing in practice with what is presented in its various submitted documents, the ACCJC visiting team met with approximately 60 students, faculty members, classified staff members, and administrators in a mix of large-group and one-on-one interviews. The team also met with the members of the Board of Trustees and attended a Board meeting. They made classroom visits and explored other learning venues around campus. Various college stakeholders and community members were invited to two open forums held during the visit. The result from this interaction was a positive response from the ACCJC team, which stated in its team evaluation report that it found LTCC to be welcoming and well-prepared for the visit.
In its concluding report, the ACCJC gave LTCC seven commendations: for creating exemplary K-12 and community partnerships; for developing a culture that is welcoming of and proactive with student feedback; for developing the California and Nevada Interstate Attendance Agreement (CNIAA), which provides reduced tuition for LTCC’s Nevada neighbors in the Tahoe Basin; for developing a comprehensive offering of CTE certificates and degrees to help students meet employment standards; for creating a Student Learning Outcome & Assessment Process Guide, which helps to better assess how LTCC students are doing in their classes; for its use of technology and communications in student and campus engagement; and for developing an outstanding, highly detailed Governance Handbook that reflects the college’s participatory governance structure.
The ACCJC’s report states that LTCC has a “very strong connection to the South Lake Tahoe Basin community. In addition to serving students, the College is seen as a hub for community activity and is the go-to location for cultural events, sports, theatrical productions, concerts, art exhibits, lectures, film screenings and more.” Furthermore, the ACCJC noted that LTCC faces challenges “because of its tourist-based economy, its isolated location, its challenging winter climate, and an economic region and community that crosses state lines.”
The visiting team also made a number of recommendations. Per the ACCJC, “These recommendations do not identify current areas of deficiency in institutional practice, but rather encourage colleges to be consistent with their mission to foster continuous improvement through a peer-reviewed process.” In its report, the visiting team recommended: reviewing LTCC’s integrated planning processes; achieving campus-wide participation in Student Learning Outcome (SLO) assessments; developing a formal training program for online faculty members; expanding the methodologies used in the SLO process; and aligning the college’s Institutional Learning Outcomes to the library’s and learning services’ program-level outcomes, ensuring that information literacy and competency standards are met.
A college’s accreditation status is crucially important for several reasons. For one, all federal financial aid funding is tied to a college’s accreditation status. In 2016/17, LTCC handed out approximately $1.75 million in federal financial aid to approximately 600 students. Accreditation is also important because it ensures that the credits a student earns at LTCC are transferable to other colleges or universities.