Parkland up for re-accreditation in early October
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 17:09
When students come to Parkland College, they are often told that the school is one of the best community colleges out there. The big question is: Is Parkland really that prestigious?
The only problem with answering that question is that there is no clear way of knowing. Community colleges are not generally ranked.
What is known is that Parkland is regarded as a really good community college not only by teachers at other institutions and our own faculty, but by a group of specialists called the accrediting committee.
Every college and university has to be tested by an accrediting body and the one that is responsible for Parkland is the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. These accrediting bodies are regional, and there are five total scattered throughout the country.
There are two bodies in the west, two in the east and one in the central part of the country. Parkland is looked at by the central committee.
The accreditation process is an evaluation of a college’s methods. Nearly all schools in the nation including high schools are looked at by these specialists. Unfortunately the higher learning commission doesn’t rank the schools in relation to one another.
As part of the process, the school is required to perform a self-evaluation. This shows what Parkland’s strengths are, what areas show room for improvement and what they are doing to improve.
After Parkland evaluates itself, the board comes in to verify that the school has taken an accurate self-assessment and is taking the measures it claims.
The self-assessment is comprised of a great many pages and graphs outline all aspects of its academic and financial growth over the last ten years.
Amy Penne, associate professor in Humanities and Planetarium Coordinator David Leake are co-facilitators of the 2012 self-evaluation, having been appointed in 2007.
“Without accreditation your degree means nothing,” Penne said. “All schools go through the accreditation process periodically in order for the credits that Parkland College students earn to mean something.”
“They will be coming to Parkland College from October 1-3,” Penne said. “It is very important process that shows us where we stand.”
“We were first accredited in 1972 and then every ten years after that,” Penne remarked. “Ten years ago in 2002 for the most part Parkland did perfectly.”
“They told us to keep an eye on our budget and that was basically it,” Leake said. “They had just finished building the D-Wing so the fund balance was a little low. So they said keep an eye on that,” he explained. “That was something that we had to show in this self study, how we built it up.”
“The challenge for us was that we had to improve upon perfect,” Leake said. “Parkland is not perfect. It is perfectly fine that we find things that we could be doing a little better.”
“We are hoping this word gets out to students,” Leake said. “It’s good for students to know about this because this is their education.”
The accreditation process is an opportunity for Parkland to discover how it can improve.
There are five people that will come during the first few days of October, and they will have meetings with facility and staff and students.
A lot has changed since 2002. The whole accreditation world and how student learning is measured have changed over the last ten years and will continue to change.
The accreditation committee is now stricter and continues to look for more details. They are now looking more in-depth towards what community colleges do and how they can do it better.
Parkland has done a very good job in the last few years and now that it is expanding and growing, it can only get better. Students and staff are what make Parkland a good college and students should care and know that the accreditation committee exists.
The five criteria are listed on the committee’s website. For more information on the process, visit www.ncahlc.org.
Dr. Kris Young, Vice President for Academic Services said, “Right now nationally there are some efforts to help community colleges explain what it is that they do.”
“I believe the people we hire here want to see students be successful,” she said. “We are constantly asking ourselves what we can do to for the students that is better.”
“Our employees here are engaged and they are on top of their curriculum,” Young said. “I am very fortunate to be in a place like Parkland College where everyone is on the same page and engaged.”
“The overall strength of Parkland College is that we really are committed to student success.” Young remarked. “Parkland is pretty prestigious but we have to work to keep it where it is.”
Perhaps there will never be a clear way to determine where Parkland College stands but what is known is that Parkland College is very good at what it does. Parkland has been looked at not only by the accrediting body but many other experts who would tell you that Parkland is one of the best colleges in the country.