By Kyle R. Cotton
All three colleges undergoing reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges have received a review letter identifying seven recommendations to address in regard to their autonomy from the district.
The special site visit committee composed of members of SACSCOC and this college’s peers in the southeastern U.S. made recommendations to address the branding of the colleges, grade-point average calculation in regard to transferring, and board policies dictating curriculum and employment contracts being with the district and not the individual colleges.
Northwest Vista College received its letter Oct. 27 and St. Philip’s and this college received their letters Oct. 31.
Chancellor Bruce Leslie told The Ranger Wednesday in a phone interview he was not immediately concerned about the reaccreditation of the three colleges and the pending accrediting of Northeast Lakeview College.
In the letters, the committee says it is unclear whether the institutions are autonomous.
“For example, in all branded materials, Alamo Colleges is the predominant focus and the college name is secondary. In other examples, the college is omitted completely and the focus is on Alamo Colleges,” the letter says.
The letter continues, noting that it is not clear who is conferring degrees.
“It was unclear whether the entity conferring the degree was the institution or the district,” the letter says, referencing the commencement addresses of each of the college presidents.
This also extends to documentation such as memos, contracts, guidelines, manuals, agendas and consortia agreements.
The committee also recommended that the institutions demonstrate that faculty is responsible for curriculum.
“There are indications that the board, through board policy, has required certain content (‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’) to be included in the curriculum. This is stipulated in Board Policy B.9.1. It appears that this bypassed the faculty review process,” the report said.
The board has spent millions on FranklinCovey materials and is requiring EDUC 1300, Learning Frameworks, which contains Covey materials, to be included in pathways being developed as advising guides at all colleges.
The visiting committee also found the district is calculating grade-point averages as a district instead of by institution. In the report, the committee said this is not in line with good educational practices and that GPAs must be calculated as transfer courses intra-district at each institution.
The committee noted that the colleges maintaining the current system are out of compliance with Title IV requirements in relation to federal financial aid.
The committee recommended a faculty credentials manual at St. Philip’s College as a starting point in addressing the transferability of courses “although the critical need for this document might be alleviated once Northeast Lakeview College is fully accredited.”
“A faculty credentials manual provides a clear process,” the letter said.
For out-of-district transfer, the committee points out that the Alamo Colleges center for student information isn’t following procedure in the acceptance of transfer courses.
“Courses that do not currently have an equivalency are not being sent to San Antonio College chairs and faculty members for review,” this college’s letter said.
On the institutional management side, the committee noted the chancellor having authority to reassign employees to vacant or new positions.
The fact employee contracts are with the district and not the institution is not in best practice, it continued.
“The committee recommends that the institution retain its authority as a separately accredited unit for the appointment and employment for all institutional personnel.”
Leslie said Wednesday there was no immediate worry over SACSCOC’s letters.
“None of these recommendations from SACS(COC) will lead to issues over accreditation,” Leslie said. “One of the challenges we all have are that there only two districts that operate like this, us and Dallas, and they aren’t organized to address districts like us. They are used to evaluating districts with one institution.”
“SACS is designed to evaluate best practices and isn’t a governing body like the Texas Higher Education (Coordinating) Board,” Leslie said.
“SACS is about … ensuring student success and … maintaining the standards in a way that is best for the institution. We are working on our response right now, and if they come back and say we still have issues, we will have a couple of years to address them.”
Leslie said he doesn’t expect this to hinder Northeast Lakeview’s accreditation.
President Robert Vela declined to comment on this college’s report.
Dr. Lisa Zottarelli, this college’s liaison with the accrediting agency, was unavailable to comment before deadline, but was scheduled to address faculty concerns in a Friday afternoon Round Table.
Dr. Thomas Cleary, interim president of Northeast Lakeview College and vice chancellor of planning, performance, accreditation and information systems, did not return The Ranger’s calls.
Click here: Northwest Vista College Special Committee Report