Accreditation: Educational quality assurance

By Lincoln Wallace

Whatcom Community College is accredited, meaning it meets certain standards in the quality of its academics and student services. But that accreditation must be renewed every seven years, and Whatcom is going through that process this year.
A crucial step of the accreditation process took place on April 15, at “Accreditation: It’s KIND of Important,” a student-oriented public forum named for the KIND bars distributed around campus to promote the event.
The forum was moderated by a committee of out-of-state educators, led by Dr. Ross Tomlin, president of Tillamook Bay Community College in Oregon.
The committee was sent by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, which evaluates and accredits colleges in the Northwest region, including Washington.
At the forum, a broad range of Whatcom students voiced their comments and concerns about Whatcom’s effectiveness as a college. Discussion included the important role of student organizations like the ASWCC, and the college’s accommodations for returning graduates.
Students also suggested possible improvements Whatcom could make; for example, greater diversity among students and staff. Another suggestion was on-campus emergency call boxes, similar to those at Western Washington University.
Similar forums were held for faculty and staff the following day.
After the committee reports their findings, Whatcom’s president reviews a first draft of the report for factual errors. Then the report is sent to the Commission, who vote to approve Whatcom’s reaccreditation.
In an email to the Horizon, Dr. Tomlin explained that this vote happens at the end of June. The college will find out the results “sometime during the summer.”
He added that Whatcom had “a lot to be proud of” based on what they had heard from students and staff.
“There were no recommendations [for improvement] assigned by the evaluation team, which is rare,” Tomlin said.

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