East Central College (ECC)

As East Central College’s day of reckoning in front of the Higher Learning Commission board draws ever closer, college stakeholders are working overtime to remedy problem areas raised in the report that recommended its accreditation be put on probation.

ECC President Dr. Jon Bauer said the search for a director of institutional effectiveness will begin as soon as possible and that a new shared governance structure will be proposed at the next board of trustee meeting.

After two contentious discussions on the whether the director and office were needed and worth the cost at the board’s February and March meetings, the position was approved 5-1.

The new position and office come as a result of the HLC accreditation team’s visit to the college last year, where the visiting team identified issues within the college’s infrastructure and recommended its accreditation be put on probation.

The visit has brought on a wave of new thinking about how the college runs in order to avoid probation from the HLC.

One particular practice the team identified as problematic was the way the college used the information it collected. According to the report, while the college has been vigilant with collecting data, the data was rarely used in decision making.

That issue falls under HLC’s fourth criterion, which covers how well an institution works systematically to improve itself. In this area, ECC did not meet standards.

“It is unclear whether East Central College is committed to improving its performance and internal processes through the use of data gathering and analysis,” the HLC team’s report read. “The team found a lack of understanding about the institution’s quality improvement journey and the data being collected by the institution.”

The report also noted that in 2011, when the college was last visited, the very same issue was brought up. The 2011 report stated that “processes for virtually all categories were informal and needed to be more systematic.”

The report also stated, that due to turnover of faculty and staff and undocumented processes, the college had inconsistent knowledge about the accreditation process and what data is being collected and how to access and use it.

The office and director of institutional effectiveness would direct these processes while also acting as a conduit that could pull in and process information from each branch of the college.

A concern about the position was the amount of authority it would be given. However, both trustees Ann Hartley and Cookie Hays, who worked with the HLC response task force, said it was important that the position would have authority so that its recommendations didn’t go by the wayside.

Hartley said the right person in this job could help the college touch on all the problem areas the report made note of, not just data collection. She said it is the first step in getting ECC to the level it needs to be to regain normal accreditation.

The hope, Bauer said, is that a candidate will be found for the position before next semester so that these changes can go into effect as soon as possible.

In the same criteria, the college was knocked for its shared governance structure. The report states that administration, faculty, and staff expressed an understanding of the lines of reporting information but could not articulate a shared governance structure.

The report also noted that there were many areas where the faculty struggled to work in collaboration.

Bauer said a new shared governance policy will be presented to the board for approval at the next meeting of the board of trustees Monday, April 2.

The college’s response letter to the HLC is due by the end of the month and a hearing on their probationary status is scheduled for Tuesday, April 22.