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Lack of governance threatens NJ college’s accreditation

A New Jersey community college has received notice that its accreditation is in jeopardy. In a letter dated June 29, the Middle State Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) notified Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ that the institution failed to provide adequate evidence of compliance with Standard VII, Governance, Leadership, and Administration. The notice sets a time limit to provide compliance evidence. If the college does not provide the required evidence by January 16, 2024, MSCHE could withdraw the school’s accreditation.

According to the letter, to satisfy the MSCHE requirements, the school must “provide evidence that the institution has achieved and can sustain ongoing compliance with Standard VII.” That includes:

  1. a governance structure that allows it to realize its stated mission and goals in a way that benefits the institution, its students, and the constituencies it serves;
  2. a governing body that provides oversight at the policy level and is informed in all its operations by principles of good practice in board governance (Standard VII);
  3. a governing board that appoints and regularly evaluates the Chief Executive Officer (Standard VII);
  4. an administration with regular engagement with faculty and students to advance the institution’s goals and objective (Standard VII); and
  5. periodic assessment of the effectiveness of governance, leadership, and administration (Standard VII)

Three out of the five faults directly and explicitly involve institutional governance and the governing body that is expected to oversee Ocean County College’s chief executive officer. The accreditation firm also took exception with the administration’s engagement with the Ocean County College faculty and students. Ocean County College also failed to provide adequate evidence of its attempts to conduct a periodic assessment of governance, leadership, and administration.

Losing accreditation over lack of leadership is rare

It is nice to know that someone is looking out for the students who attend these institutions. A lack of adequate governance at a community college is a major failure that impacts the long-term health and well-being of a community college.

When the governing body fails to exercise adequate oversight, stands idly by or (worse) looks the other way as the institution’s administration makes poor strategic decisions; rubber-stamps the administration’s poor strategic decisions; fails to ask adequate, cogent questions; encourages the institution to waste public funds on the priorities of members of the governing body above the needs of the institution; authorizes the institution to give away district resources to non-qualifying students; fails to support the institution’s faculty; fails to demand the administration properly maintain the campus facilities and infrastructure; or cedes its statutory authority and the authority it reserves for itself in the institution’s by-laws to the administration, the accrediting agency is right to step in and demand actual performance.

Hope springs eternal, I guess.

Photo Credit: Daniel Collins, via Flickr