By ANDREW TERRY
UPDATED FROM PRINT STORY SEPT. 22
For the first time ever, Amarillo College has received zero recommendations for compliance after the on-site visit stage of reaccreditation. This outcome is essentially a perfect score for the college.
“I’m proud of our entire team, whose commitment paid off in a huge way,” Russell Lowery-Hart, AC president said. “I’ve never worked at an institution or participated in an accreditation visit to another school where there were zero recommendations.”
Amarillo College received a visit Sept. 19-22 from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to review and renew AC’s accreditation. As a part of the reaccreditation process, AC is implementing new strategies for student success.
“Accreditation seeks to ensure constituents and the public that the quality and integrity of higher educational institutions meet acceptable levels of quality,” according to the SACSCOC website.
“We’ve been preparing for this particular visit for at least the last two years,” said Tina Babb, director of institutional effectiveness. AC has to demonstrate that it complies with the 72 principles of accreditation put in place by SACSCOC. A major part of reaccreditation is the Quality Enhancement Plan or QEP, which is titled “Smart Start to finish,” according to Amy Pifer, the QEP director.
The goal of the QEP is to increase first-time in college fall-to-fall student retention to 75% by 2025, as well as ensure an 80% completion rate according to its webpage.
In 2018, retention from fall-to-fall was at 58.42%. “We are losing roughly 40% of our students after one year with us,” Dr. Frank Sobey, associate vice president of academic affairs, wrote in an article explaining the plan.
“How can we better collaborate, communicate and also have more of a proactive outreach for students and catch them before it’s too late, so as we started working on the QEP those were the things we focused on,” Amy Pifer, QEP director said.
The plan is split into two sets of objectives. The first set is concerned with students before they are enrolled at AC and targets students through Success 360, an event held for local high school students to learn more about AC and New Student Orientation according to the QEP webpage. The second set involves requiring the Learning Framework class for all students, creating success networks and using the student engagement app, also known as Watermark.
A student’s success network includes on-campus resources like the Advocacy and Resource Center or counseling services, as well as success coaches based on a student’s major. “We started trying to identify where gaps were for us. One of those biggest gaps was capacity,” Pifer said. Success coaches are supposed to fill the gaps that other staff members aren’t able to fill, according to Pifer. She hopes to have success coaches hired and working by the spring semester.
Another part of the success network is the student engagement app. The app allows instructors to assign tutoring for students, take attendance and view potential risk and success factors for students according to training videos for the app. AC started implementing the student engagement app at the beginning of this semester.
“We actually won’t know about the reaffirmation decision until next summer, but we will have an idea when they leave Thursday morning,” Babb said.