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HACC gets good news on accreditation warning check

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Harrisburg Area Community College is making progress toward being taken off warning status by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

The commission has 14 measures and in November placed HACC on warning status because of issues with three of them: Assessment of general education; assessment of student learning; and institutional assessment. It also suggested that HACC work on a fourth measure, institutional leadership and governance.

HACC, which remains fully accredited while on warning status, said it got good news in a 168-page report Wednesday by a commission peer review team. According to a news release, the report found that HACC met standards on all measures but assessment of general education, and on that measure was recognized for its efforts and progress to date.

"The site visitors stated that it is evident a process has been established and, with more time, outcomes can be reported," HACC's release said. "The team is simply interested in knowing that the college's efforts in this area will be sustained."

HACC President John J. "Ski" Sygielski said the college is pleased with the results of the report and has much to be proud of.

"I'm even more confident after today's report that we will be removed from warning next summer. Of course, we will continue our efforts in all areas and continue to embrace Middle States' recommendations," Sygielski said.

The monitoring report, exit report and the institutional response to the report will be considered by a commission committee and then by the commission in November. HACC will provide a follow-up report on assessment of general education by March 1, 2014.

Wednesday's report detailed many recent changes at HACC, including an overhaul in the Office of College Advancement and the HACC Foundation, which encompasses the former public relations, marketing and development departments.

In March 2012, HACC hired Linnie S. Carter as vice president of college advancement to oversee the office. In January 2013, Nancy Rockey, a longtime HACC employee who had served as vice president of college and community development and secretary of the foundation's board of directors, was charged with theft from the college. According to court records, Rockey admitted to stealing approximately $228,000 from the college between 2007 and 2012; HACC said her employment there was terminated in February 2012.

Earlier this year, the initial charge against Rockey was withdrawn, a move Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said was because the federal authorities requested that the case be transferred to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Rockey's attorney, Adam Klein of Smigel, Anderson & Sacks LLP, said today that Rockey is cooperating with federal prosecutors, who are in the process of finalizing charges to which he expects her to enter into a plea deal in the next several weeks.

"In February 2013, an auditing firm was hired to conduct a gap analysis on the HACC Foundation and development function," the Middle States commission report said. "The firm completed the analysis in April 2013 and identified 26 recommendations to improve systems and processes, to enhance reporting, and to improve financial tracking. To date, nine of the recommendations have been completed. The remaining recommendations will be resolved by December 2014."

The report said the HACC Foundation identified problems with 133 memoranda of understanding, which are agreements that outline how charitable contributions and funds should be used, managed, and disbursed.

"Some of the previous MOUs contained language that conflicted with IRS guidelines, and some of them referenced outdated processes and procedures. In some cases, some funds had no MOUs on file," the report said. "To date, 40 of the problem MOUs have been corrected. The remaining MOU problems will be resolved this fall."

The report also said the HACC Foundation scholarship program has been revamped, as it formerly "was managed manually and revealed many challenges, including selecting recipients against IRS regulations, awarding to ineligible students, losing paper applications, and failing to market the scholarship program."

The new system allows students to search through more than 200 scholarships, file applications electronically and apply during a second scholarship award cycle, the report said, and improvements will continue to be made.

Heather Stauffer

Heather Stauffer

Heather Stauffer covers Lancaster County, nonprofits, education and health care. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at heathers@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @StaufferCPBJ.

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