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Warning removed, HACC's accreditation reaffirmed

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A warning issued by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in November 2012 has been removed and Harrisburg Area Community College's accreditation reaffirmed.

HACC has much to be proud of, and the efforts of all to comply with Middle States’ standards should be commended," HACC President John J. “Ski” Sygielski said in a news release. "We are pleased with the improvements that the college has made and will continue our efforts in all areas to embrace Middle States’ recommendations.”

The commission requested a progress report documenting further assessment of general education outcomes and evidence that assessment results are used to improve teaching and learning; that is due March 1, 2016. The commission’s next evaluation visit is scheduled for 2017-18.

HACC offers more than 150 career and transfer associate degree, certificate and diploma programs to nearly 20,000 students at campuses in Gettysburg, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and York and through online classes. In addition, HACC serves more than 29,000 students in noncredit workforce development, public safety, adult basic education and continuing education programs offered at all campuses and off-site locations.

HACC included the following timeline in its announcement:

• 2007: HACC submitted a self-study report and was reaccredited by the commission.

• 2007: A Middle States review team recommended that the college develop a documented, organized and sustained assessment process for individual courses to evaluate and improve student learning. The reviewers also suggested adopting a “one-college” philosophy and implementing institutional effectiveness.

• 2009: HACC submitted a monitoring report noting the college implemented a comprehensive plan to assess student learning, but developing long-term assessment plans and initiating a general education assessment encountered some difficulty.

• 2010: The commission requested a second progress report.

• April 2010: The college’s second report documented progress but noted that while a majority of departments had successfully implemented course assessment, they were behind with the integration of course assessment into program assessment. It also acknowledged that from 2009 to 2010, implementation of assessment was delayed by the college's reorganization.

• July 5, 2011: John J. “Ski” Sygielski, the current HACC president, was hired.

• June 1, 2012: HACC submitted its five-year periodic review report, which noted:

o The college had long been engaged in various assessments but tended to change direction before improvements based on the findings were fully implemented.

o Upon taking office as HACC’s seventh president, Sygielski initiated a wholesale analysis regarding efficiency improvements collegewide.

• Nov. 15, 2012: The Commission issued a warning to HACC regarding the college’s performance on three of the 14 standards for accreditation.

December 2012 through May 2014: HACC worked to correct the issues identified in the warning.

• Sept. 1, 2013: HACC submitted a monitoring report to prove that it achieved compliance and can sustain compliance in the three standards.

• Sept. 24-25, 2013: The commission’s peer review team visited to meet with college employees, students and board members.

• Sept. 25, 2013: The commission’s peer review team verbally presented a report to the HACC community, noting the college was now in compliance with Standard 7 (Institutional Assessment) and Standard 14 (Assessment of Student Learning). However, the college is not in compliance with Standard 12 (General Education).

• November 2013: The peer review team’s report was submitted to the commission for formal action.

• March 1, 2014: HACC submitted a follow-up monitoring report outlining its improvements for Standard 12.

• April 29 through May 1, 2014: The commission’s peer review team visited to learn about the progress made toward complying with Standard 12.

• May 1, 2014: The  peer review team verbally presented a report to members of the college community.

• June 26, 2014: The commission removed the warning for Standard 12 (General Education) and reaffirmed accreditation.

In other HACC news, the college has purchased two properties adjacent to the Lancaster Campus in East Lampeter Township. Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but Eleanor Bosserman, business director for the Lancaster and Lebanon campuses, said it was completed June 30.

The properties at 1651 Old Philadelphia Pike and 1653 Old Philadelphia Pike total 1.1 acres and are zoned “office,” according to Bosserman, who said the college has no immediate plans to develop the properties and future use has not been finalized.

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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