Pima Community College is starting work on a plan to emerge from the probationary status its accrediting agency has imposed.
The work is scheduled to take more than a year and will include feedback from many groups inside the college and some who may be unassociated with the college, said Jerry Migler, the PCC provost, which is the school's top academic position, right under chancellor.
The college is required to submit two reports as part of its probationary status. The Higher Learning Commission has set Aug. 1 as deadline for the first report, which will explain how Pima plans to comply with what the commission calls “assumed practices,” Migler said.
Those are operational tasks every college should be doing, but PCC needs to work on, according to the HLC's report.
“We need to have a plan for ensuring that our complaint and grievance procedures are well understood and are working,” Migler said. “The other assumed practice that we're working on is that faculty participate substantially in the oversight of curriculum. And again, we need to have a plan in place to provide assurances that that assumed practice is taken care of.”
PCC doesn't need to solve both of those problems by Aug. 1, Migler said, but it has to show a plan for improving those areas of its administration and governance.
The college is also creating 14 committees to focus on other areas that the commission cited. They include adjusting institutional integrity, financial policies, ethical policies, governance and administrative structures and planning, Migler said.
Each committee will have a designated area of emphasis and will write a portion of the final report going to the Higher Learning Commission in July 2014. The committees will include faculty, students, experts in the topics being addressed and people unaffiliated with the college, he said.
The report is essentially as comprehensive as an accreditation process and covers not just the areas of weakeness, but all areas necessary for accreditation, Migler said.
“Typically colleges use about two to three years to do all of that work. We don't have two to three years to do that,” he said. “It's a big project. It's going to involve quite a few people, not only internal to the college, but external as well. We anticipate it will need the direct involvement of 250 people to 300 people just working on the various committees that we're putting in place.“
Because the commission specificially cited the college's governance as an issue leading to its probationary status, Migler said the governing board will receive training and be a part of the process to submit a final report, known as an institutional self study.
After that report is submitted, Migler said, the commission will send staff to Tucson to do a site study, and a final decision could be made in February 2015.
Until then, nothing changes for students, he said.
“Our students are still eligible to receive financial aid, just as they always have, our courses transfer, just as they always have, and so from, hopefully from a student's point of view, nothing has changed,” he said. “There were no concerns cited regarding the quality of our programs, our academic and student support systems. The key parts of our mission are functioning well.”
PCC has created a website to address its probationary status and its plan for ensuring it does not lose accreditation.