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Accreditors come Cuesta 

The next few months could be critical in Cuesta College’s fight against its accreditation woes.

The college is preparing to host a two-person team from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, who are following up on a 40-page response drafted by Cuesta administrators to address the agency’s previous recommendations.

The team will confirm the written report through interviews with staff and a review of evidence documents, Cuesta Interim President Gil Stork explained in an e-mail to New Times.

The commission placed a probationary sanction on the college in January, citing such problems as a lack of permanent administration staffers and the need for a strategic plan to address long-term financial and resource planning.

According to commission Vice President of Team Operations and Communication Jack Pond, the accreditation process does not follow a “ladder” approach; instead, a college could potentially go directly from probation to reaffirmation (good) or to termination (bad).

However, Pond told New Times because the college is working to address the problems, it’s “highly unlikely” termination would result from the upcoming visit.

“A college would really have to be doing absolutely nothing for that to happen,” he said.

Accreditation is the evaluation process used to ensure an institution meets state standards in providing a quality education. A loss of accreditation could mean units earned at one institution might not be accepted at accredited institutions.

According to Stork, Cuesta has addressed the commission’s recommendations by drafting a 2010-2013 Strategic Plan, which covers planning, leadership and governance.

Since January, the college has also created a three-year budget projection model, which Stork admitted is complicated by the state’s murky budget issues. The administration has also begun a process to fill four vacancies on the 10-person executive team, expected to be filled in Spring 2011, Stork said. Stork’s contract is up in December 2011, and the Board of Trustees is expected to begin finding his replacement in February 2011.

“I am proud of the work that has been accomplished by our staff and am confident that our probation sanction will be removed,” Stork said.

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