Regional accrediting agency, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission, has commended Mills College for the major work undergone by the college since its last review in 2011, including restructuring, changes in leadership and reductions.
WASC is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for determining whether institutions are eligible for federal funding; certification of an institution’s eligibility includes impact on student access to federal financial aid.
“Accrediting is basically being able to prove that you’re doing what you said you were going to do,” said Marianne Sheldon, professor of history and accreditation liaison officer.
In January, the WASC responded to an interim report from Mills that was submitted Oct. 31 of last year; the report was drafted by Sheldon, Alice Knudsen, director of OIRPAA, the Office of Institutional Research and Planning and David Donahue, professor of education.
The draft was then presented for revision to President DeCoudreaux and members of her Cabinet as well as to the Assessment and General Education Committee, the Faculty Executive Committee and the Curriculum Transformation Task Force.
The final 19-page interim report included information about assessment and program review processes, an overview of general education and other topics.
The WASC wrote to President DeCoudreaux in January of this year in response to the report, noting the enrollment and financial challenges being faced by women’s colleges and other institutions.
WASC also spoke about the College’s restructuring: the elimination of some positions, such as Executive Vice President, and the creation of new positions, like the President’s Cabinet; leadership changes and reductions: the elimination of nine staff positions, the hiring freeze that leaves 13 positions unfilled; and a salary reduction for staff members and others.
“Following the long tenure of a President who spent many years rebuilding Mills from even more difficult circumstances, you and your administrative team, with broad support throughout the campus, have courageously focused on the future in the midst of these challenges,” the agency wrote to DeCoudreaux.
WASC also commended Mills for its serious handling of “difficult issues,” by which, Sheldon said, it meant the healing process undergone by the college after the 1990 student strike in response to the College’s decision to go coed; the decision was reversed 16 days later.
WASC complimented Mills for the work it undertook in integrating student assessment throughout the College and the fact that Mills is looking ahead and complying with WASC guidelines surrounding meaning, integrity and quality of the degree.
In Spring 2019, WASC will conduct an Offsite Review at Mills when the College will submit a written report for review. In Fall 2019, there will be an accreditation visit, which is an assessment performed by administrating officials from other institutions.
Knudsen and Sheldon agree that it’s important for students to know that the interim report was received so well and that Mills’s accreditation has never been in jeopardy.
Knudsen said that students constantly need to be asking, “What does the institution say it’s going to do for students?” and “To what extent does it, in fact, do it?”