It’s all about the students

PUHI — Kauai Community College was reaffirmed as accredited in January, a two-year-long process that included hosting a team of peers from California and the Marshall Islands, all part of the Western Collection of Community and Junior Colleges.

And the college made it through the process with flying colors.

“We had zero compliance recommendations, not a single one,” said Chancellor Helen Cox. “Most of the people at the college really engaged, took it seriously, and saw it as an opportunity.”

The team of people that came to evaluate the college were staff and faculty from other colleges and met with a total of 149 people — a combination of faculty, staff, students and community members. The accreditation team was on Kauai from Oct. 15 to 18.

Getting ready for the evaluation and reaffirmation of accreditation took two years of information collection, analyzing different areas of improvement, and paperwork compiling.

“Accreditation is important because we’re not able to provide financial aid to students if the college isn’t accredited,” said Valerie Barko, director of institutional effectiveness and one of the leaders in the process. “It helps with transfer of credits and licensure exams, too.”

Barko worked with Cox, a team of faculty and staff, and with Jon Kalk, mathematics professor who helped with the process.

Improving student success was one of the changes the taskforce working on the reaffirmation of accreditation targeted, particularly the two elements of scheduling and onboarding, or the process of getting an interested student enrolled and in class.

“One of the things we changed is now new students going after a certificate or degree must meet with a counselor,” Cox said. “It’s making sure we’re supporting students through the process and their first year.”

The other recommendation the accreditation team made was already in the works as well at KCC, and was a change from evaluating student success based on a course to basing it on an entire program, looking for consistencies and learning outcomes.

“Most students don’t want to just finish a course, they’re there to finish a program,” Cox said. “We changed the evaluation to the whole program and then we’re working backward from that to assess the courses.”

Now that they’re re-accredited, Barko said she’s already gearing up for the next round of the process, which will happen in seven years.

“We don’t want to get to year five and not have any data or information collected,” Cox said.

Barko pointed out this re-accreditation evaluation is a real culmination of Cox’s tenure as chancellor because she’s the only person who’s served in that role during the seven year-period.

“It says a lot about her leadership,” Barko said.

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Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.

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