Cuesta College might lose its accreditation and, with it, students’ ability to transfer units to four-year universities.
After years of troubling reviews by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), Cuesta is now at the lowest possible status before losing its accreditation. If accreditation is revoked, Cuesta students would not be eligible for financial aid, and their units would not transfer from Cuesta to other schools.
The ACCJC sent a letter to recently-hired Cuesta president Gil Stork last week stating the college needs to “show cause” as to why it should not lose its accreditation.
Stork, a Cal Poly graduate appointed to run Cuesta last November, said in a press release he was disappointed by the commission’s decision. He said the college has made significant progress in fulfilling the commission’s recommendations so far. In the press release, Stork also said the school will continue to serve students as an accredited college, and he believes Cuesta will be able to work through its struggles.
“I can assure you that Cuesta College will rise out of this black mark, so to speak, and continue to be the premiere college in California,” Stork said at a press conference Monday.
San Luis Obispo County Community College District president Pat Mullen said in a press release that he will give Cuesta his full support to address the recommendations listed in the commission’s report. Though the commission did recognize some improvement from Cuesta, Mullen said he too was disappointed when the school received the letter informing administrators of the downgrade in status.
“We believe the commission overlooked a number of the incredibly substantial amount of items and progress the college has made,” Mullen said at the press conference.
Though it is unclear what the future of Cuesta might be under its new leader, Associated Students of Cuesta College (ASCC) president Kayli Mozingo said students are worried about their short-term options at the school. She said many students are concerned about not being able to transfer units to four-year universities such as Cal Poly, but ASCC is making sure students know the accreditation status of Cuesta has not changed — it will remain accredited during the revision proces.
“The feeling of campus is a little bit of shock and confusion, and wondering what’s going on,” Mozingo said.
She said ASCC is in the process of meeting with several college administrators and they are all working toward retaining accreditation.
“We have full confidence that Cuesta will get through this,” Mozingo said.
Also confident about Cuesta’s status is Cal Poly associate vice provost of enrollment Jim Maraviglia. He said Cuesta traditionally has strong, competitive applicants for Cal Poly due to their coursework at the community college. From years of working with Stork, Maraviglia said he is sure that under the new leadership, Cuesta will be able to come out of its decline in ACCJC evaluations.
“I’m fully confident in Cuesta, and especially in its leadership in Gil Stork,” Maraviglia said. “There’s no hopefully; he will turn it around there.”
Cuesta had its warning status temporarily removed by the ACCJC in 2008, but that warning was reinstated in 2009. Then, in 2010, the school was downgraded to a probationary status. That probation continued through 2011, though the commission recognized Cuesta made improvements in its administrative leadership. The most recent “show cause” status could be the last blow before the ACCJC eventually revokes accreditation.
According to the commission’s report, Cuesta has not yet corrected some of the recommendations from its 2009 warning. These include deficiencies in technology resources and financial planning, as well as strategic planning and assessment.
In its latest report, the ACCJC said Cuesta administrators needed to begin looking at a plan if accreditation is revoked. Maraviglia said some community colleges that lose their accreditation merge with another school that is accredited so units can still transfer. This was the case at Compton College in 2005, when it lost its accreditation and was transitioned to a satellite campus at El Camino College.
According to the commission website, all accredited schools are expected to maintain the ACCJC standards at all times. “Anything short of that,” the website reads, “would diminish public confidence in accreditation as a means of assuring quality.”
None of the commission members nor Stork were available for comment Tuesday.