After receiving a formal warning letter from the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) in January, Cuesta College has erased concerns that it may be on the verge of losing its accreditation.

The commission sent a team to visit the Cuesta campus late last year and officially put the school on warning status. In its warning letter to Cuesta, the ACCJC said that its primary issue was the lack of permanent employees in many head positions at the college. At the time of visit, Cuesta had six of 10 senior faculty slots unfilled or filled on an interim basis.

Cuesta responded soon after, hiring David Pelham as its new president. Pelham wasted little time reorganizing the faculty and getting Cuesta back on track towards remaining fully accredited.

Had Cuesta lost its accreditation, students attempting to transfer to Cal Poly or other state universities would be unable to transfer their units from Cuesta to the new school.

“(Accreditation) was certainly the biggest priority when I started,” Pelham said.

Pelham said that the other key point the ACCJC mentioned in the warning letter dealt with the budget and planning processes.

“The commission had concerns about the degree to which the college’s planning process was connected to budget,” Pelham said. “They told us, ‘don’t plan and put together a budget that has nothing to do with the planning process.’”

Cuesta quickly hired senior faculty members and made changes to the school’s budget, which was easy, Pelham said, deflectingi much of the credit to the faculty’s efforts before he was hired.

“The reality is the college had taken care of everything by the time I started,” Pelham said. “The faculty and staff who worked on the report very diligently, they’re the ones that deserve all the credit.”

Within a month of Pelham’s hiring, Cuesta prepared and sent a letter to the ACCJC documenting all of the changes it had made since its previous visit. In April, the commission sent a team out to view the progress and agreed with the changes that Cuesta made.

With the warning status removed by the ACCJC, Pelham stressed the importance of knowing that the school never actually lost its accreditation.

“The college was placed on warning; it really had no effect on our accreditation status. We were accredited the entire time,” Pelham said. “None of our past, current, or future students have to worry about that.”

The ACCJC will send another team to visit the Cuesta campus this October. Pelham said he was concerned that the public may mistake its visit with more accreditation woes, but he insists it will have no bearing on the current accreditation cycle. Instead, it will be the beginning of the next six-year accreditation cycle.

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