From the description provided by members of the CCRI Foundation, last week’s visit by the New England Association on Schools and College’s accreditation team was a nail-biting two-and-a-half days.
“We really sweated this visit out,” Rich Coren, director of marketing and communications, told foundation members Friday morning. Leading up to the visit, the college prepared a 300-page self-evaluation.
But after the exit interview with team leader Dr. Carole Cowan, president of Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts, CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale wasn’t just relieved, but positively ecstatic. Now he’s hopeful legislators won’t only recognize what the college brings to the state, but also heed its request for additional funding so as to continuing serving Rhode Islanders without having to reduce services or increase tuition.
“I think we’re going to do OK,” Di Pasquale told college trustees. Then, after a pause to reflect, he added, “We did more than OK.”
That wasn’t the case when the NEASC team last visited the college 10 years ago. That team left a list of deficiencies, including the lack of a strategic plan and issues reflecting a lack of purpose and morale.
This time the accreditation team cited many positives and, as Di Pasquale pointed out, a few deficiencies, “but nothing serious.”
The exit interview is not the final step in the process. In order for accreditation to be extended another 10 years, the NEASC board must take action. That isn’t expected until September or October.
“It’s as good as it gets,” said Di Pasquale. “We did well.”
In an April 2 memo to the staff, Di Pasquale said Cowan “spoke of our strengths related to each of the 11 standards.” He went on to describe the college’s contributions to the state, its ability to provide skilled workers to the workforce; implementation of its strategic plan; and his optimism regarding the faculty’s new governance model and commitment to teaching excellence.
“The team felt that our faculty are highly credentialed professionals dedicated to supporting students and that students feel that our faculty care for them as individuals,” Di Pasquale wrote.
Trustee Mary Breton offered her take on the college’s transition and positive NEASC review. Breton followed the accreditation process 10 years ago and hence provided a comparison.
Speaking of Di Pasquale, she said, “He won people over by just liking everyone. Slowly he got the support of the chairs and the administration to put in place the changes that make the school.”
She went on to say Di Pasquale positioned the college for the future and managed to do it all in the face of budget cuts.
“Now we need to keep the momentum going,” Di Pasquale said.
He noted the college’s recent appearances before the House and Senate finance committees. He said the college needs an additional $3.5 million “to stay even,” citing a $970,000 increase in health insurance costs alone.
Foundation president Mark Kim said trustees whose goal is to raise funding for scholarships and to support the institution focus on the bottom line as their measure of success when what they have to say about the college to friends and acquaintances builds greater awareness. He said that is equally important and essential to gaining community and political support for the institution.