Thomas Nelson Community College’s Fifth-Year Interim Report to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) earned a stellar review. The news came Jan. 12 when the commission revealed that the College complies with all 22 of its accreditation standards.
The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Impact Report also met the commission’s expectations, according to Thomas Nelson’s Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness Steven Felker, who received the SACSCOC letter.
“College assessment and quality enhancement efforts are essential to our College’s ability to accomplish the goals articulated in our College Mission and our new strategic plan," said College President Towuanna Porter Brannon. "As students are our top priority, we are committed to a culture of continuous evaluation, innovation, and improvement of our academic and skilled trades programs, student support services, and a campus infrastructure that promotes high-quality instruction.”
The SACSCOC, explained Felker, requires all institutions it accredits to submit the Fifth-Year Interim Report. The report provides a check point midway between decennial reviews on certain SACSCOC standards that are commonly cited for non-compliance and others that are of particular interest to the Department of Education.
The College report’s favorable review was a welcome relief.
“This is the most positive outcome that can come from a Fifth-Year Interim Report review,” he stated. “It means that we will not need to provide any follow-up reporting, and that our accreditation will continue without monitoring or sanctions.”
Felker views this a noteworthy achievement given that most schools are required to do minor follow-up reporting after their Fifth-Year Interim Report review.
The commission’s Fifth-Year Interim Report covers a subset of 22 of SACSCOC’s (the Principles of Accreditation) total accreditation standards, Felker explained. The 22 that are covered at the fifth-year point fall under the categories of Administration and Organization; Faculty; Student Achievement; Educational Program Structure and Content; Educational Policies, Procedures, and Practices; Academic and Student Support Services; Financial and Physical Resources; and Transparency and Institutional Representation.
Of the standards Thomas Nelson met, he is most pleased about that related to program-level student learning outcome assessment.
"That particular standard is often a challenge for institutions, as it requires evidence that all programs are engaged in the work of assessment and are doing so regularly. It is one of the most commonly-cited standards for non-compliance by SACSCOC." Felker noted. "Given all of the challenges related to the pandemic, and all of the changes we have experienced in terms of staffing support for assessment and in program chair assignments, I am extremely proud of our faculty for their work on assessment over the last two years."
The College’s Fifth-Year Interim Report went to SACSCOC for review last September. Requiring input and contributions from nearly all areas of the College, the report included 150 pages of narrative text and 358 linked documents as evidence. Felker said collaboration was the absolute key to this effort and he acknowledged Terry Allen, Valerie Burge-Hall, and Samantha Saghera for their service on the leadership team.
“They were instrumental to its success in so many ways. I cannot thank them enough,” he added, noting that acing this report now allows the College to move toward the future on a high note.
“Having this positive outcome from the fifth-year review means we have good momentum headed into our next decennial review,” he added, “and can focus our attention on further improving our practices rather than having to respond to compliance issues.”
“While work has already begun on certain aspects of the decennial review, the majority of the work will occur in the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 academic years. Our SACSCOC orientation for the next decennial review will be held in December 2023, and we will want to have our team in place and prepared for the work at least six months in advance of that orientation,” said Felker.