At the ESCC College Advisory Board meeting on Tuesday, July 13, Vice President for Academic, Student & Workforce Education Dr. Patrick Tompkins announced that Your Eastern Shore Community College has become fully reaccredited.
“It’s been a difficult journey for everyone, these last couple of years,” said ESCC President Dr. James Shaeffer. “In the midst of undergoing an extremely rigorous reaccreditation process, the College was also subjected to a state-mandated Refresh, accompanied by a large side order of remote instruction and services during a pandemic.”
All post-secondary institutions in the United States must be accredited by an independent body in order for students to be eligible for federal financial aid. Additionally, most other colleges and many employers do not recognize certificates and degrees from institutions that are not accredited.
ESCC’s accrediting agency is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), often regarded as one of the toughest accreditors. “It’s a big deal,” said Judith Grier, Coordinator of Research, Planning, and Assessment and the college’s liaison with SACSCOC. “The process takes years to prepare for and complete and involves everyone at the college, including students.”
In June of 2019, the college was reaccredited but was required to submit a Monitoring Report in 2020 to further demonstrate compliance with the accrediting standard related to student support services. However, in July of 2019 the college significantly reorganized its operations and personnel in response to a Virginia Community College System mandate to “refresh” the college to ensure its continued relevancy to the Shore community. Areas of particular need were to rein in costs and revitalize academic and workforce education programs.
In early 2020, near the start of the pandemic in Virginia, ESCC submitted a report that detailed for SACSCOC the massive organizational changes as a result of the Refresh. Ms. Grier explained, “We weren’t the same college in July of 2019 as we were in June of 2019.” SACSCOC therefore required a
second Monitoring Report to be submitted in 2021 because the college had not yet completed a full cycle of goal setting, action plans, assessment, and plan revision within its new organizational structure.
When the pandemic hit, the burden fell heaviest on the Student Services unit, led by Coordinator Ms. Cheryll Mills. “We had to figure it all out and fulfill the commitments we made in the first Monitoring Report,” Ms. Mills stated. “How do you provide student orientation, how do you host college fairs, how do you deliver disabilities services?”
President Shaeffer noted it was a team effort, and the report was hundreds of pages long, principally assembled by Ms. Grier.
Tompkins added, “I’ve worked at six colleges and universities, and this is without compare the best team I’ve ever had the privilege to serve with. We see ourselves as a family, caring for each other as we deliver on our mission to the community.”
Shaeffer attributes success to the College’s YES! (Your Eastern Shore) culture of hospitality. “Our staff and faculty identify their individual YES!—mine is inclusivity—and we hold ourselves accountable to it.”
Although accreditation is an ongoing commitment to educational excellence, the current accreditation is good for ten years. “Now,” Tompkins said, “we can continue the great good work of this college in meeting the educational needs of residents and employers on the Shore.”