An exploration of organizational behavior that affects California community colleges’ ability to remove sanctions and have accreditation reaffirmed
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Accreditation is a federally recognized review process of quality assurance in higher education and is intended to engage institutions in continuous efforts to improve quality. If a college does not receive a positive evaluation as a result of an accreditation review, its regional accrediting agency may impose a sanction until that time when the college can fix deficiencies identified during the evaluation process. In California, the number of public community colleges having a sanction imposed by the western region’s Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) has increased since the turn of the century, rising from one college on sanction in 2003 to as many as 27 colleges on sanction in 2012. From 2008 through 2013, 70 of California’s 112 community colleges had experienced a sanction. Of those, 49 made recommended improvements and had their accreditation reaffirmed within two years. However, some colleges take longer to make improvements and to have the sanction lifted. Focusing on colleges that successfully removed a sanction, this study employed a qualitative research approach using multiple methods: a survey questionnaire and a multiple case study of two colleges. Accreditation Liaison Officers from eight colleges responded to the survey. Two colleges participated in the multiple case study in which administrators, managers, faculty, and classified staff were interviewed. Survey and interview participants were asked what they believed were the organizational behaviors and characteristics that contributed to their successful removal of the sanction. Findings indicate that successful colleges did not delay responding to the sanction; they organized human resources into work groups to accomplish tasks; they mapped out plans and created timelines for completion; they increased communication efforts across campus; they involved many persons from their multiple constituent groups; and they documented all work and accomplishments. Findings also indicate that leaders at successful colleges are effective communicators and organizers; value the accreditation process; exhibit trust, respect, and openness, and work collaboratively and collegially. The findings in this study may provide helpful information to sanctioned colleges in the future.
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