Guest Commentary: Mary Spilde, president of Lane Community College

(ED15)Spilde_optTo our students,

I am proud to announce that Lane Community College’s accreditation was reaffirmed by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). This is your guarantee that the quality of the education you are getting at Lane is officially recognized by an independent authority approved by the Department of Education.

We were concerned by a misleading article in Sunday’s Eugene Register-Guard and I wanted to make sure you got the straight story. I have sent them an op-ed to set the story straight, and wanted to share it with you as well. Here it is:

Lane Community College’s accreditation was reaffirmed by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and the college’s accreditation is in good standing.

Regional accreditation is the method used in the United States to assure quality in higher education. Lane, like every college and university, is periodically reviewed. Standards are set which we are expected to meet. It is a process of continuous improvement; learning how to do things better is the goal. In my own 35-year career in higher education, often serving on accreditation site visit teams, I can assure you it is normal for a college to receive both commendations and recommendations.

This academic year was Lane’s full-scale 7-year review in the accreditation cycle. We began by investing a year in self-study. We identified for ourselves what we were doing well and what needed improvement. And even before the reviewers’ routine site visit in October, we began to implement strategies to improve. Following the evaluation visit, we received eight commendations and seven recommendations. Of more than 113 accreditation elements within the standards, Lane was found to be in compliance with over 100–a pretty good grade by any measure. The Commission’s confidence in Lane was further reflected in its decision to ask Lane to submit progress reports over the next two years, and to forego a focused visit, which is more serious.

The college was commended for its emphasis on student success; student support services; strong policy leadership by the board; transparency and integrity; innovative work attracting national distinction in areas such as student success, sustainability, and college leadership; the downtown campus; a comprehensive library; and diligence in addressing student loan default rates. I was particularly pleased that the college was commended for creating a learning culture that supports and encourages student success, signaling the quality day-to-day work of our faculty and staff.

Most of the recommendations focused on planning, program review and assessment of institutional and student learning outcomes. Our current strategic plan expires in June 2015 and the board of education started developing a new strategic plan last summer. The board is holding a series of Community Conversations throughout Lane County to hear from citizens about what the college should focus on in the future. I encourage you to join us to share your thoughts.

Our faculty are first rate and care about their students. They are very involved in assessing learning. We are rolling out a new focus on learning objectives that go beyond the discipline or program. We want our students to be able to think, create, communicate, engage and apply what they learn to whatever they will face when they are out in the world. Faculty are working these outcomes into their teaching and assessment practices. This year, five separate programs are in the review process. An Institutional Effectiveness Committee has been established, building on the great work of our existing assessment team. We are fully engaged in this work and I am confident that we will be in full compliance in the allotted time.

As noted by NWCCU in its policy statements: “When granted, accreditation is not partial. It applies to the entire institution in operation at the time of the most recent comprehensive evaluation. It indicates that the institution as a whole is substantially achieving its mission and that it meets the Commission’s expectations for compliance with the accreditation criteria.”

That is the case for Lane.

All of the documents relating to our accreditation are posted online at I encourage you to take a look at them.

Lane has served Lane County for 50 years with the belief that everyone has a right to post- secondary education to prepare for work and life. Lane is the community’s college. You can be assured that we offer quality education and training to meet your needs as recognized and affirmed by the NWCCU.

Mary Spilde, President