CCA received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission that will last through the next decade, pushing the next full approval process to 2022-2023.
In giving the final OK to the college’s application on Sept. 25, CCA received the highest ratings in all but two of the areas examined by the HLC.
“I think it really shows students that the institution they’re attending is high quality all across the board – in instruction, in the kinds of student services they get. The HLC looks at everything in an incredibly rigorous review process,” said Chris Ward, the college’s executive director of grants and planning and a member of CCA’s three-person HLC executive team.
The in-house preparation first started in the spring 2011 with a series of committees that compiled information on how CCA was meeting pre-established criteria. The reports were filed about a year later and the process of putting together a self-study began in earnest. A three-person HLC executive team including Ward, Social Sciences chair Geoff Hunt and former Performing Arts and Humanities chair Ruthanne Orihuela shepherded the final documents through Cabinet and into a finished form.
It was the third time CCA has received a 10-year accreditation, following similar processes in 1993 and 2003.
Overall, the peer-driven report has helped the college take a hard look at itself and plot its course moving forward. Assessment of student learning and strategic planning currently are ongoing focuses of the current administration based on HLC recommendations.
“As you know, we are moving along in our strategic planning process and will have a plan in place by early spring semester,” Interim President Betsy Oudenhoven told employees. “As part of this planning we are also working on unit level plans including an Academic Master Plan and a Facilities Master Plan.
In addition, there are ongoing conversations and planning around assessment.”
The core areas addressed in the self-study included: mission, integrity, quality, resources and support tied to teaching and learning; and resources, planning and institutional effectiveness.
CCA received particularly high marks in terms of its integrity in the HLC’s report, a document that also stated in regards to institutional effectiveness that, “CCA has a celebrated collaborative spirit for excellence – one that is demonstrated throughout the institution and embedded in the fabric of its practices.”
The quality of the teaching and learning experience also was lauded by the HLC.
“The institution has developed appropriate degree programs, with the curriculum often developed collaboratively with other institutions within the Colorado Community College System. More recent development of 14 transfer programs called Degrees with Designation has expanded the collaboration to include four-year state universities. Six lifelong learning outcomes have been developed and are now an integral part of the CCA educational experience.
“Certain programs, such as theatre and film, have particularly distinguished themselves as excellent “marquee’ programs, attracting additional students and outside funding. … Perhaps most importantly, current CCA students appear to be genuinely challenged by, and highly appreciative of, the intellectual growth opportunities they are receiving.”
CCA has stood as a national model in concurrent enrollment and received approval to its request to add five more high schools offering 50 percent or more of courses needed for a certificate or degree. That raises the total of ‘locations’ to nine in Aurora and Cherry Creek school districts and includes Aurora Central, William Smith, Rangeview, Overland, Cherokee Trail, Smoky Hill, Hinkley, Gateway, and Vista Peak Prepartory.
The college holds classes at over 20 high schools in total.
A change in student body request – also approved -- was necessary due to the influx of younger students.
Moving forward, CCA will submit two monitoring reports by April 30, 2015, and, as part of updated HLC processes maintaining accreditation, the college also will create documents for two Standard Pathway reviews that includes two comprehensive evaluations in 2016-17 and 2022-23 as well as HLC team visits.
“Thanks again to everyone who participated in our self-study and reaccreditation process over the last couple of years,” Oudenhoven told employees. “I’m confident that, once completed, our strategic plan will provide solid direction or the college over the next five years, and along with the passion and talent of our faculty and staff, we will be well on our way to our next reaccreditation.”