College prepares to meet challenges of 21st-century learning

In spring 2014, the University of Hawaii Maui College will undergo an accreditation review of its higher education programs and services. University and college professional peers will be reviewing and evaluating how well the college meets the standards and expectations for continuously improving student learning to meet 21st-century needs and opportunities. They will be especially interested in how the college measures and assesses its programs to ensure students are prepared for careers in their fields of study.

These are just some of the important questions asked of all higher education institutions as part of their accreditation or regularly scheduled reviews. For details, see Along with UH Manoa, UH Hilo, and UH West Oahu, Maui College belongs to the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities. Other two-year community colleges in Hawaii are members of the WASC Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. All public and private accredited institutions in Hawaii and California as well as those in the Pacific are part of this WASC region.

Maui College’s successful reaccreditation will be critical to accessing federal financial aid and grant competitions to strengthen higher education in Maui County. Peer evaluators will examine faculty, staff and administrative accountability for student learning, graduation rates and overall performance measured against current education standards and similar institutions around the country. The challenge to both the upcoming evaluation team and the college will be that Maui College is the only public two-year college in Hawaii or California that has begun offering four-year degrees and been accepted into the senior accrediting commission.

The college’s faculty and staff have been anticipating these accreditation requirements and designing them into updated processes that assess and improve student learning outcomes. Starting in 2010 with a campus and community retreat to set the themes for the self-study, the accrediting review team reviewed and analyzed elements of the college’s performance that needed to be preserved and looked for ways to ensure that its mission, vision and values could be better understood, articulated and realized.

The Maui College community then went a step further. They agreed to participate in two WASC Sr. pilot programs to redesign the process of accreditation and help define the framework for clarifying the meaning of degrees. So in addition to the standard materials required for a WASC Sr. assessment, the Maui College team chose to report on the meaning and rigor of the college’s degrees, graduation proficiencies, student success and institutional capacity to adapt to future needs and changes.

After reading the college’s initial reaccreditation report, the WASC Sr. accreditation team commended the college for, among other things, its “conspicuous attention to assessment and . . . an alignment of learning outcomes with the college’s mission.” It noted the use of advisory boards to “establish thoughtful and meaningful degree completion standards.” It also requested further explanation on a number of items, like how student learning in the college’s baccalaureate programs are differentiated from, and build on, the associate programs, and how the college is assessing student learning and graduation proficiencies for online or distance-learning students.

To learn more or read UH Maui College’s Institutional Reaccreditation Report, the WASC Off-Site Review Summary of Findings, and follow the process, visit the college’s website at

* Clyde Sakamoto is chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. Ka’ana Mana’o, or “sharing thoughts,” appears on the fourth Sunday of each month. UH-Maui College staff assists in preparing the column that informs the community of opportunities at the college’s Kahului campus and its education centers.