You might remember that at the start of the New Year, three Ka'ana Mana'o articles focused on the college's accreditation review by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission. (Now the panel is called the WASC Senior Commission of Universities and Colleges.)
The review culminated with the accrediting team visiting the campus in April. The team's report was released July 7.
Everything from defining institutional purposes and ensuring educational objectives, achieving educational objectives through core functions, developing and applying resources and organizational structures to ensure quality and sustainability, and creating an organization committed to quality assurance, institutional learning and improvement was carefully examined.
The result? The commission reaffirmed University of Hawaii Maui College's accreditation for eight years, through June 2022. The full report and findings are posted on the college's website, and can found at maui.hawaii.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/WSUC-Accreditation-Report-2014.pdf.
As with any "report card," areas where the college excelled were called out as well as areas for continuing attention and development.
The report found that "the institution's 'learning-focused mission' was essential to defining UH-MC degrees and that the institution used assessment efforts effectively to gauge quality and rigor." The team noted that an area for future development will be to examine the relationship between the program review process and resource allocation to improve the long-term sustainability of programs offered.
In terms of commitment, the team found that, "UH-MC administration, faculty and staff exemplify a deep commitment to the institution, to the success of its students and to the celebration and showcasing of Native Hawaiian culture." It also noted that, "UH-MC has formed close ties with the communities of Maui and its neighboring islands, tracked emerging educational needs of these communities, and responded to those needs within the limits of UH-MC's resources." And the college was commended for building a "campus of distinctive charm and capacity, and through diligent maintenance conveys to students and the community a respect for its environment."
Areas for development include identifying which enrolled students are truly degree seeking and which are pursuing a class or series of classes for workforce development or to explore an interest. Understanding and documenting the goals of our student population will provide a clearer picture of the college's retention and graduation rate for degree seekers.
Another concern for the team was budgetary sustainability. It noted that in a climate of "long-standing pressures on states to reduced costs," and budgetary support which "has been traditionally flat or declining, . . . faculty and staff have been assigned increased workloads and have had to take on additional responsibilities to meet demand."
The report said: "Fundamental services are being supported by grants that, while demonstrating effectiveness, are short term. During the panel review, the commission received updated information about an increase in this coming year's fiscal budget, although the commission learned that a portion of the extra revenue will come from a tuition increase. This is not sustainable over the long term."
To address these challenges, the team recommended: "UH-MC should consider exploring additional opportunities for revenue consistent with the institution's mission." It also noted that, "the University of Hawaii Community College System and UHMC leadership should continue to work together on lines of reporting and accountability that support an equitable distribution of new funds available from this current 2014-15 academic year going forward."
UH-MC is working on presenting its case for a "more equitable" distribution of resources to the university system vice president and university president. With the search of the next Maui College chancellor underway, UH-MC will take all of the report recommendations into consideration, develop the next strategic plan and initiate a series of next steps to address areas for improvement with an eye to ensuring the long-term sustainability of Maui County's most important resource for higher learning, workforce and community development.
* Clyde Sakamoto is chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. Ka'ana Mana'o means "sharing thoughts." Appearing on the fourth Sunday of each month, the column is prepared with assistance from UH-Maui College staff and keeps Maui County's community informed about opportunities available through the college at its Kahului campus and its education centers.