Before I write about how our accrediting commission’s policies just stopped me from helping best serve a student (and a group of students), I should preface this blog article, with the fact that in general I think the Council on Occupational Education is a very good accrediting agency, and that most of their policies that have hurt our students, are not necessarily policies that they chose, but are likely policies dictated partially to them by the U.S. Department of Education, which in turn had things dictated to them from the U.S. Congress. So, I don’t want this article to be misconstrued as an attack on our accrediting agency.
But on the other hand, if criticism is not shared, improvements are less likely to happen. Currently Twin Rivers Adult School is a candidate for accreditation through the Council on Occupational Education (COE). As candidates we are not supposed to make “Substantive Changes”, further before making any changes we are supposed to get it approved by COE (even if we weren’t candidates). I recognize that this has been put into place such that Title IV Accrediting Agencies become de facto regulators. And that this particular regulation has been put into place to attempt to stop dubious and bad post-secondary institutions from doing things too quickly, without oversight.
The problem is that we are a public school, and we already have oversight on many levels, and of most concern, the red tape that is there to slow us down is causing us to not be able to react as quickly as we need in the environment we exist within. As an example, just this morning, we had a student whose native language is one other than English, and thus he could really use English as a Second Language (ESL) courses. Further, he wants to learn the trade of Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC).
And while we already have a Vocational ESL classes, and an HVAC program as existing things we do, we are not allowed to combine these 2 together today for him, so he could have an ESL HVAC program. (Which a lot of our other students need also). We hope to get this approved sometime next year, but by the time that happens, there will be many students who were not served, even though we already had all the pieces in place to serve them, because having a different permutation was considered a “substantive change”.