Burning Down the House? Accreditation and California Community Colleges

Several days ago the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) published a report excoriating its regional accreditor, the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). To my knowledge a state higher education agency has never banded together with disaffected voices within its state to take on an accreditation agency. Until now.

The ACCJC accredits two-year colleges in California, Hawaii, and American territories and protectorates in the Pacific Ocean. It’s been a rocky patch for ACCJC lately, especially since it attempted to deny accreditation to the City College of San Francisco in 2013. While CCSF has been granted a…

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CEOs, Consultants, and Strategic Planning: The Case for Pre-Assessment

The most skilled of facilitators can take a college only so far. A college has to want a meaningful plan and think clearly about its planning challenges. Few colleges can identify those challenges before a strategic planning process begins. The tool linked at the end of this blog post intends to clarify both opportunities and obstacles.

CEOs and their teams make the difference. Nearly all gaps along the path to a truly strategic plan are leadership gaps. It’s certainly tough being a CEO these days with relentless demands placed on that office. Busy or not, there are common sense…

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Barriers to Innovation?

First, many believe that innovation occurs only in “special” places and then only among “select individuals.” This belief holds that the universe aligns sporadically to produce innovation and it happens only in far, far away places. An organization’s low expectations for what might be accomplished for itself leads to putting other places on a pedestal. I’m not always sure that institutions with a reputation for being first are always worthy of worship, but that’s a topic for later.

Second is the belief that the cost to innovate is more than its return. Better–this meme holds–to keep doing what’s “worked…

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Getting to The Dance: Innovation and Strategic Planning

It’s so true that assembling all elements of a comprehensive plan (environmental scan, planning assumptions, SWOT analyses, enrollment projections, academic program analysis, etc.) could conceivably take all of an institution’s energy that might otherwise be used to innovate. I’m also sympathetic to the idea that compiling all the components of a traditional strategic plan could distract a college from being innovative, especially as the song goes, “if that’s all there is.” But, the problem isn’t these elements, or the oxygen that they take to create. The problem is that most plans don’t connect traditional elements meaningfully so that they…

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A Consultant’s Guide to Spotting Toxic Organizations

Most organizations don’t know what they don’t know, but let’s not confuse that with toxicity. The litmus test is whether the organization understands how important it is to learn. A toxic organization is more likely to cling to old, familiar behaviors and to actively resist efforts to turn foundational ignorance around. A learning organization–on the other hand–understands the value of being wrong and celebrates the journey necessary to getting better. Toxic organizations already believe they are better and consequently are more likely to engage in consultant abuse.

Several weeks ago, I fired a toxic organization after a steadily devolving…

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Spinning Out of Control with Randomized Controls

Others, including Michael Quinn Patton, have been seeking to widen educators’ knowledge about the possible in proving things work. Disputing this false “Gold Standard,” Patton offers some common sense advice well worth considering. Considering that standards for research are different from evaluation, Patton includes utility, feasibility, propriety, and accuracy as key goals. How often to higher education researchers fold these touchstones into their work? Not often in my opinion, especially when recommending RCT’s. Remember, the goal of research in the area of student outcomes is to determine what types of students change in what way under what circumstances.

Patton…

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Rick’s Rubrics for Strategic Planning

At Stellenbosch, two bright South African higher education pacesetters, Lynda Murray and Pieter Vermeulen, joined with me to evaluate the university’s institutional research and planning function. These evaluations are always much more than focusing solely on an institutional research office, however. It’s not possible keep an evaluation of an institution’s use of information inside a tight box, without commenting on the bigger world inside the university and outside. Stellenbosch was no different.

To say that South Africa’s higher education (tertiary) sector has undergone a major transformation since Reconciliation in 1994 could qualify as an all-time understatement. The post-apartheid era…

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Eating Our Young: Financing Higher Education

SHEEO’s report documents what happens when enrollments swell, tax revenues decline, and public apathy reigns. According to this report, college enrollment increased nationally by 12.5 percent, to 11.5 million students from 2007-2008 until last year. But state and local appropriations have decreased by $1.3-billion over the same period. The SHEEO report doesn’t mention that the surge in enrollment was experienced at community colleges at least in the early years of the Great Recession. It’s inevitable–short of a sea change of tsunami proportions–that in this environment tuition revenue per student would reach an all-time high last year.

Chicken Little may…

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