OCCC’s Central County Campus in Newport.

OCCC achieves major milestone towards independent accreditation

Oregon Coast Community College has been granted Candidacy status, the final stage prior to independent regional accreditation. The announcement was made Thursday, July 26, by Sonny Ramaswamy, President of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Regional accreditation provides students with access to federal financial aid, and also ensures that credits earned are transferable. Currently, OCCC programs and services are accredited through an agreement with  Portland Community College.

According to Ramaswamy’s letter, the NWCCU took the action at its meeting on June 27-29, 2018, “after consideration of evidence, including the Institution’s Self-Evaluation Report, the Peer-Evaluation Report, the Institutional Response to the Peer-Evaluation Report, and the information received as part of the institutional representative meeting with commissioners.”

OCCC President Birgitte Ryslinge, Dean of Academics and Workforce Daniel Lara, and Dean of Students Cindy Carlson attended the June meeting of the NWCCU and addressed the commission.

“It is my great pleasure to let you know that OCCC has been granted Candidacy by NWCCU,” Ryslinge wrote in an email to the College’s Board of Education and management team late Thursday “Now, we set our eyes towards independence!”

The College’s Self-Evaluation Report was filed with the NWCCU in February of 2018. An NWCCU peer evaluation visit took place April 9 to 11, in Newport and Lincoln City. The Self-Evaluation Report, the Peer-Evaluation Report compiled by the visiting team, and the College’s Response to the Peer-Evaluation Report are all available for public viewing on the College’s website.

OCCC’s North County Center in Lincoln City.

A long journey

Oregon Coast Community College was founded in 1987. For the first twenty-plus years of its history the college provided classes and services out of a variety of rented spaces. In 2004 the voters of Lincoln County passed a $23.5 million bond to develop a permanent college campus in Newport and college centers in Lincoln City and Waldport. The faculty, staff, and students of OCCC deeply appreciate the tremendous support shown by the voters of Lincoln County, then and now.

In July 2014, Dr. Ryslinge was named the president of Oregon Coast Community College and was charged by the OCCC Board of Education with leading the college to independent accreditation.

Since its founding, OCCC’s academic programs have been accredited through other Oregon community colleges. Since 2014, OCCC has been accredited through Portland Community College.  Every graduate who crossed the stage during this June’s commencement ceremony earned a PCC diploma.

“We’re thankful to PCC for their tremendous support of Oregon Coast,” Ryslinge said. “But, we know that the best way OCCC can serve the residents of Lincoln County is to secure its own independence. When our students cross the stage and collect the diplomas they’ve earned, we want those diplomas to say ‘Oregon Coast Community College.’ The ‘Oregon Coast Diploma’ is one of our foundational strategic objectives and it means far more than a name printed on a document. It represents local responsiveness and services we can tailor to meet the challenges, the needs, and the opportunities Lincoln County presents now, and will present in the future.”

OCCC’s South County Center in Waldport.

The process towards Independence

Oregon Coast Community College informed the NWCCU of its intent to pursue independent accreditation via a report filed in July 2014. The College was granted “Applicant” status in 2016. With this week’s announcement it has achieved “Candidate” status, the only remaining step is to be granted fully independent Accredited status. However, recognition as Candidate neither implies nor ensures an institution will attain Accredited status with the NWCCU. Though every case is different, the process of a college like OCCC pursuing independent accreditation historically has taken 7-10 years.  Now that OCCC has been awarded Candidacy, NWCCU allows up to five years to reach Accreditation.

“We have come a long way,” Ryslinge said, “and we know that there is still significant work to be done in order to be fully independent. Our team is ready and eager for the challenge. The communities and students we serve deserve nothing less.”

Follow the College’s progress towards independent accreditation here.