Highline’s recent accreditation went well and was an important step in planning for the future, said President Dr. John Mosby.
Accreditation is a multi-step evaluation process that happens at all colleges once every seven years. It is done to verify that the institution is fulfilling expectations and operating effectively.
“The goal is to establish and maintain an acceptable quality of educational programs and institutional effectiveness,” Highline’s website says. “Part of the process is a self-assessment that allows the institution to reflect on its programs, policies, and procedures, its strengths and weaknesses in accomplishing its educational mission, and its future goals.”
Another important aspect of accreditation is to remind college officials not only of the work they’ve done, but what they should focus on going forward.
“The accreditation process allows you to review and celebrate the work that you’ve done, but also identify what there is to work on,” said Dr. Mosby, who has been president at Highline for two and a half years.
This time around, the accreditation served as an important step on the path to the college’s future.
“We are ready, because we’ve finished this accreditation cycle, to create a new plan that will help us chart the next seven to 10 years for Highline College,” Dr. Mosby said.
In fact, college officials were specifically waiting on the accreditation before making any major changes, out of respect for the previous leadership, he said.
“We are at a point right now where it’s time for us, because we have an outdated master plan, to create a new strategic plan for the college,” said Dr. Mosby. “Coming in, I didn’t want to change our plan mid-cycle, I wanted to have this visit and then begin the process of reimagining our institution.
“We’ve had a lot of changes in our college—I’ve only been here two and a half years, and in the executive leadership, we have lots of executive cabinet members who are relatively new—and we wanted to honor the work that has been done previously.”
There are several stages Highline goes through for the accreditation.
First, the college is visited by the accreditation team, who gives a detailed evaluation.
“We get a report from the visiting team, and it basically summarizes and talks about their observations and areas where we could improve,” Dr. Mosby said. “We get that draft, we go through and review [it], and if there’s an error we need to clarify for the visiting team, we do that when the document is submitted to the commission.”
After that, it’s up to the NWCCU (Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities) to decide the college’s fate.
“When the commission does their review, they take that document, they review it, and then they invite me as president to come and speak to the document if they have any questions, or anything,” said Dr. Mosby. “They had a couple questions, which was standard, and I answered. Now, they review the recommendations from the visiting team, along with our comments, and then determine if we’ve passed or not.”
Last October, Highline officials went through a mock accreditation to prepare for the real thing.
“We had a one-day visit where we had folks from the system come out, help us, and answer our questions,” said Dr. Mosby. “It gave us an opportunity to see how well we answered their questions, and we received feedback from the mock team.”
Not all colleges do this, he said.
“It was very helpful for me, since this was my first accreditation at Highline,” Dr. Mosby said.
Before he was president at Highline, Dr. Mosby served as vice president for student services at Mission College in Santa Clara, Calif.
The accreditation process here differs in several ways to the process in California, he said.
“The one in California, it’s basically three and a half to four days, and it’s only two days and a quarter here. More than anything, it’s the length of it that’s different,” said Dr. Mosby. “I also, I don’t know, I found the experience, that with the Washington commission there was just a lot more help through the process than my experience in California. Other folks might feel differently.”
He went on to say that his experience here was also less stressful than in California.
“In California you have a whole week of people visiting and you’re just completely worn out,” he said. “Another thing California does, they might decide in the evening that they want to interview five more groups of people, so they call and tell you, and you have to scramble. Here, our schedule was our schedule. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, now we need to meet with the president.’”
Looking forward, college officials want to place more of a focus on data and what students have to say.
“As an institution we really need to utilize data more,” said Dr. Mosby. “We have data, but we need to give more power to it. The data is one way of telling us the story of the community. We need to really look at that data, since that helps drive what we do in terms of policies and other things.”
He explained that the conversation with the accreditation team was very productive.
“They had talked to us about things we already knew about, but the good thing I would say is, it wasn’t this critical, ‘Your college is in danger’ conversation,” Dr. Mosby said. “It was, ‘Well, here’s the things we’ve noticed, and these are the things we’d like you to think about as you plan for the future.’”
He emphasized the college’s responsibility to listen to and provide for its students, explaining that this is not something exclusive to the accreditation process, but something that should be on their minds all the time.
“We should always be striving to improve the experiences and successes of our students,” Dr. Mosby said. “No matter what the evaluation says, that should be our goal all the time.”
All in all, Dr. Mosby said he is pleased with how the accreditation went and hopeful for the future of the college.
“Overall, it was a good experience,” he said. “The feedback I did hear was nothing but positive, so I’m very confident in our future moving forward.”