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NMC Begins Process to Come Under One Accreditor (September 5, 2013)

The Northern Marianas College is taking the next step after its successful effort with the U.S. Department of Education in allowing students enrolled in the College’s Bachelor’s Degree in Education program to continue to be eligible for federal financial aid.

“After the USDOE announced its decision last month, we moved quickly to have NMC’s accreditation fall within one accreditation body instead of two, which is consistent with USDOE requirements,” said NMC President Dr. Sharon Hart.

Last month, the College announced that the U.S. Department of Education was allowing the College’s Bachelor in Education program to continue to receive federal financial aid for 18 months. The extension of time was provided to allow the College to pursue proper accreditation for its Bachelor in Education Program that would satisfy Title IV requirements.

The College also announced that the USDOE determined that it would not seek a refund of earlier-disbursed financial aid.

The next step now involves the preparation a substantive change proposal that will allow its bachelor’s degree in education program to be accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).

The bachelor’s in education program is already accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities (ACSCU), which, like ACCJC, is part of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

However, because this joint accreditation of NMC by both ACCJC and ACSCU is not consistent with the U.S. Department of Education’s regulations, the College is preparing the substantive change proposal that would allow the bachelor’s degree in education program to be accredited by ACCJC, thus having all of NMC’s programs accredited under one accrediting body.

According to the ACCJC’s Manual on Substantive Change, “The substantive change review process provides the Commission a means for ensuring that a college maintains the educational quality and integrity of its programs and services, and that the substantive change is consistent with the institutional mission.”

“We want to ensure that students who are enrolled in the College’s bachelor’s degree program continue to benefit from federal financial aid without any disruption,” said NMC President Dr. Sharon Hart. “The substantive change proposal would allow all the programs to fall under one accrediting body which would meet USDOE requirements.”

In its meeting held last week, the NMC Board of Regents voted to move forward with the substantive change proposal. It is expected to review the draft of the substantive change document later this month.

“There has been a steering committee established to work on the substantive change proposal,” said Dean of Academic Programs and Services Barbara Merfalen. “The committee includes the director of the School of Education, the liberal arts coordinator, the accreditation liaison officer, one full-time faculty member, and myself.”

According to Hart, the College expects to submit a final version of the change request to ACCJC by September 30, 2013.

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