The Northern Marianas College had its accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission reaffirmed yesterday for eight years—the longest accreditation term yet in the college’s history.
The milestone came with a barrage of recognitions, with the commission praising the college for its timely, comprehensive, and effective response to Super Typhoon Yutu and to the COVID-19 pandemic; and for its resilient faculty, student, and staff who have remained steadfast amidst geopolitical uncertainties and socioeconomic disruptions.
Even NMC president Dr. Galvin Deleon Guerrero admits they were happily surprised by the eight-year accreditation. He said during yesterday’s press briefing that they were “reasonably expecting” to get a six-year accreditation term, with a midterm visit. With the eight years now in the bag, the next review is scheduled in the fall of 2029.
Deleon Guerrero said the accreditation is a clear demonstration of the college’s commitment to providing quality education and services as an institution of higher education, adding that the accreditation is an important prerequisite for students to qualify for federal financial aid.
Deleon Guerrero said the many crises that the college and its students have gone through have also prepared them to surmount the latest challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many institutions across the nation, [it] took them months to reopen, even virtually,” Deleon Guerrero said. “NMC was back at it virtually within weeks, and it was because we had been tested through the crucible of Super Typhoon Yutu, Typhoon Soudelor, and Typhoon Mangkhut, and we knew what it took to get back on track.”
WASC evaluates and accredits educational institutions in different parts of the world, including California, Hawaii, Guam, and the CNMI, and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
The commission commended NMC for its strong and supportive relations with the CNMI government. At the accreditation announcement yesterday, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres recalled how his heart broke walking into the devastated NMC campus soon after Yutu hit, and highlighted the resiliency of its faculty and students to bounce back.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for us to build a campus for all of us, our children, our grandchildren; [an opportunity to build] something that is state-of-the-art [for us] to be proud of. But we won’t be here if it’s not for the community,” the governor said before appealing to private organizations to invest in NMC.
“This is a real success for all of us,” Torres said. “At the end of the day, we all sail in one direction—that is to succeed and give our children, our students, the opportunity that will make the CNMI proud.”
WASC also praised NMC for its effective management of limited financial resources and for the new Facilities Master Plan that is the blueprint for the college’s future developments, with a close to $100 million in funds secured to put up the new buildings within the next five years.
“All of these commendations are a true reflection of how amazing the college is and the commission wants us to do more. They’ve seen what we can do and they expect us to do more,” the NMC president said.
The positive words from WASC was leavened with some recommendations that Deleon Guerrero said NMC welcomes as validation and reinforcement of the things that are already being done at the college.
The commission is urging the college to conclude the work of the Governance Review Task Force and implement the new strategic master plan, which the NMC Board of Regents recently approved, along with the strategic priorities that are now being translated into specific actionable steps by the college leadership.
WASC also required NMC to develop approaches to implement its goals to cultivate employees; to establish standardized and centralized data reporting infrastructure; to revamp the Information Technology Department; and for support to be provided to the NMC president.
“Shared governance and participatory governance are important element in higher education. It ensures that not only is the college effectively and efficiently run, it ensures that all our stakeholders are represented and engaged meaningfully—from the Board of Regents right down to our faculty, staff, students, and community,” Deleon Guerrero said.
“The recent strategic planning goals that the board adopted, they really have a theme of stewardship, of taking care of our community, taking care of our resources, and taking care of our people. All of these recommendations and continuing to meet accreditation standards are really about stewardship—taking care of this college by taking care of our community, our resources and our people.”
NMC will soon be the site of the most construction work in the region; it is scheduled to break ground for the first building this year. The college is looking at a five-year window to complete most of the buildings laid out in its facilities master plan.
For more information about NMC’s accreditation history and future developments, visit https://www.marianas.edu/.