After three days of review last October, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has officially reaffirmed Georgia Highlands College’s accreditation for a 10-year period through 2028.
A review team from SACSCOC visited all five GHC locations — Rome, Cartersville, Dallas, Douglasville and Marietta — as well as Heritage Hall to review documents and data and to conduct interviews with various groups at each site.
“All the time, effort and collaboration leading up to the SACSCOC review team on-site visit culminated in a three-day review at GHC that ended with a great deal of praise,” President Dr. Don Green said in a press release. “They were impressed with our ‘one-campus culture,’ stating that, astoundingly, we have developed a cohesive ‘one college’ and ‘one mission’ mentality across our multiple locations.”
Dean of Health Sciences Michelle Boyce, who co-chaired the SACSCOC Compliance Committee with Assistant Director of Admissions Charlene Graham, said she was “happy that the review was positive.”
“All members of the college work very hard to ensure that GHC stays compliant with SACSCOC standards," she said. "As Dr. Green noted, the SACSCOC review team left knowing that GHC is 'one college' with 'one mission' to improve students' lives. We are excited that the team recognized how committed our students, staff and faculty are."
“It's great to see a group like SACSCOC recognize the hard work we do to provide a quality education for our students and opportunities for our communities," Graham added.
Besides reviewing the college overall, SACSCOC also reviewed GHC’s new Quality Enhancement Plan, which describes a course of action for enhancing educational quality that focuses on student learning and/or the environment that supports student learning, according to the release.
The QEP, called Quest for Success, puts advising at the forefront of student academic and personal success and aims to increase the value of the student experience at GHC by emphasizing advising as a core component of learning in a two-pronged effort where students receive ongoing, goal-focused advising, and faculty and staff advisers receive intensive training, the release said.
"Our QEP, Quest for Success, is all about improving the advising experience and outcomes for students,” said Jesse Bishop, dean of planning, assessment, accreditation and research and SACSCOC QEP implementation planning team lead. “We took a comprehensive look at what students need from advising, what they were getting and what faculty wanted to focus on providing for students. Out of that research, we developed a more robust approach to advising, course planning and career planning."
Graham said the college’s QEP is “well underway” and that students are “already benefiting from the administrative changes that we've implemented.”
“More changes are coming, and more students will benefit from those in the coming months," she said.
Though the reaffirmation is for 10 years, the college will have to submit a five-year report based on its QEP, Boyce said.
It doesn’t take an SACSCOC review to keep the faculty and staff of Georgia Highlands looking for ways to make the college better for the 6,000-plus students it serves.
"GHC focuses on continuous improvement so we routinely identify areas where we could be stronger or better and work to address those issues, regardless of accreditation," Boyce said.
Once the review was finished, Green thanked all the chairs, committee members, reviewers, writers, logistic teams and anyone else involved in working with SACSCOC during the process.
“SACSCOC said GHC was a ‘dynamic, vibrant community’ that is open, enthusiastic, displays mutual respect between faculty and staff, encourages open dialogue between students and employees and overall has a ‘commitment to students and to the mission of the college,’” he said. “I can’t help but think of our common mantra that continues to resonate with students, faculty and staff today: We are GHC.”
The college was given Level II status by SACSCOC in 2012, which allowed it to begin offering four-year degrees, the press release said.
GHC currently offers more than 30 areas of study with associate degree and bachelor’s degree options, including a Bachelor of Science in both nursing and dental hygiene and a Bachelor of Business Administration in both health care management and logistics and supply chain management.
To gain or maintain accreditation with the SACSCOC, an institution must comply with the standards contained in the “Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement” and with the policies and procedures of the commission, which applies the requirements of its principles to all applicant, candidate and member institutions, regardless of whether the institution is public, private for-profit or private not-for-profit.