Agency: COD fails to meet all accreditation standards
The College of DuPage could face sanctions, up to probation, after a regional agency found the school doesn't meet two core components required for accreditation.
In a report made public late Friday, the Higher Learning Commission -- one of six regional accreditation agencies in the nation -- found the Glen Ellyn-based school does not meet standards related to "issues of integrity" and "effectiveness of administration and governance."
The first of those criteria looks at whether the institution "operates with integrity in its financial, academic, personnel and auxiliary functions; it establishes and follows policies and procedures for fair and ethical behavior on the part of the governing board, administration, faculty and staff." In that regard, an accreditation team said it is not clear if the college "has or follows effective policies and processes to support its operations and decision-making."
In the second, the team said "it is not clear that the board and administration have provided effective leadership." That criteria concerns the board of trustees' knowledge about the institution, its oversight of financial and academic policies and practices, and whether it meets its legal and fiduciary responsibilities.
The evaluation team also indicated it has concerns with some of the standards COD does still meet, including:
• The school's "commitment to the public good."
• That the board of trustees is "sufficiently autonomous to make decisions in the best interest of the institution and to assure its integrity."
• That the institution's degree programs "are appropriate to higher education."
• That "the institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs" related to questions raised about the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy.
"COD will take every necessary step to answer the HLC's concerns," board of trustees Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton said Friday. "We are accountable for effectively delivering world-class adult education so our students can compete successfully in a globalized economy. We will do so in full compliance with the HLC's criteria."
The Higher Learning Commission board is scheduled to meet in November to consider putting COD on probation, according to a letter from President Barbara Gellman-Danley. The board also could consider a lesser sanction of "Notice" if it concludes the core components are met but with concerns.
Institutions placed on probation must host a comprehensive evaluation visit within two years from the date of the sanction to demonstrate they meet all 21 criteria for accreditation. At that time. the commission determines whether the school will continue to be accredited.
If COD were to lose its accreditation, the school's students could find it difficult to transfer credits to other institutions, officials have said. It also could affect the college's ability to participate in financial aid programs.
The commission has given COD until Oct. 29 to respond to its report.
In a letter dated Friday to Gellman-Danley, COD's Acting Interim President Joseph Collins said the school wants a 60-day extension of the deadline to file its response.
"We appreciate its report and take very seriously its stated views," said Collins, adding that the college is seeking the extension "to report comprehensively on COD's remediation and progress against the very issues identified by HLC."
The commission originally was expected to renew COD's accreditation for an eight-year period after giving the school a positive review last fall.
But then the agency launched an inquiry after newspaper accounts raised questions about, among other things, no-bid contracts for insiders and administrators dining at the school's upscale Waterleaf restaurant, which recently was closed.
That probe led to the most recent findings.
Faculty Association President Glenn Hansen said COD's academics are "even better today" than when the HLC gave them comprehensive approval after a May 2014 visit.
"COD's new leadership has made considerable strides in repairing damage it inherited and returning COD to full compliance," Hansen said. "Speaking for the Faculty Association, we are committed partners in that effort."