By Bonnie Culverhouse
In their never ending efforts to “raise the bar,” Northwest Louisiana Technical Community College is about to complete the first phase of SACSCOC accreditation.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is the body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states.
Accreditation by SACSCOC is a statement of each institution’s continuing commitment to quality and integrity as well as its capacity to provide effective programs and services based on agreed-upon accreditation standards.
“It’s an unbelievable amount of data you have to send in,” said NLTCC’s Karen Nash. “You have to show them what you are doing and how you’re doing it, including enrollment numbers.”
NLTCC has had community college status for three years.
During a reception Wednesday celebrating completion of Phase I, Chancellor Earl W. Meador, J.D. said of the 12 community colleges in Louisiana, NLTCC was the only one that was not a SACSCOC accredited community college.
“We are here because good people love our community,” Meador said. “We are celebrating a milestone in a journey that began 3 years ago.”
Meador has been chancellor for 5 years, but he said only a few weeks into his first year, he realized NLTCC was in a financial crisis. He credits community leader James Madden with helping him begin the healing process.
Madden, he said, pointed out that NLTCC was not charging the correct tuition and was not part of the community college equation.
“So our tuition was wrong, our funding model was wrong,” Meador said. “All we were doing was cutting and cutting and getting smaller and smaller every year.”
As Meador and Madden began to work on “fixing” the problem, Wayne McMahen became state representative for District 10.
Meador said McMahen submitted a bill in his first legislative session that would make NLTCC a technical community college. With Sen. Ryan Gatti’s help, the bill, which had 64 co-authors, passed the house and senate unanimously.
The entire SACSCOC process is a long one. Meador said it takes some schools up to 10 years to complete, but thanks to hard-working staff members and community supporters NLTCC is on track to accreditation in 5 to 6 years.
He specifically named Dr. Jayda Spillers, Stephen Long and Sheri Butler.
“These three focused, focused, focused,” he stressed.
Meador said the process will be worth it when the school expands its curriculum to include programs available at the college level. After that, the problem will be finding space for all the new students and classes.
“This is a big step,” he said Wednesday. “Today we officially become a candidate to be an accredited body.
“We want our students to be inspired, equipped and ready to work,” Meador concluded. “That’s not just a saying. It’s a way of life.”