Bay gets ready for accreditation review, visit

ESCANABA — A team of peer reviewers will visit Bay College early next month as part of the college’s Academic Quality Improvement Program accreditation cycle. Bay’s Vice President of Operations and Accreditation Liaison Officer Christine Williams said the college has been getting ready for this visit for about a year.

“We are very prepared,” she said.

Williams noted the final agenda for the visit has been set, and the peer review team has reviewed all of the documents sent to them by Bay ahead of the visit.

“We’ve gotten good feedback from the peer review team as of late,” she said of their reactions to these documents.

The peer review team, which consists of representatives of educational institutions comparable in size to Bay College, will visit Bay from Oct. 9-11. Team members will go to Bay’s campuses in Escanaba and Iron Mountain on the first day of their visit, and will focus entirely on the Escanaba campus on the second. While the peer review team will stay in Escanaba on the third day of their visit, Williams said they will be working independently at that point.

During their visit, the peer reviewers will meet with members of Bay’s faculty, staff, administration, current student body, and alumni. Community members will also have a chance to share their feedback about the college during a meeting in room 525 at 3 p.m. on Oct. 10.

“People can come and speak with the peer review team,” Williams said.

Williams also spoke about the role the visit plays in the college’s accreditation cycle. The college’s accreditation is renewed on an eight-year cycle by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), and this visit serves as the final step before its accreditation can be renewed.

The cycle is meant to ensure the college continues to meet all five of the HLC’s criteria for accreditation. According to the HLC, criteria include “having a clearly-stated mission, acting with integrity, providing high-quality education, showing responsibility for the quality of its educational programs and support services, and having sufficient resources, structures, and processes to fulfill its mission while improving the quality of education and preparing for the future.”

During the 2014-15 school year, Bay submitted its “Systems Portfolio” — a self-evaluation of the college — to the HLC.

“Basically, you’re self-reflecting and you’re writing that self-reflection in a document,” Williams said. This portfolio went through a peer review process in the interest of identifying its strengths and weaknesses, and Bay took this feedback into account while preparing for the end of their accreditation cycle.

Williams said the cycle ensures Bay is always working to improve its educational offerings.

“We’re constantly looking at the work that we do and improving upon it,” she said. As part of this, the college is also required to have at least three ongoing “action projects” (projects lasting between three and 18 months that improve a process or procedure at Bay) per year to maintain its accreditation.

The accreditation process is important because it ensures Bay is meeting the U.S. Department of Education’s minimum standards of educational quality, Williams said.

“If you’re not an accredited institution, you do not have to meet that standard,” she said.

Williams also noted Bay’s accreditation makes things easier for its students.

“Their credits are much more likely to transfer from (an) accredited institution than not,” she said.

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