Q: What is accreditation?

A: Accreditation is the process for evaluating and assuring the quality of education used by the higher educational community. Cuesta College’s accreditation is issued and re-evaluated every six years by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which has accredited Cuesta since Jan. 1, 1968. The process focuses on self-evaluation, peer review and quality improvement.

Q: What is the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges?

A: The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges accredits associate degree-granting institutions in the Western region of the United States — California, Hawaii and a few other locations. ACCJC operates under the corporate entity the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. ACCJC is one of seven regional accrediting commissions. The accrediting organization is authorized to operate by the U.S. Department of Education through the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. For more on the ACCJC, visit http://www.accjc.org.

Q: Is Cuesta College accredited?

A: Yes. Cuesta College is an accredited community college. All coursework by Cuesta students is transferable to other accredited institutions. Financial aid remains safe.

Q: What is an accreditation sanction?

A: Institutions are either affirmed or placed on sanction, which has four levels: warning, probation, show cause and termination of accreditation. A sanction signals that there are institutional issues that need to be addressed. While on sanction, a college’s accreditation continues as the institution works to resolve the deficiencies.

Q: What is Cuesta College’s current accreditation status?

A: Cuesta College was placed on warning in February 2013, which is a step toward full compliance. The college’s accreditation was reaffirmed in 2008. In January of 2009, Cuesta received a warning followed by being placed on probation in January 2010. In January of 2011, the commission continued Cuesta’s probation status, while noting that it had made progress and completely satisfied some recommendations. In 2012, the college was placed on show cause status for deficiencies in these areas: planning and assessment; technology resources; and financial planning and evaluation. The accrediting commission is required by the U.S. Department of Education to not allow deficiencies to continue for more than two years.

Q: What does warning status mean?

A: Warning is the least severe level of sanction, and means the college needs to respond directly to some questions being asked by the ACCJC during a follow-up report and visit in October 2013.

Q: What are the specific deficiencies identified by the accrediting commission regarding Cuesta College?

A: Warning was issued for Cuesta College for deficiencies with this issue:

• Institutional Planning and Evaluation

Although the college created an integrated planning process, the commission said the college needs more time to assess that planning cycle, which typically lasts an academic year. “The planning model that Cuesta College has implemented is robust and comprehensive,” the commission added in its Feb. 11, 2013, letter. “This new model appears to demonstrate that the college has linked program review, enrollment management, resource allocation, technology planning, facilities planning, and financial planning on the one hand and the college educational master plan and strategic plan on the other. When the college completes implementation and evaluation of the planning process, it should be able to demonstrate that Eligibility Requirement 19 has been met.”

Q: What happens next?

A: Cuesta is accredited while implementing and assessing its integrated planning process. The college must submit a report in October addressing the accreditation commission’s concerns. ACCJC officials will visit the campus after that, and the full commission will meet in January of 2014 to decide whether sanctions will be lifted.

Q: Where can I get more information?

A: The college has created an accreditation web page, which is regularly updated:


Jay Thompson | (805) 546-3100, ext. 2636 | Email: jay_thompson@cuesta.edu | Posted Feb. 14, 2013