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ASCC moves forward on Pell grants for B.Ed. students

reporters@samoanews.com
ASCC President Dr. Seth Galea'i (right) welcomes Dr. Susan Clifford and Dr. Tim Brown of the WASC Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges during their November site visit. [photo: J. Kneubuhl]

American Samoa Community College (ASCC) students taking Bachelors level education courses may soon be eligible for Pell Grant assistance, and the grants will likely be retroactive for the 2013-14 school year.
 
ASCC has received word from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), a division of the Western Association for Schools and Colleges (WASC) that after a commission review, the ACCJC has approved a Substantive Change request by ASCC.
 
This comes after a November site visit to ASCC by ACCJC Vice President Dr. Susan Clifford and representative Dr. Tim Brown to review the four-year Teacher Education program at ASCC.
 
ASCC Accreditation Liaison and Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Kathleen Kolhoff-Belle explained that the College’s Substantive Change request to WASC/ACCJC to include ASCC’s Bachelors in Education program in its oversight, stems from a ruling by the US Department of Education (USDOE) that states for the purposes of financial aid eligibility, a US institution of higher learning may be accredited by either the ACCJC or the ACSCU, but not both.
 
“The WASC Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities (ACSCU) has already approved our Bachelors in Education (B.Ed.) program,” said Dr. Kolhoff-Belle, “but the USDOE requires that a college have only one primary accreditor as the ‘gateway’ for Title IV financial aid or Pell grant eligibility.  This ruling by the USDOE affects community colleges developing four-year programs.”
 
“By getting ACCJC approval of the B.Ed., in addition to the ACSCU, students in our 300 and 400 level courses will have access to Pell grants,” said Dr. Kolhoff-Belle. “The ACCJC is authorized every five years by USDOE as a regional accrediting body,” she said.  “As part of their renewal this year, they are asking the USDOE to increase their scope of authority to include community colleges with one or two Baccalaureate programs.”
 
According to Dr. Kolhoff-Belle, ASCC will continue to have ACSCU accreditation and this poses no problem for USDOE as ACCJC will be the ‘gateway’ accrediting body with authority over their community college level classes and their developing Baccalaureate program.
 
BACKGROUND
 
The problem with the dual accrediting was first reported by Samoa News in August of last year when it came to light that the USDOE planned to stop the Northern Marianas College (NMC) baccalaureate program from receiving federal assistance after a finding that dual accreditation is not in accordance with USDOE policy and that this policy would also affect ASCC.
 
Originally, when the four-year program in Teacher Education was established, ASCC negotiated a “joint accreditation” agreement with WASC whereby the ACCJC would continue as the accrediting body for the College’s two-year programs, while the ACCJC would accredit the four-year program in Teacher Education.
 
The USDOE subsequently ruled that for the purposes of financial aid eligibility, a US institution of higher learning may be accredited by either the ACCJC or the ACSCU, but not both.
 
SITE VISIT
 
The site visit this month to ASCC by Dr. Clifford and Dr. Brown of the ACCJC involved a review of the B.Ed. program to verify the evidence provided in the Substantive Change Proposal by ASCC. The ACCJC representatives conducted extensive interviews with faculty and students in the Teacher Education Department (TED), toured its facilities, observed classes in progress, and even visited Pavai’ai Elementary School to observe the interaction between ASCC student teachers and their classes. They observed both the inner-workings of the TED as well as how the B.Ed. program aligns with the rest of the curriculum at ASCC. 
 
THE NEXT STEP
 
According to Dr. Kolhoff-Belle, the USDOE will rule on the ACCJC's request within the next 90-120 days.  “If the ACCJC's expansion of scope is approved, then ASCC students will be eligible for Pell grants retroactively for the 2013-2014 academic year.  As soon as ACCJC receives approval, we will file the amended financial aid request,” she said.
 
“The USDOE has approved this plan and offered technical assistance to assure our students get retroactive financial aid if all the ACCJC pieces are in place this spring,” said Dr. Kolhoff-Belle.
 
Sources: ASCC media release and Dr. Kolhoff-Belle



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