On November 20, 2017, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (“Commission”) officially notified Essex County College about its latest accreditation action pertaining to the College. The Commission determined that Essex County College is now in compliance with Standard 8 (Student Admissions and Retention). However, the Commission placed the College on probation because of insufficient evidence of the College’s compliance with Standard 3 (Institutional Resources) and Standard 4 (Leadership and Governance). The College was initially placed on warning by the Commission in November 2016. The College remains fully accredited by the Commission throughout the entire warning/probation period.
Notably, the Commission did not cite the College for any academic issues. In a statement to students, President Dr. Anthony E. Munroe noted that Essex County College “remains a leading provider of high quality, affordable higher education in the State of New Jersey with award-winning faculty in their respective fields.” The College’s commitment to investing in student success was punctuated by the November 21st opening on the Newark campus of a technologically-sophisticated 21,000 square foot Information Commons with 141 computer stations, seven classrooms, and breakout rooms for group study.
The College will provide the Commission by March 2018 with a report that demonstrates progress made toward resolving any outstanding accreditation issues. The Commission is expected to take its next accreditation action in June 2018, which is the earliest the College may be officially deemed fully compliant with all accreditation standards and come off probation. The College will work aggressively in the coming months to have all issues identified by the Commission resolved by February 2018. To this end, it is notable that the College has taken several actions in recent weeks to ensure that the institution will demonstrate in a timely manner full compliance with the Commission’s standards, including but not limited to:
- engaging the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) to provide training for the ECC Board of Trustees;
- engaging a consulting firm to review the College’s financial aid practices;
- hiring a forensic accounting firm to perform an extensive audit that will accomplish several things including definitively confirming the institution’s fund balance and proposing corrective actions to strengthen internal controls over resources;
- installing an Acting Controller/Chief Financial Officer (CFO); and
- hiring a Chief Compliance Officer.
In addition, the College will continue to take action in the upcoming weeks to strengthen its finances and governance, including the development and implementation of a fiscal exigency plan to ensure sustainability and continued investment in student-focused services as well as a retreat for the Board of Trustees so they may complete self-assessment tasks and fine tune strategic goals for the institution and the President.
In 2018, the College celebrates its 50th year serving as an open-access institution, which shapes future change agents and leaders in our society. The administration and faculty of Essex County College are unified in the goal of restoring the College to full compliance with all Middle States standards in order to guarantee that the College’s mission is fulfilled for generations to come. “We will continue to partner with those who are committed to advancing the mission of the institution,” President Munroe recently stated. Dr. Munroe was hired as the College’s eighth President in May 2017. In a statement to faculty and staff, Dr. Munroe assured that “we will strive to transform and elevate the operations and governance of the College to create the best outcomes for its students … Essex County College will rise above the difficulties of the past to create a brighter future.”