EACC received approval on March 7th from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) to extend EACC’s accreditation to the programs from Crowley’s Ridge Technical Institute, effectively clearing the last major hurdle for merging the two schools.
In a letter to President Dr. Cathie Cline, the commission indicated that at its last meeting, the HLC Board of Trustees “voted to approve the extension of accreditation under the commission’s policy on Change of Control, Structure, or Organization.”
The approval means the institution can complete its integration of programs and services. “We have already done much of the work of becoming one institution. With each day that goes by, it is getting harder and harder to see ourselves as anything but one,” said Dr. Cline. “We have discovered that we truly are stronger together.”
Securing the extension of accreditation was a stamp of approval for the merger of the two schools by HLC. The process of obtaining the extension of accreditation required extensive reporting, as well as a two-day site visit from HLC visitors. “Many people had to work together to produce this result. I cannot thank the faculty, staff, and students enough for their efforts,” said Dr. Cline. “Their faith that we could merge and emerge stronger as one institution than we were alone makes me very proud. That faith kept the process moving.”
Dr. Cline added, “We owe a debt of gratitude to Governor Hutchinson for his support. The increased and improved training and educational opportunities that we are able to provide by combining resources is a direct path to meaningful and family-sustaining employment for the citizens and families of Eastern Arkansas.”
The support of local legislators was also vital. “We really appreciate the support of Representative Steve Hollowell and Senator Ronald Caldwell. Their vision and tenacity are due credit for bringing about this improvement to our region,” said Cline.
“I am also grateful for the support of Director Markham and her staff at the Arkansas Department of Higher Education for their assistance as we are working to combine and revise curricula in a short time frame. We cannot complete that process without their help and guidance.”
“I would be remiss if I did not also sincerely thank the EACC Board of Trustees. This process has forged the way for a new and improved model of education and training in the region. Board members have been unwavering in their support of faculty, staff, and students and unfailingly positive about the future of the merged institution,” she added.
Although administrators provided direction to the overall planning and implementation effort, the merging process has heavily involved faculty and staff from each campus. “Committees comprised of faculty, staff, and students from both institutions have accomplished so much this semester, from developing the academic and holiday calendars for the next academic year to planning graduation,” said Cline.
Recently, committees have begun planning for a process to review the College’s mission and vision statements to make sure they represent the new institution. Committees are also currently working on long-range plans for the marketing, technology, and physical facilities needs of the institution and budgeting for the 2018-2019 fiscal and academic year.
Act 636 of the 2017 regular state legislative session specified certain aspects about the process for merging the two institutions, contingent upon the approval of both local boards and the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board (AHECB). The Act was signed by Governor Asa Hutchinson making the merger effective August 1, 2017.The boards of the institutions and the AHECB also approved the combining of the two schools, effective on August 1, 2017.
The intent of the legislation contained in Act 636 was to consolidate the two institutions into a single comprehensive institution to improve and increase community college and vocational, occupational, and technical educational opportunities in the region in an efficient and cost-effective manner. This includes traditional college coursework as well as customized training opportunities for area business and industry partners and a wide variety of post-secondary and high-school training and education. The two campuses are contiguous to each other.
The final step in the process was related to accreditation and required the approval of the Higher Learning Commission, the College’s regional accrediting body. For more information contact Ms. Lindsay Midkiff, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr. Cathie Cline, email@example.com. East Arkansas Community College is located at 1700 Newcastle Road, Forrest City, AR 72335. Phone: 870-633-4480.