Below is a brief history of BRTC’s accreditation status, including information leading up to the current status and the recommendation that the college be removed from probation at the upcoming HLC Board meeting:
The institution has at its foundation technical programs and workforce training, beginning as Black River Vo-Tech School in 1973. Then-BRVTS became a comprehensive college in 1991 with the establishment of two-year colleges across Arkansas. Black River Technical College gained full initial accreditation by the North Central Association of the Higher Learning Commission in 1997. Five years later, in 2002, the institution received its first ten-year accreditation.
The institution’s second ten-year accreditation was granted in 2012, with a required Monitoring Report on assessment due in 2015. During a time of transitioning in the Higher Learning Commission, the date and format of the scheduled Monitoring Report was modified to be due in an April, 2016 mid-cycle Assurance Argument. Coming at a time when the institution itself was in transition, with a third change of leadership in a short time frame, the embedded Assurance Argument was deemed insufficient, and a monitoring visit was recommended by the Peer Review team.
However, a subsequent review of the recommendation by the HLC Institutional Action Committee ruled that the college be placed on “Accredited with Probation” status and scheduled a Comprehensive Peer Review Team visit in September, 2018.
During the next one and one-half years, the faculty and staff worked unceasingly to address the identified deficiencies; the institution immersed itself in a culture where assessment became more than a plan, but a practice permeating the campus. The institution’s work was affirmed when the team visit, September 10-12, 2018, yielded a team report that recognized “…progress is being made in the areas of student learning assessment,” and noting “the excellent, high quality assessment structure that BRTC has constructed over the past year and a half.” The team report further indicated it would recommend to the IAC “that the college be removed from probationary status with a required Interim Report on Assessment due in 2020. “ The recommended assignment of an Interim Report, the team indicated, was required in order to allow sufficient time for the college to give evidence of how assessment data will be utilized to improve student learning. The team also recommended an Interim Report on Strategic Planning, due at that same time.
A four-member team from BRTC appeared before the Higher Learning Commission’s IAC in Chicago, December 11. This hearing included statements by the BRTC President and by the Chair of the Peer Review Team which had visited BRTC in September. The hearing also included a review of additional documents the college had presented as evidence of its progress and compliance with HLC criteria, as well as questions from the IAC members for the campus representatives and for the Chair of the Peer Review Team. Following the hearing, the IAC issued a preliminary report which would be forwarded to the HLC Board.
This preliminary IAC report of December 18, 2018, indicated the IAC will recommend to the HLC Board that BRTC be removed from probation, complete the two interim reports, and be placed in the Standard Pathway. Announcement of the HLC’s final decision regarding BRTC’s accreditation is anticipated by early March of 2019.
The institution is fully in concurrence with HLC actions regarding BRTC and has worked diligently to correct and improve identified deficiencies. BRTC’s faculty and staff are convinced that the institution is significantly stronger and better at fulfilling its commitments to its students and its constituencies than it was before the probationary sanction. BRTC consequently is making future plans, including for the hiring of its new president, with a campus-wide spirit of confidence that the HLC Board’s ruling will be a probation-free accreditation status well before the new president assumes duties.