Accreditation is a continuous process that facilitates constant evaluation with the goal of improving programs, services, and institutional effectiveness. Golden West College (GWC) takes the accreditation process very seriously and continues to engage in dialogues and processes to ensure that the College not only meet, but exceed the standards set by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). The ACCJC has provided 12 common questions and answers to provide basic information about regional accreditation to college staff and students. Outside from ACCJC, GWC is also accredited by Accrediting Commission for Education in Nursing for its Nursing program.

2019 Accreditation Visit

On February 25-28, 2019, ACCJC External Evaluation Team visited GWC to complete its evaluation to determine whether the College continues to meet ACCJC’s Eligibility Requirements, Commission Policies, and Accreditation Standards. The Institutional Self Evaluation Report (ISER) and evidence lists were completed in preparation for the visit.

On June 28, 2019, ACCJC awarded Golden West College a Reaffirmation of Accreditation for a seven-year period.

On February 25-28, 2019, the ACCJC External Evaluation Team visited GWC to review how well the College meets ACCJC's Eligibility Requirements, Accreditation Standards, and the Commission Policies. The Institutional Self Evaluation Report (ISER) and evidence lists were completed in preparation for the visit. The visiting team conducted interviews of employees and students to validate information in the ISER and made recommendations to the Commissioner. On June 28, 2019, ACCJC awarded Golden West College a Reaffirmation of Accreditation for a seven-year period.

Institutional Self-Evaluation Report (ISER) Submitted on 11/13/18 for Board Review/Approval on 11/20/18.
Golden West College External Evaluation Team Report 2019
ACCJC Reaffirmation Letter (June 28 2019)

Dr. Kathleen Hart
GWC Accreditation Peer Review Visiting Team Chair
Dr. Hart obtained a BA in English and Education from Purdue University. She also received an MA in English from Bowling Green State University and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from University of Michigan.
Dr. Hart began working at San Joaquin Delta College in 1994 as Assistant Division Chair of Communication Skills and became Division Chair in 2000. Following her appointment as Division Chair, Dr. Hart was then appointed to serve as Dean of Instructional Development and Regional Education in 2002; Dean of Planning, Research, and Regional Education in 2003; Assistant Superintendent/Vice President of Instruction in 2006. Dr. Hart was appointed Acting Superintendent/President in February, 2012 and received the permanent position as Superintendent/President in September 2012.
Dr. James Todd
GWC Accreditation Peer Review Visiting Team Assistant
Dr. James Todd serves as the Assistant Superintendent/Vice President of Instruction and Planning at San Joaquin Delta College. Previously, he served as the Vice President of Student Services of Modesto Junior College. Born and raised in central Florida, James attended Brevard Community College after high school, which was a transformative experience that engendered an interest in anthropology. After earning an M.A. in Anthropology at The George Washington University and a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California Santa Cruz, James returned to the community college system to teach anthropology at Modesto Junior College (MJC) in 2006. Nearly ten years later, and after several years of faculty leadership at the local and state level, James joined the executive leadership team at MJC in 2015. James spent over three years in Student Services at MJC, and recently joined Delta College as the CIO in 2018. His current initiatives at the college include an intensive focus on student success and completion, with specific attention on closing achievement gaps across various student populations. James is especially committed to serving system-affected individuals, including those who are formerly incarcerated. Thoroughly committed to student equity and transforming lives, he envisions the community college campus as a space to that brings education together with social justice work.
Dr. Deborah Nolan
Academic Representative
Dr. Nolan is the Distance Education Coordinator at College of Sequoias (COS) and is a full-time, tenured faculty member. Her education includes a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Adult Studies from the University of Denver; AA, BA, MA in Music History and a K-12 Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential. Her areas of expertise include Distance Education, faculty development and college teaching, Canvas, educational technology and Music History. COS experience includes DE Coordinator, Faculty Enrichment Coordinator, Distance Education Committee Chair, District Educational Technology Committee Co-Chair, Instructor Online Teaching Certification, Technology Skills for Educators, Music Appreciation, History of Rock and Roll, and Student Success. Other experience includes Community College Teacher Education Faculty.
Lisa Shapiro
Academic Representative
Lisa Shapiro is an Associate Professor of Business at San Diego Mesa College, with degrees in management and literature. Her quest to better understand her student veterans– and to help them in their transition to civilian life – led her to research thousands of original letters written by students from San Diego who served in World War II. Her book based on these letters, "No Forgotten Fronts: From Classrooms to Combat" was published in 2018 by the Naval Institute Press. Lisa gave a Veteran’s Day address at the Field of Valor, and has appeared on various news stations. Her book was featured at the San Diego Festival of Books. Lisa also co-authored an historical novel, "The Chamber and the Cross", set in modern day and medieval England.
Vivian Varela
Academic Representative
Vivian Varela is the Distance Education Coordinator and Sociology Faculty at Mendocino College. Ms. Varela is a member of the Academic Senate for Community Colleges CVC-OEI Advisory Committee and is also a peer online course reviewer for the Online Education Initiative project and serves on the California Community College Distance Education Executive Board. Her Mendocino College service includes serving as a Canvas Administrator, Second to the Project Lead for the 2018 Equity Cohort for the CVC-OEI, chairperson Distance Education Committee, and member of the Curriculum Committee, Education Master Plan Committee, Enrollment Management Committee, and Accreditation Steering Committee. Ms. Varela has served on four previous accreditation team visits.
Dr. Kimberly Hoffmans
Academic Representative
Dr. Kim Hoffmans has served in the Ventura County Community College District for the last 25 years as a nursing faculty member, coordinator/department chair, dean, and currently as the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Ventura College. Her background includes leadership of academic programs, student services areas, career technical educational programs, and an exotic animal teaching zoo.
Through her past experiences as a nurse and an educator, Dr. Hoffmans has had the opportunity to work with colleagues and students with diverse academic, social, economic, physical, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds and finds the diverse climate of community colleges rewarding, challenging, and full of opportunities. She is consistently looking for new ways to innovate, contribute, and engage in college service aimed to support student achievement and success.
Elizabeth Bowman
Academic Representative
Serving at Santa Barbara City College [SBCC], since 2006, I was appointed as Library Director in 2014. Prior to my time at SBCC, I was a high school librarian for 20 years. I am a passionate advocate for community colleges and their libraries; I have been a leader in national community college librarianship and serve on multiple committees for the Association of College and Research Libraries. I am on the board of a public library foundation and do other local volunteer work, often with my dog who is a pet therapy animal.
Michelle Marquez
Administrative Representative
Michelle Marquez has worked for the San Mateo County Community College District since 2015 and currently serves as Vice President of Special Projects at the District Office. Michelle served as Vice President of Administrative Services for Cañada College for 3 years. Michelle has worked in the community college system as an administrator for 12 years supporting administrative functions, working with college governance groups, and participating in local, regional, statewide, and national initiatives. Michelle’s accreditation experience includes prior service on a visiting team and as the Standard III co-chair at Cañada College. Ms. Marquez earned a dual Masters of Business Administration/Public Administration and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Ms. Marquez is also a Senior Certified Professional through the Society for Human Resource Management, and is currently working on a Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
Dr. Scott Thayer
Administrative Representative
Dr. Scott W. Thayer has been an advocate for historically underrepresented students throughout his professional career. Dr. Thayer received his doctorate in Higher Education Administration and Leadership from the U.S.C. focusing on African American male achievement. He completed his M.A. in Counseling and Guidance from Point Loma Nazarene University, his B.A. in Psychology from Rollins College in Florida and his A.A. from Normandale Community College in Minnesota.
Dr. Thayer has served in various administrative capacities throughout his career at San Bernardino Valley College, Cuyamaca College, Pasadena City College and Los Angeles Southwest College. His administrative responsibilities have included the following college programs and areas: Admissions and Records, Counseling, Financial Aid, Athletics, Transfer, Outreach and Recruitment, Associated Students, Student clubs and organizations, Cross Cultural Center, Mentoring, Student Discipline, Commencement, Athletic Eligibility, Library, the Flea Market, and oversight of the following federally funded TRIO programs (Student Support Services, Upward Bound, Math/Science Upward Bound and Talent Search).
Bryan Ventura
Administrative Representative
Bryan C. Ventura is the Acting Dean of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Advancement at East Los Angeles College (ELAC). He oversees institutional research, planning, professional development, distance education, marketing and communication, a Title V grant, and learning assessment. Bryan has held various research roles since joining the Los Angeles Community College District in 2013, and continually strives to produce high quality, reliable, and practical research to advance student success and the field of higher education. Bryan is also an adjunct faculty for Child, Family, Education Studies department where he teaches an Introduction to Education course. Mr. Ventura earned a BA in Social Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, and his MA in Education with an emphasis on Race and Ethnic Studies.

These Questions and Answers are Meant to Provide Basic Information a out Regional Accreditation to College Staff and Students.

Regional accreditation is a successful and robust, time-tested model of professional peer review that supports educational excellence. Accreditation is a voluntary process of quality review that institutions agree to undergo periodically. The accrediting commissions with responsibility for accreditation in various regions are legally recognized by the federal government. The public has come to value accreditation as a mark of quality. Accreditation is a system of self-regulation developed by higher education institutions to evaluate overall institutional quality and encourage continual improvement. Colleges and universities form membership associations to set up an accrediting agency and work with that agency to establish the quality standards used to rigorously evaluate the institutions. Accreditation standards represent the best practices in higher education and set a high expectation for quality.

There are six geographic regions under the U.S. system recognized by the federal government. Within each region, an accreditor is responsible for designated types of higher education institutions and the types of credentials offered at those institutions. There are other kinds of accreditation (national, programmatic) but regional accreditation status is regarded as the most comprehensive and rigorous for institutions to attain.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC) is part of the Western region. The Western region has two higher education accreditors: the WASC Senior College and University Commission, and the ACCJC. The two Western region accreditors operate in California, Hawai’i and the Pacific Region that includes Guam, American Samoa, the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. Five other regional accreditors operate in and have names associated with other geographic regions of the United States.

The regional accreditors are given the authority to apply their accreditation standards by the member institutions that have voluntarily joined a regional association to improve educational quality. The ACCJC and other regional accrediting bodies are also authorized to operate by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) through the Higher Education Opportunity Act. The USDE evaluates accrediting bodies every five years through a process called “recognition.” The USDE has several requirements that accrediting bodies must demonstrate they continuously meet, including integrity of the process, making the results of accreditation available to the public, and fairness in the even application of the accreditation standards to all institutions.

Accreditation from a USDE-recognized accreditor, such as the ACCJC, enables institutions to qualify for federal Title IV funds (financial aid for students) and other federal grants and contracts. The accreditation standards of a recognized accrediting body such as the ACCJC are developed with some input from the Department of Education and Congress, which also asks each accreditor to encourage the active participation of all member institutions in a transparent and open process that assures educational quality.


Federal policy regarding Higher Education quality assurance describes three entities, each with distinct roles - the federal government, state governments, and accrediting bodies. The shorthand for these three entities is the “three legged stool” or the “triad”.

Each entity has a specific role defined in law and regulation, and the roles complement one another. There is an ongoing policy debate about whether these roles should be adjusted to meet emerging issues of quality assurance.

Of course, institutions are ultimately responsible for quality and for meeting federal, state and accreditation requirements.

Accreditation is a proven method for assuring that a higher education institution has the ability to offer a quality education to the men and women who will lead their communities in the future, and to improve that quality over time. By establishing high standards and then being externally evaluated against those standards, colleges and universities can provide a degree or certificate that students and the community can trust.

In achieving and maintaining its accreditation a higher education institution assures the public that the institution meets standards of quality, that the education earned there is of value to the student who earned it, and that employers, trade or profession-related licensing agencies and other colleges and universities can accept a student’s credential as legitimate.

Just as important, the process provides a means for an institution to continuously improve educational quality and grow to meet the changing needs of students and society. Internal evaluation is a critical part of the accreditation process and through the various phases of an accreditation process, colleges and universities are able to build on strengths and improve weaknesses so that they offer a better education.

There are four phases to the accreditation process involving internal evaluation, external evaluation by professional peers, Commission evaluation, and institutional self-improvement to meet evolving regional and federal standards. Every seven years ACCJC members have agreed to undergo the comprehensive process to determine whether they are meeting the established Accreditation Standards and to develop ways to improve their future ability to serve students.

Every accreditation review starts with an internal evaluation. An ACCJC member institution engages in comparing itself to the Accreditation Standards, writes an internal (i.e., self) evaluation report, develops its own plans for improvement where needed, and submits the written analysis to the ACCJC for review.

At the second phase, a trained team of education professional peers from member institutions conducts an external institutional evaluation. The external evaluation team, comprised of volunteers, visits the institution, examines the institutional internal evaluation, examines institutional practices, and writes an evaluative report with recommendations both for meeting standards and for improving institutional practices.

The third phase occurs when the members of the regional accrediting commission evaluate all the information and make the decision on the accredited status of the institution. The Commission may also provide recommendations and direction for institutional improvement in areas where standards are not met or improvement is needed. The ACCJC Commission reviews institutional cases at meetings in January and June of each year.

The fourth phase is about self-improvement. Each institution uses the recommendations of the external evaluation team and the Commission to guide changes that enhance their educational quality and institutional effectiveness. Colleges also use their internal quality improvement processes in this phase.

Member institutions work to improve institutional performance between comprehensive reviews. The Commission may monitor and advise an institution on meeting and exceeding the quality expectations. If an institution is out of compliance with the Accreditation Standards, the Commissioners may require a follow-up report from the institution, or another team visit, and/or may impose a sanction and deadlines for the institution to come into compliance with all Accreditation Standards. A sanction signals the institution and the public that there are institutional issues that need to be addressed if quality is to be maintained. While on sanction, institutional accreditation continues and the institution works to resolve any such issues.

An institution seeking ACCJC accreditation for the first time undergoes a similar process including an internal examination using the Accreditation Standards and an external team evaluation using the Accreditation Standards. It then will spend three to five years in pre-accreditation statuses of Eligibility and Candidacy as it demonstrates that it has the capacity to continuously meet Accreditation Standards. When the institution is found to meet all Accreditation Standards and policies, it is awarded “initial accreditation,” and thereafter is subject to a comprehensive review every seven years.

The Accreditation Standards are the basic tool used by member institutions to gauge their success in providing high quality education and to continually improve. The Accreditation Standards focus a good deal on institutional practices that support student completion of certificates and degrees, and student learning. Accreditation helps assure that students get a sound and useful education that is of lifelong value.

Accreditation standards are established by an accrediting commission in collaboration with an accrediting association’s member institutions and are discussed in public hearings with multiple opportunities for comment by the member institutions and the concerned public before they are adopted. The ACCJC’s Standards are reviewed, and changes are considered, every six years. In addition, accreditation standards include statements of expected practice reflecting federal requirements of the U.S. Department of Education that come from Congressional guidelines and expectations for institutional quality. These federal requirements are increasingly more rigorous.

The Accreditation Standards describe good practices in areas of institutional operations, including institutional mission, institutional effectiveness (i.e., achieving stated mission, providing effective educational services), instruction, support services, library and learning resources, human resources, facilities and physical resources, information technology resources, fiscal resources and fiscal management, and governance and decision making.

The ACCJC has 19 Commissioners who represent the interests of the general public and the regional member institutions.

According to the ACCJC bylaws:
  • five Commissioners are faculty from member institutions;
  • at least three, but no more than five, represent the public interest and have no affiliation with any member institution, as required by federal regulations;
  • up to two may be affiliate members not qualified under any of the other categories but are deemed to have expertise or skills that will add meaningfully to the Commission;
  • three are administrators from member institutions; and
  • six people represent one of the following educational entities;
  • the California Community Colleges,
  • the University of Hawai’i Community Colleges,
  • four-year colleges and universities accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, secondary schools accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Schools of WASC, the Pacific Colleges other than Hawai’i accredited by the ACCJC, and
  • private colleges accredited by the ACCJC.
The Commissioner election process solicits nominations and applications for vacant Commissioner positions through a widely distributed announcement each year in February. Persons interested in becoming a Commissioner complete application materials. A Nominating Committee comprised of four sitting Commissioners and four persons from member institutions nominates a slate of candidates; chief executives of member institutions may add alternative candidates to the slate. The chief executive officers of member institutions then elect the new Commissioners. The Commissioner election process ensures that individuals with personal integrity and true commitment to higher education quality are elected to serve as Commissioners.

8. WHO SERVES ON EVALUATION TEAMS? Evaluation teams are comprised of eight to 12 volunteer education professionals from member institutions who are trained by the Commission staff to employ the ACCJC Accreditation Standards in evaluating institutional practices. They are administrators, faculty, and other experts, sometimes including trustees of two-year colleges. They have experience in educational governance and administration, instruction, student services, research, facilities, learning resources, fiscal management, human resources, and technology resources.

The Commission selects evaluation team members on the basis of their professional expertise and specializations (e.g., distance education and career and technical education experts are frequently needed), their experience with accreditation at their own campuses, and their ability to apply the Accreditation Standards fairly and consistently. Work as a volunteer evaluator requires a substantial commitment of the evaluator’s time, and a team member participates in a multi-day evaluation visit.

Evaluators must also be analytic and use evidentiary materials, have strong interpersonal skills, be able to apply Accreditation Standards to institutions objectively, be able to write well, use technology to review evidence and write reports, and work well as members of the team. Evaluator training and experience help the team members enhance their skills, and so individuals willing to serve as team members for several years are desirable.

Yes. Institutions that seek ACCJC accreditation agree to adhere to the Accreditation Standards established by the member institutions at all times. Since accredited status is a signal to the public that an institution satisfies all Accreditation Standards, institutions have to remain in compliance at all times. Anything short of that would diminish public confidence in accreditation as a means of assuring quality. When there is a major change in Accreditation Standards, the Commission sets a reasonable timeline for institutions to comply with them; for example, a 10-year timeline was given for implementing student learning outcomes.

Institutional practices change over time, and institutions often find they must improve in order to continue to meet all Accreditation Standards. The purpose of the comprehensive review is to provide the impetus for re-evaluation of institutional quality. Recommendations for how to make needed change result if the evaluation concludes there are some institutional deficiencies in meeting standards. Recommendations for improvement result if the evaluation concludes there are opportunities to extend quality practices and to excel.

The accreditation process is very effective in helping institutions to improve their educational and institutional effectiveness. Accreditation Standards developed by the ACCJC are drawn from best practices within the member institutions as well as from best institutional practices nationally. The accreditation process reinforces the institutional responsibility to implement these Accreditation Standards.

The accreditation process provides institutions with peer advice as well as training on institutional practices that improve quality. Professional peers who comprise the evaluation teams provide evaluation and guidance tailored to the institution’s mission and other institutional characteristics. Professional peers on the Commission also provide advice and recommendations. Commission staff also provide training and support to institutions that have been found out of compliance and are trying to make needed changes.

Except in the most egregious cases, the Commission gives institutions some time to implement the recommendations for improvement and to come into compliance with Accreditation Standards. Colleges report to the Commission that the accreditation findings and recommendations, and the time limit given for improvement, and even the sanctions given, help to focus institutions on what must be done to improve.

Federal law requires accreditors to give higher education institutions found out of compliance with any standard, no more than two years to come into full compliance. This is known as the “Two Year Rule.” The law requires the Commission to terminate accreditation if an institution fails to come into compliance within this period, unless there is a defined basis to grant an extension of no more than two years.

The Commission applies the Accreditation Standards in a consistent manner to all the institutions being accredited. The accreditation process is designed to be transparent and collaborative so that the institutions feel the accreditation process is fair and will yield accurate results. The Commission holds itself accountable for good practice by evaluating and assessing its own ability to make fair and unbiased decisions on accreditation. The evaluation encourages feedback so an institution’s views of the process or an evaluation team report can be heard by the Commission.

The Commission works to make sure the process is fair through the development of clear conflict of interest policies, effective training of evaluators, rigorous evaluation of team members by staff and member institutions, and by encouraging feedback by institutions undergoing evaluation.

The Commission’s policy on Conflict of Interest applies to Commissioners reviewing an institutional case as well as to evaluation team members and Commission staff. Commissioners with a conflict or potential conflict are not permitted to evaluate a case; team evaluators with a conflict or potential conflict are not permitted to serve on a team or are removed from an evaluation team if a conflict is identified by the individual, the institution, or the Commission.

The Commission members undergo training on fairness and consistency. Commission meetings always begin with a review of the Policy on Conflict of Interest as well as a discussion of fairness and consistency in applying Accreditation Standards to all institutions.

All evaluation team members are trained prior to each comprehensive evaluation assignment. All members of comprehensive evaluation teams are evaluated by the team chair, and the ACCJC keeps data on those evaluations. Team members who receive critical evaluations are individually advised to correct behaviors, or are not asked to serve on future teams.

In addition to the extensive self-evaluations of these professional peer review teams, the accreditation process encourages feedback at all levels. Colleges undergoing comprehensive evaluation are asked to evaluate the performance of the visiting evaluation team. That feedback may include general or specific statements about team members. These comments are also retained in the Commission’s database and, if negative, may result in a decision not to ask the individual to serve on future teams.

ACCJC accreditation provides due process rights to institutions. The chancellor, president, or other top official of an institution undergoing accreditation review is given opportunity to respond to draft evaluation team reports in order to correct errors of fact. A college may also exercise its right to respond to a team’s findings and recommendations in writing or by appearing before the Commission when the case is being considered.

For more information about accreditation please find “The Value of Accreditation” published by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) at:
California Board of Registered Nursing
P.O. Box 944210 400 R. Street, Suite 4030 Sacramento, CA 95814

California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology
P.O. Box 944226 Sacramento, CA 94244-2260

Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST)
860 Stillwater Road, Suite 100 West Sacramento, CA 95605

National Institute for Automotive Services Excellence (ASE)
1503 Edwards Ferry Rd., NE, Suite 401 Leesburg, VA 20176


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