Bergen Affirms Excellence in Accreditation Visit

PARAMUS, N.J. – Evaluators from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education commended Bergen Community College’s commitment to high institutional standards during a preliminary report March 2, praising its accomplishments and compliance in all 14 “characteristics of excellence.” The report all but assures the College will receive a reaffirmation of its accreditation when the commission releases its final report later this year. Members of the evaluation team visited Bergen this week to conduct the institution’s decennial accreditation assessment.

Bergen President B. Kaye Walter, Ph.D., who joined the institution in 2012, thanked the evaluators for their thorough review and attributed the successful visit to College leadership, faculty and staff who have dedicated themselves to student and institutional excellence.

“With the two-year self-study process reaching its conclusion, I am not only proud of the institution and the work we have accomplished together, but I would like to specifically thank the inclusive group of more than 100 faculty, staff and students who contributed to the planning and research associated with this visit,” she said. “Bergen remains successful because of the professionals who teach and work here, as we advance student success initiatives in support of the state’s No. 1 college for associate degree graduates.”

The eight members of the commission’s evaluation team, led by Harper College (Illinois) President Kenneth Ender, Ph.D., visited Feb. 28 through March 2 to meet with College officials, faculty and staff. Conversations drew heavily from the institution’s self-study report, a comprehensive account of the College’s initiatives, policies and practices prepared in advance of the visit. Evaluators review institutions based on 14 areas such as assessment, faculty and integrity.

In an oral report delivered March 2, evaluators not only affirmed Bergen’s compliance with the standards, but also lauded 48 specific areas of excellence, referring to them as best practices for any institution.

Among the commendations, evaluators recognized the College’s commitment to student success, praising the Cerullo Learning Assistance Center, which has twice received “tutoring center of the year” honors in the past three years, the streamlined registration and financial aid services established in 2014 and the institution’s acceptance into the Achieving the Dream college reform network.

Additionally, the team applauded the College’s fiduciary controls and dedication to reining in expenses – specifically the costs borne by students. The College has limited tuition increases to an average of 1.97 percent during the past four years. Tuition rose an average of 6.1 percent from 2006-12.

Evaluators also appreciated the College’s commitment to faculty and staff, including significant increases in professional development opportunities such as tuition reimbursement and leadership training programs.

Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness Yun Kim, Ph.D., and professors Sony Tiwari and Gail Fernandez directed the efforts of the College’s 19-member self-study team, organizing working groups of faculty, staff and students to conduct research, gather documents and write reports submitted to the evaluation team.

Bergen first received accreditation from Middle States in 1972. The College will seek a reaffirmation of its accreditation again within 10 years, as the commission will soon revise the number of years between visits in order to promote greater self-reflection and continuous improvement among member institutions.

The commission serves as the accrediting body for more than 500 colleges in the mid-Atlantic region, including 48 in New Jersey. All community, technical, theological, undergraduate, graduate and research institutions must apply for accreditation. In addition to independently verifying the propriety of an institution, accreditation enables colleges to receive federal financial aid for students and the transfer of credits between schools.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls 15,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

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