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Accreditation FAQ

[En español]
Updated April 18, 2013

Who is the HLC and what is accreditation?

The Higher Learning Commission is one of several regional and national organizations that accredits institutions of higher education such as PCC. It is a private educational association, not a government agency.

Accreditation is an important indication for current students, prospective students and the community that a college is operating acceptably.

The U.S. Department of Education describes the accreditation process like this: “Accrediting agencies . . . develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to assess whether . . . those criteria are met. Institutions and/or programs that request an agency's evaluation and that meet an agency’s criteria are then ‘accredited’ by that agency.”

What is probation?

Probation is one of several sanctions that the HLC can apply to the colleges and schools it accredits.

According to the HLC, probation indicates an institution is not in compliance with one or more of the commission's Criteria for Accreditation, and must demonstrate within two years it has remedied the problems that led to the sanction. (For more information, consult the HLC’s Special Conditions webpage.)

What happens to a school that loses accreditation?

Colleges without accreditation cannot issue federal financial aid, and student course credits will not be accepted by other colleges.

Does a school lose its accreditation while it is on probation?

No. A school that is on probation remains accredited by the HLC.

Why did the HLC put PCC on probation?

In its Public Disclosure Notice, the HLC said it was putting PCC on probation “because of concerns related to integrity, financial management, personnel policies and procedures, shared governance, Board oversight of the institution, and systemic and integrated planning.”

What did the HLC base its decision on?

The HLC made its decision based “on the findings of an evaluation conducted as a result of complaints received by the Commission about the College,” according to the Public Disclosure Notice.

In January, the HLC sent a fact-finding team to PCC to learn more about PCC governance and administration.

It is important to emphasize that the HLC has not identified any concerns with our academic programs or student services.

(You can read the Public Disclosure Notice and other materials on the Accreditation page of our website.) 

Will probation affect financial aid for students?

No. Probation would not affect PCC's ability to offer financial aid to our students. 

Will probation affect a student’s ability to transfer courses to a four-year college?

We do not anticipate any change in a student’s ability to transfer courses.  We have received letters from several of the primary universities to which our students transfer assuring that transfer will continue as usual.  View:  UA letter (accessible version) | ASU letter  |  NAU letter (accessible version)

Can UA, NAU and ASU change their minds about accepting PCC students for transfer?

Regardless of a college’s accreditation status, a four-year college always has the final say on which courses transfer and which do not.  However, in our conversations with the Arizona universities, there will not be any issues with course transfer from PCC during the time that PCC is on probation.  In fact, all of the universities would actually like to see more transfer students from PCC and other Arizona community colleges.

Having said that, all of the traditional guidelines for transfer continue to apply, meaning that some courses that haven’t transferred in the past will still not transfer in the future.  For example, someone wishing to transfer a business course into a nursing program will likely not have that course transfer.  We still recommend working with a PCC advisor to help insure that students are taking appropriate courses for the degree and university in which they intend to transfer.

What about programs offered through the Public Safety and Emergency Services Institute (PSESI)?

Probation should have no impact on Fire Academy or any other PSESI classes.

How is PCC responding?

In its Public Disclosure Notice, the HLC outlined the process PCC needs to follow to be removed from probation. 

The HLC has directed the College to file a monitoring report no later than August 1, 2013, outlining our plan to conform with HLC practices relating to complaints and grievance procedures, and to faculty oversight of curriculum.

The College also must file a comprehensive self-study by July 2014. The self-study must provide evidence that PCC has resolved the concerns of the HLC and meets the HLC’s Criteria for Evaluation.

The College must host a Comprehensive Evaluation Visit no later than September 2014 to determine whether the HLC’s concerns have been fully resolved. In February 2015, the HLC Board will meet to determine whether the College can be removed from probation.

In communications to PCC students and employees, Interim Chancellor Zelema Harris and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Dr. Jerry Migler have said that PCC already has started  addressing the issues raised by the HLC so that the College can restore the HLC’s  and public’s fullest confidence in our institution.

It’s important to note that for students, the process leading to PCC’s removal from probation will be invisible, and that the College will keep students, employees and the community informed every step of the way.

Where can I send questions about accreditation? 

You can send questions about accreditation to the Provost’s Office through the Accred-Questions@pima.edu email.