The Middle States Commission on Higher Education informed Wells College this week that it reaffirmed the College's accreditation at its meeting held June 24, 2021.
The College had been on probation with the Middle States Commission since June 2019. Over the past two years — throughout which time the College remained accredited — its leadership and trustees worked to address those areas of concern, meeting several times with different teams of peer evaluators who conducted follow-up visits to document the College's progress. The primary areas that were addressed were related to having adequate financial and human resources to sustain operations, budget planning and institutional improvement.
In the most recent visit, which occurred Feb. 25 and 26, 2021, the team found that Wells College appeared to once again meet the criteria for accreditation, noting that the College's latest monitoring report contained "evidence of a number of initiatives that have strengthened the College's financial position and planning efforts" since the previous team visit in December 2019. The team also acknowledged "the extraordinary collective effort of the entire Wells College community to address the myriad of challenges the institution faced," noting that it did so during a global pandemic, "an unprecedented time in our history as educational institutions in the U.S."
The College began to immediately address these deficiencies after the original June 2019 probation action, and began putting into place a strategic planning prioritization process that ultimately involved over 90 internal and external stakeholders over the past two years. The trustees formed an ad hoc committee called the Bell Tower Commission — whose members included trustees as well as faculty, staff and other alumnae/alumni — which solicited ideas and suggestions from the greater campus community.
The Bell Tower group submitted a report of its findings to the College's Board of Trustees on June 30, 2020. Following receipt of the Bell Tower report, the Board created a campus-wide Strategic Planning Steering Committee which evaluated those recommendations, enumerated five core strategic objectives, and developed a set of specific action-based initiatives for each objective. At the same time, the College's senior leadership developed a financial budgeting plan to accompany the overall strategic plan, in an effort to ensure that these strategic initiatives would receive institutional funding and support. On Feb. 12, 2021, the Board of Trustees formally approved the strategic plan, which will be implemented from now through the year 2024.
"I am so pleased at this news, and at the incredible progress that Wells College has made in a relatively short period of time," said Marie Chapman Carroll, chair of the College's Board of Trustees and a 1975 graduate. "The Wells community came together in a way like I have not seen before, and helped forge a bright new path for our beloved College. That we did so in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic is a real testament to the dedication and perseverance of everyone involved in these efforts," she added.
In the report that the Middle States visiting team submitted to the Commission after its February 2021 visit, the team said it "determined that there are clear ties to unit and department goals and identification of accountability for each initiative within the plan," calling it "very detailed, thoughtful and expansive." Wells College has already begun implementing many of these initiatives, including:
More information about the College's strategic plan may be found at wells.edu/strategic-plan.
The Commission's action this week completes the current accreditation cycle for Wells College; a routine monitoring report is scheduled for March 2022, followed by a mid-point peer review in 2023. The next accreditation cycle will commence with a self-study evaluation during the 2026–2027 year.
"These past few years have been incredibly challenging due to a myriad of external threats, however, as has been done before, the entire Wells community came together and lived our mission which is to 'think critically, reason wisely, and act humanely' — and, in doing so, we have paved the way to a very bright future," said Wells College President Jonathan Gibralter. He added: "There simply are not adequate words to express my appreciation and admiration to all who supported us through this time."