Notes from the President

Chris Gray, Ph.D. | Founding President, Erie County Community College of Pennsylvania

This is a big week for EC3PA! We are on the cusp of submitting our Pre-Applicant Minimum Requirements Report to our accrediting body, which starts us on the path to accreditation with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, earning accreditation will enable EC3PA students to become eligible for federal financial aid programs available through the US Department of Education. This brings the possibility of a college education much closer to students who previously may have considered it but a dream.  

As to the process itself, the MSCHE only accepts applications four times a year, and we have been hard at work to meet the December 1 deadline. With this submission, we were working to complete the Pre-Applicant Minimum Requirements Review Report, a document that collects a variety of information for our peer reviewers to examine. It’s a straightforward list of questions to be answered, but the answers determine whether we are able to move forward or not.  

Among the items that we provide in this report are the specifics about the location and name of the institution as well as the dates that we are requesting that our evaluators come to visit our campus for a site visit. In addition, we need to provide information about the names of upper administration and the chair of our board of trustees. This tells MSCHE who we are and where we are.

During this process, the evaluators will conduct their site investigation to determine if we have secured all of the appropriate legal permissions and have appropriate supporting documentation thereof.  They will consider the institution’s current operations as well as its mission and goals to see if we are operating in compliance therewith. They will evaluate our institutional governance and financial structures to determine whether there are sound practices in place. And finally, they will make certain that we have provided all of the certifications and disclosures as required.  

This process could result in the evaluators requesting extra information before making a decision about our next step, or the documentation that we provide could itself be sufficient to warrant a decision about our next step moving forward.  In the former case, EC3PA will work to provide the extra information swiftly; in the latter case, we will then be cleared to proceed to the next step of the accreditation process:  the ability to file an application for accreditation following a site visit along with peer and committee review. The process will take months from start to finish, but it is exciting nonetheless.  

Truly, this is a significant moment in the founding of EC3PA. While it is but one step down a long road, and we still have a long way to go, it’s nonetheless an important one in that sets us on a course to deliver on our promise to this county as articulated in our mission statement:  

The mission of the Erie County Community College of PA is to provide increased access to higher education for the people of Erie County, Pennsylvania, to assist them in achieving their educational goals, to provide a competent workforce for area employers, and to increase both the baccalaureate and associate degree holders in Erie County.

I hope that you’ll join me in a moment of celebration as we take this important step together.