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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Jan. 21, 2008) — The College of the Marshall Islands (CMI) received its most positive report ever from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in the lead up to last week’s full commission meeting in California that reviewed the Majuro-based college’s probationary status.

CMI officials are holding their collective breath until early February, when the WASC Accrediting Commission for Colleges and Junior Colleges is expected to issue its decision on CMI.

The WASC evaluation team that visited in November reported that all outstanding recommendations for improvement have been met and said "a remarkable transformation" had taken place at CMI.

"I remain hopeful that the college will be removed from warning status and so be able to produce our (next WASC) self-study with a level playing field," CMI President Wilson Hess said Friday shortly after his meeting with WASC officials in California.

Although CMI is as close as it’s been in years to gaining a return to fully accredited status, Hess downplayed expectations, noting: "The commission’s decision need not follow all the recommendations of the evaluation team."

The WASC commission meeting in California also announced important changes in the accreditation process that will affect CMI next year as the college proceeds with its self-study, Hess said. Hess explained that the self-study is the basic document needed for a six-year term of accreditation renewal.

"Perhaps the most significant policy change stems from new interpretations of U.S. law by the Department of Education," Hess said.

"They require any further sanctions to be fully resolved within a two-year period." In the future, failure to comply with WASC recommendations within two years will result in loss of accreditation, he said.

Fortunately for CMI, these new interpretations have just now come into play. Hess pointed out that CMI has been on sanction since 2002 — meaning it would have lost its U.S. accreditation, and the $4 million in federal grants that go with it, if this was enforced earlier.

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