In 2016, the Virginia General Assembly directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) to review the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) to evaluate the system in several areas, specifically education and training, collaboration with other educational institutions, VCCS spending, and support of the colleges by the system office. The JLARC report was released in September 2017.
One of the areas addressed in the report was “VCCS campus locations ensure access to college courses and training, but viability of smallest campuses should be examined periodically”. The report noted that there did not appear to be any colleges or campuses closed or consolidated at that time, but that there was no formal process in place for considering closure or consolidation. They recommended that the VCCS develop such a policy to ensure that the need for closure or consolidation could be examined periodically.
Based on the JLARC report, the VCCS Chancellor appointed a task force consisting of three former members of the State Board for Community College and three retired community college presidents to draft a policy outlining the process for reviewing colleges for closure or consolidation. All six task force members live in rural Virginia, and the presidents had all worked at small colleges. They were selected to ensure the nuances and unique considerations of the communities most likely to be touched by this policy were priority considerations in its creations. The result of their efforts resulted in the creation of Policy 2.15, Policy to Maintain Accessibility, Effectiveness, and Efficiency within the VCCS. This policy was approved by the State Board for Community Colleges in July 2018.
Under the new policy, each of Virginia’s 23 community colleges will be evaluated annually, based on factors including effective delivery of programs to students, and recognizing the role the college plays in its local community. Detailed assessments will be conducted for colleges that fall below certain thresholds, including number of students served, population of service area, and cost of programs relative to the rest of the community college system. If a college is subject to a detailed assessment, there are requirements to gather information and perspectives from community stakeholders, along with data and information on organizational structure and operations.
In August 2018, ESCC was notified by the VCCS that the college had fallen below the required thresholds and would be subject to a detailed assessment. An assessment team comprised of VCCS officials in the areas of Academics, Student Affairs, Finance, Workforce, and Human Resources began its work immediately. This work included visits to ESCC to conduct focus group meetings with faculty, staff, administration, and students. Based on its findings, the assessment team recommended to the VCCS Chancellor that ESCC undergo a three-year reboot period to establish Eastern Shore Community College as a strong, sustainable college that will more effectively and efficiently serve the educational and training needs of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. From these recommendations, a plan was developed and approved by the State Board for Community Colleges in January 2019. The Reboot Plan contains goals and objectives to be met over a three-year period beginning July 1, 2019.