The College of DuPage is no longer on probation and will keep its accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, school officials said Tuesday.
The commission's decision means the Glen Ellyn-based community college has sufficiently addressed concerns with its financial, academic, personnel and auxiliary functions, officials said.
"The HLC review process was comprehensive, and it provided us an opportunity to thoroughly review our practices and ultimately strengthen the college," COD President Ann Rondeau said.
The commission placed the state's largest community college on two years of probation in December 2015 amid concerns with the school's administrative practices.
Two months before that decision, the accreditation agency released a scathing report citing concerns under former President Robert Breuder's watch, including administrators' being reimbursed for alcohol purchased at COD's high-end restaurant, a theft at the campus radio station and the assignment of credits at COD's Suburban Law Enforcement Academy. The report also suggested the COD board was dysfunctional.
The probation meant COD had to address those and other concerns or risk losing its accreditation, which would have adversely affected financial aid programs and students' ability to transfer credits.
In response, Rondeau said, administrators, staff, faculty and others put in thousands of hours reviewing and revamping policies and procedures.
Jim Bente, vice president of planning and institutional effectiveness, said the effort began by creating an accreditation task force to develop ways for addressing issues cited by the HLC. He said the task force also started to "heal some of the wounds," especially between the faculty and administration.
The work culminated with COD's submitting an assurance filing to the HLC earlier this year. The nearly 40,000-word document made the case for how the college meets all 21 of the commission's criteria for accreditation and not just the issues that led to sanctions.
Rondeau said the effort "made us a stronger, better place."
The commission's review team visited the campus in April and later issued a report confirming the school met all the necessary criteria.
That report, however, indicated that seven of the criteria were "met with concerns," including ethical and responsible conduct, quality of educational programs through evaluation and improvement, and governance and administrative structures promoting effective leadership.
Despite those concerns, the review team recommended no sanctions. COD officials said at the time the recommendation was the best they could hope for.
The recommendation was reviewed by HLC's Institutional Actions Council, which then forwarded its own recommendation to the HLC board, which made the final decision to lift the probation.
School officials were notified by the HLC on Tuesday.
"There is no question that a weight has been lifted," COD board Chairwoman Deanne Mazzochi said. "Now we're going to be able to continue to get better and stronger and move the institution forward.
"We are very well aware that our students need us and count on us. To know our accreditation is intact is a wonderful outcome."
While COD is no longer on probation, the HLC will continue to monitor its progress. The commission asked the school to file a report by May 15 "on topics including processes related to course outcomes as well as documentation of credit-hour calculation for all delivery methods."
In addition, the college will host a HLC visit by September 2019 "addressing ethical behavior and training among its board of trustees, and leadership support of collaborative processes."
The HLC says the visit also will examine student assessment and outcomes; student retention, persistence and completion; planning and success measurements; and institutional performance.
Mazzochi said the board is committed to the process.
"This is something we have to be ever vigilant about," she said. "This is a first step. There's still a lot more work that needs to be done."