(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — Erie County Community College (EC3) has leapt another hurdle along the path to accreditation.

Why is accreditation important? Schools must be accredited for students to have access to federal student aid. It also signals that the college meets standards of high-quality education.

According to a blog post from EC3 President Chris Gray, accreditation is a long process. Along the way, an institution has to pass through several phases. Those phases are pre-applicants, applicants and candidates.

Gray highlighted the written reports the college has to file during the process for accreditation, which is in addition to on-campus visits from evaluators:

“Some are very broad, such as ensuring a climate of commitment to academic freedom, and some are very specific, such as ensuring there is a financial and budgeting planning process. Some of the expectations actually incorporate multiple processes, so that number actually multiplies to include hundreds of processes. For each process, EC3 needs to show where the policy exists, what the procedure for deploying the process is, who the process owner is, how the process is assessed and how the institution integrates learning from that process.”

Chris Gray, EC3 president

Recently, EC3 entered into the second phase of accreditation, meaning they’ve gone from pre-applicant to applicant status. The college now will have to submit a 200-300 page report called the Accreditation Readiness Report. Gray said he expects EC3 to complete the applicant phase within 2023.

“I am so thrilled that we are making progress,” Gray wrote. “Likewise, I am immensely proud of the work our team has done to move us into the Applicant phase. Much of that work has been done behind the scenes, but it’s definitely not invisible. It’s the work on which this next phase depends.”

The local college launched its first classes in September 2021 with about 200 students. Enrollment has climbed since then.