Middle States Commission on Higher Education







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Frequently Asked Questions

Range of Commission Actions on Accreditation


(Effective October, 2002)
 

The accreditation process is a voluntary, self‑regulatory, peer review process. As such, it relies upon candidate and member institutions to provide complete, accurate information and self‑analysis as a foundation for review activities. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education and its evaluators use this information, in conjunction with on‑site interviews and data gathering, to determine whether an institution meets the standards for accreditation expressed in Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education, the Commission's statement of standards.

 

The actions the Commission may take regarding accreditation are noted below. These actions are taken following an on‑site evaluation, a periodic review report (PRR), a follow‑up or substantive change report, or at any other time that an institution's accreditation is reviewed. Evaluation teams, special visitors, PRR reviewers, and special committees will formulate their recommendations to the Commission accordingly. Current Commission policy is to publish all actions.

 

Current U.S. Department of Education regulations require a maximum two‑year time frame for further Commission review and action when an institution has been found not to be in compliance with Commission standards. (If the compliance issues involve only programs of less than two years in length, the maximum time for compliance is 18 months.) Consistent with these regulations, the Commission has established the following time limits for available actions (other than reaffirmation or reaffirmation w/progress letter):
 

Action

Time Limit

reaffirmation of accreditation

 

reaffirmation w/progress letter

 

 

 

monitoring actions

 

reaffirmation w/monitoring report

6‑24 months

reaffirmation w/monitoring report & visit

6‑24 months

 

 

procedural action

 

postponement of a decision

 

  w/supplemental information report

1‑12 months

postponement of a decision

 

  w/supplemental information report & visit

1‑12 months

 

 

non‑compliance actions

 

warning

1‑24 months*

probation

1‑24 months*

    *Total time for warning and probation may not exceed 24 months.

 

 

 

procedural action

 

show cause

1‑24 months

 

Time limits are based upon the date of Commission action (not the date of the team visit).

The Commission may at its discretion require an institution to report on progress sooner than the maximum time allowed, and may for good cause extend the time for demonstrating compliance.
 

Commission actions of postponement, warning, or probation, none of which is deemed to constitute an adverse action under these procedures, automatically result in further Commission review of the institution's status prior to the expiration of the maximum time period allowed for such action. Such review will either result in the lifting of the non‑adverse action, or the imposition of a subsequent non‑adverse action as described above, or the imposition of an adverse action as described below. The Commission is not bound by the sequence suggested above nor precluded from taking an action at any level (e.g., warning need not precede probation; the next action following warning may be show cause).
 

As stated above, the Commission may extend, for good cause, any period for demonstrating compliance. Good cause for extending the duration of a non‑adverse action shall exist, for example, when, in its discretion, the Commission determines that the institution is making a good faith effort to remedy existing deficiencies and a reasonable expectation exists that such deficiencies will be remedied within the period of extension if adverse action is postponed. No single period of extension may be greater than the length of the initial action.
 

An adverse action is an action by the Commission to remove an institution from the list of accredited institutions. Show cause is a procedural action (requiring an institution to show cause why its accreditation should not be removed); show cause may or may not result in the adverse action of removal of accreditation.

Except for good cause, the Commission will not knowingly take action on any institution that is the subject of an action potentially leading to suspension, revocation, or termination of accreditation or candidacy by a state agency or by another accrediting agency or on any institution that has been notified of a threatened loss of accreditation by a state agency or by another accrediting agency. In such instances of good cause, the Commission will develop an explanation, consistent with its standards, why the action of the other accreditor or agency does not preclude the Commission's grant of candidacy or accreditation.
 

Commission actions are subject to appeal in accord with due process as allowed for in the Bylaws of the Middle States Association and delineated in the document Procedures for Appeals from Decisions of an Accrediting Commission of the Association.

An institution's accreditation is continued (a) while it complies with the Commission's request for information, additional reports, special visits, or other action, and (b) during an institution's appeal of a Commission action.
 

A. For accredited institutions, following an on‑site evaluation, the Commission may take the following actions:

1) To REAFFIRM accreditation.

Reaffirmation without conditions indicates that there are no current issues requiring monitoring via reports prior to the Periodic Review Report (filed five years after the evaluation visit).

2) To REAFFIRM accreditation, with a request for a progress letter on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date.

The Commission requests a progress letter in order to assure the Commission that the institution is carrying out activities planned or being implemented to enhance institutional effectiveness.

3) To REAFFIRM accreditation, with a request for a monitoring report on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date.

The Commission requests a monitoring report when it has identified one or more standards where future non‑compliance is possible, if institutional attention and progress are not ongoing.

4) To REAFFIRM accreditation, with a request for a monitoring report on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date, to be followed by a visit.

The Commission requests a monitoring report when it has identified one or more standards where future non‑compliance is possible, if institutional attention and progress are not ongoing. A visit is included if verification of institutional status and progress requires on‑site (rather than paper only) review.

5) To POSTPONE a decision on accreditation, with a request for a supplemental information report on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date.

The Commission postpones a decision and request a supplemental information report when it has determined that there is insufficient information to substantiate institutional compliance with one or more accreditation standards. Supplemental information reports are intended only to allow the institution to provide further information, not to give the institution time to formulate plans or initiate remedial actions.

6) To POSTPONE a decision on accreditation, with a request for a supplemental information report on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date, to be followed by a visit.

The Commission postpones a decision and request a supplemental information report when it has determined that there is insufficient information to substantiate institutional compliance with one or more accreditation standards. Supplemental information reports are intended only to allow the institution to provide further information, not to give the institution time to formulate plans or initiate remedial actions.

A visit is included if verification of institutional status and progress requires on‑site (rather than paper only) review.

7) To WARN an institution that its accreditation may be in jeopardy, unless the Commission's serious concerns regarding possible non‑compliance with standards are addressed.

Warning indicates that in the Commission's judgment, the institution appears not to be in compliance with Commission standards. This action is accompanied by a request for a monitoring report, and a special visit may follow.

8) To place an institution on PROBATION.

Probation may be used in various circumstances.

a) An institution found not to be in compliance with Commission standards may be placed on probation. Similarly, institutions for which a decision on accreditation has been postponed OR institutions already on warning may be placed on probation when, in the Commission's judgment, the institution has failed to demonstrate that it has addressed satisfactorily the Commission's concerns regarding compliance with Commission standards, as specified in the prior action of postponement or warning. This action is accompanied by a request for a monitoring report, and a special visit may follow. As such, probation may precede an action of show cause.

b) Probation will be utilized when an institution previously under show cause has presented substantive evidence of progress in addressing the Commission's concerns and has been directed by the Commission to prepare a further monitoring report (with or without a visit) or to initiate self‑study and host an evaluation visit.

Alternatively, the Commission may act to reaffirm accreditation when show cause is removed;  however, institutions for whom show cause has been lifted will necessarily be placed in a status of probation unless the Commission has acted to reaffirm accreditation.

9) To require an institution to SHOW CAUSE, within a limited period, as to why its accreditation should not be removed. The Commission will specify the nature, purpose, and scope of the information to be submitted and of the evaluation visit to be made. A show cause order requires an institution to present its case for continued accreditation by means of a substantive report and/or an on‑site evaluation.

10) Subsequent to a show cause procedure, or in a case where an institution no longer meets the Commission's eligibility requirements, to REMOVE AN INSTITUTION FROM THE LIST OF ACCREDITED INSTITUTIONS holding membership in the Middle States Association.

 

B. For applicant institutions, following an applicant assessment visit, the Commission may take the following actions:

1) To GRANT Candidate for Accreditation status.

2) To GRANT Candidate for Accreditation status and invite the institution to initiate self‑study.

Institutions that are judged to meet all accreditation substantively may be permitted to commence self‑study immediately, thus shortening the candidacy period.

3) To POSTPONE a decision regarding Candidate for Accreditation status for a specified time period.

Postponement reflects the Commission's judgment that the applicant institution shows strong promise but is not yet ready for candidacy; if concerns are addressed within the specified time period, the institution's application will be reconsidered by the Commission.

4) To DENY Candidate for Accreditation status.

C. For candidate institutions, the Commission may take these actions following an on‑site evaluation for initial accreditation:

1) To GRANT ACCREDITATION.

All institutions receiving initial accreditation must be fully evaluated again within a maximum of five years. Accreditation without conditions indicates that there are no current issues requiring monitoring via reports prior to the next evaluation visit.

2) To GRANT ACCREDITATION, with a request for a progress letter on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date.

The Commission requests a progress letter in order to assure the Commission that the institution is carrying out activities planned or being implemented to enhance institutional effectiveness.

3) To GRANT ACCREDITATION, with a request for a monitoring report on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date.

The Commission requests a monitoring report when it has identified one or more standards where future non‑compliance is possible, if institutional attention and progress are not ongoing.

4) To GRANT ACCREDITATION, with a request for a monitoring report on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date, to be followed by a visit.

The Commission requests a monitoring report when it has identified one or more standards where future non‑compliance is possible, if institutional attention and progress are not ongoing. A visit is included if verification of institutional status and progress requires on‑site (rather than paper only) review.

5) To POSTPONE a decision on accreditation, with a request for a supplemental information report on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date.

The Commission postpones a decision and request a supplemental information report when it has determined that there is insufficient information to substantiate institutional compliance with one or more accreditation standards. Supplemental information reports are intended only to allow the institution to provide further information, not to give the institution time to formulate plans or initiate remedial actions.

6) To POSTPONE a decision on accreditation, with a request for a supplemental information report on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date, to be followed by a visit.

The Commission postpones a decision and request a supplemental information report when it has determined that there is insufficient information to substantiate institutional compliance with one or more accreditation standards. Supplemental information reports are intended only to allow the institution to provide further information, not to give the institution time to formulate plans or initiate remedial actions. A visit is included if verification of institutional status and progress requires on‑site (rather than paper only) review.

7) To DENY ACCREDITATION.

An institution denied initial accreditation may be permitted to remain in candidate status until it is ready for a new evaluation within a limited period of time. In cases where the five year limit on candidacy has been reached, the Commission may consider extending the limit on a case by case basis. If an extension is not granted, the institution may not reapply for candidacy for at least two years.

following a candidate status review visit:

1) To CONTINUE Candidate for Accreditation status.

2) To require a candidate institution to SHOW CAUSE, within a limited period, as to why its status as a Candidate for Accreditation should not be removed. The Commission will specify the nature, purpose, and scope of the information to be submitted and of the evaluation visit to be made. A show cause order requires an institution to present its case for continued candidacy by means of a substantive report and an on‑site evaluation.

3) Subsequent to a show cause procedure, or in a case where an institution no longer meets the Commission's eligibility requirements, to REMOVE AN INSTITUTION FROM Candidate for Accreditation STATUS.

 

D. Periodic Review Reports:

1) To accept the report & to REAFFIRM accreditation.

2) To accept the report & to REAFFIRM accreditation, with a request for a progress letter on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date.

The Commission requests a progress letter in order to assure the Commission that the institution is carrying out activities planned or being implemented to enhance institutional effectiveness.

3) To accept the report & to REAFFIRM accreditation, with a request for a monitoring report on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date.

The Commission requests a monitoring report when it has identified one or more standards where future non‑compliance is possible, if institutional attention and progress are not ongoing.

4) To accept the report & to REAFFIRM accreditation, with a request for a monitoring report on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date, to be followed by a visit.

The Commission requests a monitoring report when it has identified one or more standards where future non‑compliance is possible, if institutional attention and progress are not ongoing. A visit is included if verification of institutional status and progress requires on‑site (rather than paper only) review.

5) To POSTPONE a decision on accreditation, with a request for a supplemental information report on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date.

The Commission postpones a decision and request a supplemental information report when it has determined that there is insufficient information to substantiate institutional compliance with one or more accreditation standards. Supplemental information reports are intended only to allow the institution to provide further information, not to give the institution time to formulate plans or initiate remedial actions.

6) To POSTPONE a decision on accreditation, with a request for a supplemental information report on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date, to be followed by a visit.

The Commission postpones a decision and request a supplemental information report when it has determined that there is insufficient information to substantiate institutional compliance with one or more accreditation standards. Supplemental information reports are intended only to allow the institution to provide further information, not to give the institution time to formulate plans or initiate remedial actions. A visit is included if verification of institutional status and progress requires on‑site (rather than paper only) review.

7) To DIRECT that a full institutional SELF‑STUDY be undertaken immediately after consultation with Commission staff, to be followed by an evaluation team visit. This action may be taken in conjunction with rejecting the report, warning an institution that its accreditation may be in jeopardy, or placing an institution on probation.

8) To REJECT the report, with a request that a new report be submitted by a specific date.

9) To WARN an institution that its accreditation may be in jeopardy, unless the Commission's serious concerns regarding possible non‑compliance with standards are addressed.

Warning indicates that in the Commission's judgment, the institution appears not to be in compliance with Commission standards. This action is accompanied by a request for a monitoring report, and a special visit may follow.

10) To place an institution on PROBATION.

Probation indicates that in the Commission's judgment, the institution is not in compliance with Commission standards. This action is accompanied by a request for a monitoring report, and a special visit may follow. As such, probation may precede an action of show cause.

11) To require an institution to SHOW CAUSE, within a limited period, as to why its accreditation should not be removed. The Commission will specify the nature, purpose, and scope of the information to be submitted and of the evaluation visit to be made. A show cause order requires an institution to present its case for continued accreditation by means of a substantive report and/or an on‑site evaluation.

12) Subsequent to a show cause procedure, or in a case where an institution no longer meets the Commission's eligibility requirements, to REMOVE AN INSTITUTION FROM THE LIST OF ACCREDITED INSTITUTIONS holding membership in the Middle States Association.

 

E. Substantive Change Reports:

Consistent with the Commission's policy on "Substantive Change," the Commission may take the following actions:

1) To accept the report submitted by the institution, and to include the change within the scope of the institution's accreditation.

2) To accept the report submitted by the institution, to include the change within the scope of the institution's accreditation, and to request a progress letter on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date.

The Commission requests a progress letter in order to assure the Commission that the institution is carrying out activities planned or being implemented to enhance institutional effectiveness.

3) To accept the report submitted by the institution, to include the change within the scope of the institution's accreditation, and to request a monitoring report on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date.

The Commission requests a monitoring report when it has identified one or more standards where future non‑compliance is possible, if institutional attention and progress are not ongoing.

4) To accept the report submitted by the institution, to include the change within the scope of the institution's accreditation, and to request a monitoring report on specific issues to be submitted by a specific date, to be followed by a visit.

The Commission requests a monitoring report when it has identified one or more standards where future non‑compliance is possible, if institutional attention and progress are not ongoing. A visit is included if verification of institutional status and progress requires on‑site (rather than paper only) review.

5) To accept the report submitted by the institution, to include the change within the scope of the institution's accreditation, and to direct the institution to commence early self‑study in preparation for an evaluation team visit.

The Commission will designate the specific timing for the evaluation team visit.

6) To accept the report submitted by the institution, and to include the change provisionally within the scope of the institution's accreditation, pending receipt of a monitoring report and/or visit and further Commission review and action.

7) To deny the institution's request to include the change within the scope of the current accreditation.

Reasons and any subsequent steps to be followed will be specified.

8) To refer the substantive change proposal to the full Commission for review and action.

This action is taken when the Committee on Substantive Change is unable to reach consensus.

Beyond these eight actions, other actions consistent with the Commission's standard follow‑up and evaluation procedures (including actions of warning, probation, show cause and removal of accreditation) may be taken when warranted.

F. Follow‑up Activities:

If institutional reports (progress letters, monitoring reports, or supplemental information reports) and/or special visits are required as the result of action taken by the Commission (or in the case of a candidate institution following a status review visit), such institutional reports and/or visitors' reports are reviewed by the Commission. The Commission then takes an action parallel to those listed in A, C, and D above, except that if accreditation was reaffirmed at the time the follow‑up activity was required, reaffirmation is not repeated.

Although the Commission is not limited to the following options, Commission action most often consists of accepting the report and taking one of these further actions:

Ø      to remind the institution of the next evaluation visit or Periodic Review Report

Ø      to request that the next self‑study or Periodic Review Report document further progress on specified issues.

Ø      to request a progress letter or monitoring report on specified issues, and to remind the institution of the next evaluation visit or Periodic Review Report.

Ø      to affirm the inclusion of the substantive change within the scope of the institution's accreditation, and to remind the institution of the next evaluation visit or Periodic Review Report. (This action is taken subsequent to an action to include a change provisionally within the scope of the institution's accreditation.)

If the report does not meet the Commission's expectations for follow‑up reports, the Commission may elect to acknowledge receipt of the report (rather than accept the report) or to reject the report. When circumstances warrant, the Commission may also direct the institution to commence early self‑study.

 

Previously issued: 1921, February 1984, January 1990,
February 1991, and 1993.
Revised February 1997, February 2002, and October 2002.

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