Frequently Asked Questions
What Standards Must an Institution Meet to be Accredited?
Middle States accreditation is an expression of confidence in an institution's mission and goals, its performance, and its resources. An institution is accredited when the educational community has verified that its goals are achieved through self-regulation and peer review. The extent to which each educational institution accepts and fulfills the responsibilities inherent in the process of accreditation is a measure of its commitment to striving for and achieving excellence in its endeavors.
MSCHE's new Standards for Accreditation and Requirements of Affiliation, adopted in 2014, are comprised of seven standards and 15 requirements of affiliation which serve as an ongoing guide for those institutions considering application for membership, those accepted as candidate institutions, and those accredited institutions engaged in self-review and peer evaluation. Accredited institutions are expected to demonstrate compliance with these standards and requirements, and to engage in ongoing processes of self-review and improvement.
Four principles guided the development of the new standards: first, the mission-centric standards acknowledge the diversity of institutions; second, the focus of the standards is on the student learning experience; third, the standards emphasize institutional assessment and assessment of student learning; and fourth, the standards support innovation as an essential part of continuous improvement.
These standards affirm that the individual mission and goals of each institution remain the context within which these accreditation standards are applied. They emphasize functions rather than specific structures, recognizing that there are many different models for educational and operational excellence.
The New Standards at a Glance
Standard I Mission and Goals
The institution’s mission defines its purpose within the context of higher education, the students it serves, and what it intends to accomplish. The institution’s stated goals are clearly linked to its mission and specify how the institution fulfills its mission.
Standard II Ethics and Integrity
Ethics and integrity are central, indispensable, and defining hallmarks of effective higher education institutions. In all activities, whether internal or external, an institution must be faithful to its mission, honor its contracts and commitments, adhere to its policies, and represent itself truthfully.
Standard III Design and Delivery of the Student Learning Experience
An institution provides students with learning experiences that are characterized by rigor and coherence of all program, certificate, and degree levels, regardless of instructional modality. All learning experiences, regardless of modality, program pace/schedule, level, and setting are consistent with higher education expectations.
Standard IV Support of the Student Experience
Across all educational experiences, settings, levels, and instructional modalities, the institution recruits and admits students whose interests, abilities, experiences, and goals are congruent with its mission and educational offerings. The institution commits to student retention, persistence, completion, and success through a coherent and effective support system sustained by qualified professionals, which enhances the quality of the learning environment, contributes to the educational experience, and fosters student success.
Standard V Educational Effectiveness Assessment
Assessment of student learning and achievement demonstrates that the institution’s students have accomplished educational goals with their program of study, degree level, the institution’s mission, and appropriate expectations for institutions of higher education.
Standard VI Planning, Resources, and Institutional Improvement
The institution’s planning processes, resources, and structures are aligned with each other and are sufficient to fulfill its mission and goals, to continuously assess and improve its programs and services, and to respond effectively to opportunities and challenges.
Standard VII Governance, Leadership, and Administration
The institution is governed and administered in a manner that allows it to realize its stated mission and goals in a way that effectively benefits the institution, its students, and the other constituencies it serves. Even when supported by or affiliated with governmental, corporate, religious, educational system, or other unaccredited organizations, the institution has education as its primary purpose, and it operates as an academic institution with appropriate autonomy.
The New Requirements of Affiliation
To be eligible for, to achieve, and to maintain MSCHE accreditation, an institution must demonstrate that it fully meets the following Requirements of Affiliation. Compliance is expected to be continuous and will be validated periodically, typically at the time of institutional self-study and during any other evaluation of the institution’s compliance. Once eligibility is established, an institution then must demonstrate on an ongoing basis that it meets the Standards for Accreditation.
1. The institution is authorized or licensed to operate as a postsecondary educational institution and to award postsecondary degrees; it provides written documentation demonstrating both. Authorization or licensure is from an appropriate governmental organization or agency within the Middle States region (Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), as well as by other agencies as required by each of the jurisdictions, regions, or countries in which the institution operates.
Institutions that offer only postsecondary certificates, diplomas, or licenses are not eligible for accreditation by MSCHE.
2. The institution is operational, with students actively enrolled in its degree programs.
3. For institutions pursuing Candidacy or Initial Accreditation, the institution will graduate at least one class before the evaluation team visit for initial accreditation takes place, unless the institution can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Commission that the lack of graduates does not compromise its ability to demonstrate that students have achieved appropriate learning outcomes.
4. The institution’s representatives communicate with the Commission in English, both orally and in writing.
5. The institution complies with all applicable government (usually Federal and state) laws and regulations.
6. The institution complies with applicable Commission, interregional, and inter-institutional policies. These policies can be viewed on the Commission website, www.msche.org.
7. The institution has a mission statement and related goals, approved by its governing board, that defines its purposes within the context of higher education.
8. The institution systematically evaluates its educational and other programs and makes public how well and in what ways it is accomplishing its purposes.
9. The institution’s student learning programs and opportunities are characterized by rigor, coherence, and appropriate assessment of student achievement throughout the educational offerings, regardless of certificate or degree level or delivery and instructional modality.
10. Institutional planning integrates goals for academic and institutional effectiveness and improvement, student achievement of educational goals, student learning, and the results of academic and institutional assessments.
11. The institution has documented financial resources, funding base, and plans for financial development, including those from any related entities (including without limitation systems, religious sponsorship, and corporate ownership) adequate to support its educational purposes and programs and to ensure financial stability. The institution demonstrates a record of responsible fiscal management, has a prepared budget for the current year, and undergoes an external financial audit on an annual basis.
12. The institution fully discloses its legally constituted governance structure(s) including any related entities (including without limitation systems, religious sponsorship, and corporate ownership). The institution’s governing body is responsible for the quality and integrity of the institution and for ensuring that the institution’s mission is being accomplished.
13. A majority of the institution’s governing body members have no employment, family, ownership, or other personal financial interest in the institution. The governing body adheres to a conflict of interest policy that assures that those interests are disclosed and that they do not interfere with the impartiality of governing body members or outweigh the greater duty to secure and ensure the academic and fiscal integrity of the institution. The institution’s district/system or other chief executive officer shall not serve as the chair of the governing body.
14.The institution and its governing body/bodies make freely available to the Commission accurate, fair, and complete information on all aspects of the institution and its operations. The governing body/bodies ensure that the institution describes itself in comparable and consistent terms to all of its accrediting and regulatory agencies, communicates any changes in accredited status, and agrees to disclose information (including levels of governing body compensation, if any) required by the Commission to carry out its accrediting responsibilities.
15. The institution has a core of faculty (full-time or part-time) and/or other appropriate professionals with sufficient responsibility to the institution to assure the continuity and coherence of the institution’s educational programs.
For more details on the standards and requirements, please visit www.msche.org/publications/RevisedStandardsFINAL.pdf