Middle States Commission on Higher Education







print

Glossary

MSCHE Glossary of Terms

 

Academic Calendar

A period of time designated by a college or university that includes dates for registration, additions and deletions to students’ class schedules, beginning and ending of semesters/terms, mid-term and final exams, application for graduation, and other key activities.

Academic Credit

Credit earned by students for successful completion of college-level courses and applicable toward degrees.

Academic Program

An instructional program leading toward an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctor’s degree, resulting in credits that can be applied to one of these degrees. Source: IPEDS.

Academic Year

A period of time that colleges use to measure a quantity of study. A typical academic year may consist of two semesters (fall and spring) of approximately 15 weeks each or three quarters of approximately 10 weeks each. Academic years can vary from college to college or from program to program within the same college or university. For the purposes of federal student financial assistance programs, an academic year has a minimum of 30 weeks of instructional time for a course of study that measures its program length in credit hours or a minimum of 26 weeks of instructional time for a course of study that measures its program length in clock hours. A full-time student in an undergraduate course of study is expected to complete at least 24 semester credit hours or 36 quarter credit hours in a course of study that measures its program length in credit hours, or at least 900 clock hours in a course of study that measures its program length in clock hours. Source: 20 USC 1088.

An academic year in a direct assessment program is a period of instructional time that consists of a minimum of 30 weeks of instructional time during which, for an undergraduate educational program, a full-time student is expected to complete the equivalent of at least 24 semester credit hours, 36 quarter credit hours, or 900 clock hours. Source: 34 CFR 668.10.

Accept

The Commission “accepts” a letter or report when its quality, thoroughness, and clarity are sufficient to respond to all of the Commission’s concerns, without requiring additional information in order to assess the institution’s status. Another definition of the word involves students. A student is “accepted” or receives his/her “acceptance” letter, when an institution of higher education agrees that the student meets its admission requirements and makes a formal offer of admission (opportunity to enroll) to the student.

Accreditation

A process of peer review that the educational community has adopted for self-regulation since early in the 20th century. It is a voluntary process intended to strengthen and sustain the quality and integrity of higher education, making it worthy of public confidence. Institutions choose to apply for accredited status, and once accredited, they agree to abide by the standards of their accrediting organization and to regulate themselves by taking responsibility for their own improvement.

Accreditation Commission

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is one of seven regional accreditors throughout the United States. MSCHE is responsible for colleges and universities in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and selected institutions abroad. Because MSCHE is an accrediting body that is recognized by the United States Department of Education, students at MSCHE-accredited institutions are eligible under Title IV to receive federal student financial assistance.

Accreditation Liaison Officer (ALO)

An individual designated by an institution as the key point of contact with MSCHE on accreditation matters.

Accreditation Status, Statement of

MSCHE can grant accreditation to an institution, reaffirm accreditation, or take a number of other actions, ranging from follow-up visits and monitoring reports, to probation, show cause, or removal of accreditation. A Statement of Accreditation Status (SAS) for each MSCHE member institution is posted on this website under Institutions.

Acronyms Commonly Used in Higher Education

AACRAO- American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers

                ACE- American Council on Education

                ALO- Accreditation Liaison Officer

                AA- Associate of Arts degree

                AAS- Associate of Applied Science degree

                AFA- Associate of Fine Arts degree

                AS- Associate of Science degree

                BA- Bachelor of Arts degree

                BFA- Bachelor of Fine Arts degree

                BS- Bachelor of Science degree

                BSN- Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree

                CAEL- Council for Adult and Experiential Learning

                CEU- Continuing Education Unit

                CHEA- Council for Higher Education Accreditation

                CLEP- College Level Examination Program

                C-RAC- Council of Regional Accreditation Commissions

                Ed.D.- Doctor of Education degree

                FAFSA- Free Application for Federal Student Aid

                FASB- Financial Accounting Standards Board

                FTE- Full-time Equivalent student

                GED- General Education Development high school equivalency certificate

                GMAT- Graduate Management Admission Test

                GPA- Grade Point Average

                GRE- Graduate Record Exam

                HEOA- Higher Education Opportunity Act

INQAAHE- International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education

                IPEDS- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System

IP- Institutional Profile

LSAT- Law School Admission Test

MA- Master of Arts degree

MARCHE- Mid-Atlantic Region Commission for Higher Education (legal corporate name for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education)

                MBA- Master of Business Administration degree

                MD- Medical Doctor degree

                MFA- Master of Fine Arts degree

                MS- Master of Science degree

               MSCHE- Middle States Commission on Higher Education

                MSN- Master of Science in Nursing degree

                MSW- Master of  Social Work degree

                NACIQI- National Advisory Committee for Institutional Quality and Integrity

                NACUBO- National Association of College and University Business Officers

                NAFSA- National Association of Foreign Student Affairs

                NCHEMS- National Center for Higher Education Management Systems

                PDS- Public Disclosure Statement

                Ph.D.- Doctor of Philosophy degree

                PRR- Periodic Review Report

                SAS- Statement of Accreditation Status

                SAT- Scholastic Aptitude Test

                TOEFL- Test of English as a Foreign Language

                USDOE/USED- United States Department of Education

                USNEI- United States Network for Education Information

Additional Location (AL)

A location, other than a branch campus, that is geographically apart from the main campus and at which the institution offers at least 50 percent of an educational program. Additional locations may be domestic or international. Institutions are required to obtain  MSCHE approval  of  new additional locations before offering classes at such locations. In addition, institutions must report to MSCHE on activity at additional locations on an annual basis through the Institutional Profile. See the Substantive Change policy  regarding new additional locations.

Adjunct Faculty

Part-time instructors at colleges and universities. Many adjuncts work full-time in particular career fields and then bring their practical, real-world experiences to the classroom.

Adverse Accrediting Action

The withdrawal  or removal of accreditation or candidate status, or denial of an applicant for accreditation, by a recognized accreditation commission. A complete description of potential MSCHE adverse actions can be found in the policy, Standardized Language for Commission Actions on Accreditation

Affiliation/Affiliated Provider

As institutions seek to improve the ways in which they provide education to their students, they may find it practical to seek affiliations with other providers of educational services. An affiliated provider may be a subsidiary, parent, “sibling,” or other entity (for-profit or non-profit) legally related to the institution or unrelated (except through contractual arrangement) to the accredited institution. Depending on the specific relationship, such providers may or may not be included within the scope of the institution’s accreditation. Relevant factors might include matters such as use of the same or similar names, ownership, incorporation, management, control of curricula, finances, acceptance of credits, degree-granting authority, and extent of activities. Whether or not the affiliate is included within the scope of the institution’s accreditation, the nature of the affiliation should be made clear both to the Commission and to the public, with particular attention to such issues as whether the provider offers its own programs or grants its own degrees; whether students are distinct from or are considered to be students of the parent institution; what student learning and support services are available; and whether courses offered by the affiliated provider are applicable to a degree program offered by the accredited institution. Attention should be given to the impact of the affiliated entity on the institution’s resources and the institution’s ability to fulfill its mission and goals.

Appeals from Adverse Action

                 A petition submitted by a member or candidate institution requesting reconsideration of an adverse decision by MSCHE, following the due process procedures described in Procedures for Appeals from Adverse Accrediting Actions.  Institutions remain accredited during the period of the         appeal.

Articulation Agreement

Also known as Transfer Articulation, this process involves cooperation between two or more higher education institutions to match courses and facilitate the transfer of students’ credits from one college or university to another.

Assessment of Institutional Effectiveness

A process whereby a college or university has developed and implemented steps to evaluate its overall effectiveness in achieving its mission and goals, and its compliance with Middle States accreditation standards.

Assessment of Student Learning

A process which demonstrates that, at graduation or other appropriate points, an institution’s students have knowledge, skills, and competencies that are consistent with institutional and appropriate higher education goals.

Associate Degree

An award that normally requires at least two but less than four years of full-time equivalent college work. Associate degrees typically require successful completion of at least 60-64 credits of college-level work.

Baccalaureate/Bachelor’s Degree

A baccalaureate degree, also known as a bachelor’s degree, is an academic degree conferred by a college or university upon those individuals who have completed the specified undergraduate curriculum. Traditionally, this degree requires a minimum of 120 credits or their equivalent. Baccalaureate/bachelor’s degrees normally require at least four, but not more than five years of full-time equivalent college-level work. There are some baccalaureate/bachelor’s degrees in which the normal four years of work can be completed in three years.

Branch Campus (BC)

As defined by MSCHE, a branch campus is a location of an institution that is geographically apart and independent of the main campus of the institution. Branch campuses may be domestic or international. The location is considered independent if it offers courses in educational programs leading to a degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential; has its own faculty and administrative or supervisory organization; and has its own budgetary and hiring authority. MSCHE member institutions must notify the Commission if they plan to establish a branch campus, and must submit a business plan for the branch campus. For details see the policy on Substantive Change

Candidate for Accreditation/Candidacy

This is a pre-accreditation status following a specified process for application and institutional self-study, and application. For details, see the MSCHE publication, Becoming Accredited.  The U.S. Department of Education labels Candidacy as “Pre-accreditation.” The Department defines it as the status of public recognition that an accrediting agency grants to an institution or program for a limited period of time that signifies the agency has determined that the institution or program is progressing toward accreditation and is likely to attain accreditation before the expiration of that limited period of time.

Carnegie Classification

First published in 1973, the Carnegie Classification is a standard and consistent way to classify U.S. institutions. It is widely accepted and endorsed by the research community. It intentionally provides a snapshot, for analytical research purposes, to enable researchers to make reasonable comparisons among “similar” institutions and to contrast them with groups of “different” ones. The Carnegie Classification scheme has value in that an independent, reputable agent makes the determination. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education uses the categories in the 2010 Carnegie Classification – Basic Classification as a research tool.

The Carnegie Classification is presented publicly on the MSCHE website in each institution’s Statement of Accreditation Status (SAS). MSCHE uses the exact classification as determined by Carnegie and does not interfere with this classification or make any interpretation of the classification. Institutions that are not included in the Carnegie Classification system are flagged as “Not Classified” in MSCHE’s database. This means that Carnegie does not provide a classification, and usually includes institutions that do not submit IPEDS data or institutions operating outside the United States. For a complete description of the Carnegie Classification system, please go to http://classifications.carnegiefoundation.org/decriptions.

Certificate

A formal award certifying the satisfactory completion of a postsecondary education program. MSCHE collects data on certificates of varying levels including postsecondary (less than one year, at least one but less than two academic years, at least two but less than four academic years), post-baccalaureate certificates, and post-master’s certificates.

Postsecondary award, certificate or diploma (less than one academic year)

  • Less than 900 contact or clock hours, or
  • Less than 30 semester or trimester credit hours, or
  • Less than 45 quarter credit hours

Postsecondary award, certificate or diploma (at least one but less than two academic years)

  • At least 900 but less than 1800 contact or clock hours, or
  • At least 30 but less than 60 semester or trimester credit hours, or
  • At least 45 but less than 90 quarter credit hours.

Postsecondary award, certificate, or diploma 3

  • 1800 or more contact or clock hours, or
  • 60 or more semester or trimester credit hours, or
  • 90 or more quarter credit hours

Certification Statement

An institution that is seeking initial accreditation or reaffirmation of accreditation must affirm that it meets or continues to meet established MSCHE requirements of affiliation and federal requirements relating to Title IV program participation. To do so, the institution’s designated representative must complete the MSCHE Certification Statement form, available at http://www.msche.org/publications_view.asp?idPublicationType=2&txtPublicationType=Forms+On-line

Change in Legal Status

A merger, consolidation with another institution, sale of a proprietary institution, or the beginning or ending of public sponsorship and control, are all examples of a change in legal status. An institution that expects to undergo such a change must notify MSCHE as soon as it is aware of the potential change. Please see the Substantive Change policy.

College

This is a generic term that refers to any postsecondary educational institution that is eligible for accreditation or is already accredited by MSCHE. It is a synonym for “institution.”

Commission

                The Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Competency-Based Education

Competency-based education measures learning rather than time spent in a classroom, laboratory, or in an online environment. Students progress by demonstrating that they have mastered the knowledge and skills required for a particular course, regardless of how much or how little time it takes. In a competency-based education environment, an institution must clearly define specific competencies that are expected and then identify appropriate assessment tools to measure whether students have mastered those competencies.

Complaints Against an Institution

MSCHE’s complaint procedures were created to address non-compliance with the Commission’s or the institution’s standards, policies, or procedures. They are not intended to be used to involve the Commission in disputes between individuals and affiliated institutions, or to cause the Commission to interpose itself as a reviewing authority in individual matters of admission, grades, granting or transferability of credits, application of academic policies, fees or other financial matters, disciplinary matters, contractual rights and obligations, personnel decisions, or similar matters. See the Commission’s online document, How to File a Complaint with the Commission.

Complaints Against the Commission

The Commission has established a mechanism by which individuals or entities may complain to the Commission about the Commission’s lack of compliance with its own published policies and procedures, with federal regulations or with the recognition criteria of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). However, to fall within this policy a formal complaint against the Commission must involve issues broader than concern about a specific institutional action or a specific team. The Commission pledges to review in a timely, fair, and equitable manner, and apply unbiased judgment to complaints against itself and take follow-up action, as appropriate, based on the results of its review. For details see the policy on Complaints Against the Commission.

Complex Substantive Change

If a proposed Substantive Change is sufficiently complex that it requires more in-depth review or requires the Commission to engage a consultant with expertise in a particular area (e.g. accounting, legal, etc.), it is considered a Complex Substantive Change. Such changes may be reviewed by the Commission’s Committee on Follow-up Reports prior to Executive Committee or Commission action. Any change of ownership, control, or merger is reviewed as a Complex Substantive Change. Other changes, such as requests for multiple changes (number of locations or number of types of change) may be considered to be Complex Substantive Change. The Complex Substantive Change fee applies, plus the cost of the reviewers and consultant(s). For any Complex Substantive Change, the Commission reserves the right to assess a fee higher than the posted fee, depending on the complexity of the change,

Comprehensive Self-Study (Decennial Review)

Every 10 years, as part of the MSCHE decennial review process, member institutions must conduct a comprehensive self study. In this self-study, the institution carefully considers its educational programs and services, with particular attention to student learning and achievement, and it determines how well these programs and services accomplish the institution’s goals, fulfill its mission, and meet the Commission’s standards. Under the leadership of a steering committee appointed by the institution, working groups or subcommittees examine existing data and evaluative reports, gather new information, and prepare analytical reports on their assigned topics. The steering committee edits the reports of the various working groups, produces a final draft for discussion, and disseminates the final self-study document. A broad cross-section of the campus community is expected to participate in the self-study process at each stage.

Concurrent or Dual Degrees

In these programs, often referred to as joint degrees, two separate degrees are pursued concurrently and seamlessly by the student. The degrees may be conferred by one or more institutions. For example: a dual J.D./M.B.A. program in which the transcript and diploma for the J.D. bear the name of the law school’s parent institution, while the transcript and diploma for the M.B.A. bear the name of the business school’s parent institution.

Confidentiality of Information

Much information that a member institution and the Commission share with each other is considered confidential and is not normally released to the public. Particularly involving the comprehensive self-study, the institution is able to engage in an honest assessment of its strengths and weakness and propose steps to correct weaknesses, without such aspects of its operations being seen by third parties. Institutions are unable to release to the general public or specific third parties any detailed information about their students due to stringent federal privacy laws. In particular, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits the release of most student information without the student’s written permission.

Conflict of Interest

MSCHE Conflict of Interest policies are designed to maintain the integrity, credibility, and codes of good conduct in accreditation and policy making processes and to avoid actual conflicts, potential conflicts, or even the appearance of conflicts of interest in the Commission’s decisions. Individuals covered by these policies include Commissioners, team chairs, team members, Substantive Change Committee members, Periodic Review Report reviewers, finance associates, Candidate Institution consultants, and members of the MSCHE staff. The Commission will not assign an individual as a chair, team member, reader, or reviewer if the individual’s home institution is part of the same system; he/she has been a candidate for employment in the evaluated institution within the past year; he/she has been employed by the institution within the past five years; he/she belongs to the governing body of the institution; he/she has a personal, business, consultative, or other interest in or relationship to the institution under review and consideration that could affect his/her objectivity; he/she has a material interest in a positive accreditation outcome based on a significant business or other fiduciary agreement (excluding routine articulation or similar inter-institutional agreements); he/she has a family member who is an employee, board member, candidate for employment, or student at the institution; he/she has expressed personal opinions bearing upon the accreditability of the institution; he/she is an alumnus of the institution; he/she or his/her immediate family hold shares of stock (excluding shares held indirectly through mutual funds, insurance policies or blind trusts) in an applicant, candidate, or accredited institution, or their respective parent company or affiliated entity. The policy, Conflict of Interest: Peer Evaluators and Commissioners, can be viewed by visiting www.msche.org/documents/ConflictofInterestPolicyRev1012.pdf. The policy, Conflict of Interest: Commission Employees, can be viewed by visiting www.msche.org/documents/P6.3-Conflict_Staff_073108.doc

Consolidation

The combination or transfer of the assets of at least two distinct institutions/corporations to that of a newly-formed institution/corporation. An example would be two or more colleges consolidating to form a new, single institution. See the policy on Substantive Change.

Consultant

A person who provides professional and/or technical advice to an institution. Consultants may be paid or unpaid. To avoid the appearance of a possible conflict of interest, no member of a Middle States visiting team may serve as a paid consultant in any area related to accreditation to the institution being visited for a period of one year following the official accreditation action.

Contact Hour/Clock Hour

                A unit of measure that represents an hour of scheduled instruction given to students.

                Source: IPEDS.

Continuing Education Unit (CEU)

A measurement of participation in non-credit professional development activities.

Contractual Relationships

Certain agreements (contracts) with an institution or organization not accredited by a federally recognized agency to provide any portion of a postsecondary educational program that leads to an academic or professional degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential on behalf of the accredited institution, are subject to review by MSCHE. For details, see the MSCHE policy, Contracts by Accredited and Candidate Institutions for Education-Related Services.  Contractual relationships for the offering of academic courses must be approved by the Commission through the Substantive Change process.

Control/Change of Control

Control, as defined by federal regulations, refers to the possession, direct or indirect, of the power to direct or cause the direction of the management and policies of a corporation, partnership, or individual, whether through the ownership of voting securities, by contract, or otherwise. For MSCHE requirements regarding Change of Control, see the policy on Related Entities.

Cooperative Education

An educational process under which students are able to earn credits toward graduation by working in positions directly related to their academic major. Cooperative Education typically includes the establishment of learning objectives and the measurement of their achievement. This is done jointly by a Cooperative Education faculty advisor, the student, and the immediate supervisor in the student’s workplace. See the definition of Experiential Learning to see how that differs from Cooperative Education.

Core Values

MSCHE is guided by 10 Core Values in its daily operations. These include voluntary membership; self-regulation and peer review; a continuous and seamless relationship with member institutions to promote continuous self-evaluation and institutional improvement; respect for the unique mission of each institution and evaluation within that context; student learning and effective teaching; transparency about the accreditation processes and the status held by each member institution; commitment to the principles of cooperation, flexibility, and openness; responsiveness to the needs of the higher education community and societal changes; consideration of societal and institutional needs through attention to and emphasis on both improvement and compliance; and responsiveness to a diverse, dynamic, global higher education community that is continually evolving.

Correspondence Education

Correspondence education is education provided through one or more courses by an institution under which the institution provides instructional materials, by mail or electronic transmission, including examinations on the materials, to students who are separated from the instructor.  Interaction between the instructor and the student is limited, is not regular and substantive, and is primarily initiated by the student. Correspondence courses are typically self-paced. Correspondence education is not distance education.

Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)

A national advocate and institutional voice for self-regulation of academic quality through accreditation, CHEA is an association of 3,000 degree-granting colleges and universities and recognizes 60 institutional and programmatic accrediting organizations. MSCHE is recognized by CHEA, most recently during 2012.

Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC)

A council of the seven regional accrediting organizations in the United States, including MSCHE, the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Colleges and Schools, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Western Association of College and Schools: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, and the Western Association of Colleges and Schools: The Senior Commission.

Course

An instructional subject taught in a designated period of time and commonly described with a formal number and title, expected student learning outcomes, and number of credits awarded for successful completion.

Credentials

Credentials typically refer to the degree or certificate a student has earned for successful completion of a program along with appropriate experiences, written testimonials, and other documentation.

Credit/Credit Hour

Credits are units earned by students for the successful completion of coursework. Although many college courses carry three or four credits for successful completion, some courses may result in fewer or greater credits awarded, depending on course complexity, length, and other factors. IPEDS defines Credit/Credit Hour as A unit of measure representing the equivalent of an hour

(50 minutes) of instruction per week over the entire term. It is applied toward the total number of credit hours needed for completing the requirements of a degree, diploma, certificate or other award. To see the Commission’s credit hour policy, visit www.msche.org/documents/CreditHourPolicyRev112012.pdf.

Decennial Review

The decennial review is a mandatory process under which MSCHE accredited institutions must undergo an institutional self study and an on-site peer review every 10 years. See also Comprehensive Self-Study and Evaluation (Self-Study).

Default

Failure to repay a federally guaranteed student loan according to the terms agreed to when a student/parent/guardian signed a promissory note.

Degree-Granting Authority

The institution is authorized to operate educational programs beyond secondary education, including programs leading to a degree or certificate. Source: 34 CFR 600.9

Degrees

There are four degree levels within higher education: Associate, Baccalaureate (also known as Bachelor’s), Master’s, and Doctorate. Most Associate degrees require between 60 and 64 credits of college study, representing at least two years but less than four years of full-time equivalent enrollment. The Associate of Arts (A.A) involves a more liberal arts education orientation, while the Associate of Science (A.S.) involves more applied educational orientation toward a specific field, and the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) and Associate of Fine Arts (A.F.A.) imply significant emphasis on a particular field. Baccalaureate degrees typically require approximately 120 credits of college study, representing at least four years but not more than five years of full-time equivalent enrollment. The Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) implies a more liberal arts educational orientation, while the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) imply a more applied educational orientation toward a specific field.  A Master’s degree is an award that requires the successful completion of a program of study of generally one or two full-time equivalent years of work beyond the bachelor’s degree. Some Master’s degrees, such as those in Theology that had previously been classified as “First Professional,” may require more than two full-time equivalent years of academic study. Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S.) degrees require approximately one year of full-time equivalent enrollment or about 30-36 credits.

Many M.A. and M.S. programs are continuations of undergraduate work, but at a higher level and without a basic change in their character. Some specialized Master’s degrees emphasize practical application of knowledge in specific fields. These include the Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.), Master of Social Work (M.S.W.), and others.

The Doctor’s degree is the highest award a student can earn for graduate study. There are three sub-categories of degrees at the Doctoral level. These include Doctoral-Professional, Doctoral-Research/Scholarship, and Doctoral-Other.

Denial of Accreditation

An institution is denied initial accreditation because it does not meet the requirements for accreditation.

Diploma

A formal document certifying the successful completion of a prescribed program of studies. Source: IPEDS.

Direct Assessment (see also Competency-Based Education)

Direct assessment involves an examination of samples of student work. Such work could include student portfolios, research papers, classroom presentations, and final exams, demonstrating that a student has attained the learning objectives that were identified in the course syllabus.

Distance Education (formerly called Distance Learning)

An educational process in which all or the majority of the instruction occurs with the instructor and student in different locations. Instruction may be synchronous (in real time; simultaneous) or asynchronous. While distance education for many years took the form of correspondence study or classes delivered via television or pre-recorded video, in recent years much of distance education has moved to the Internet. MSCHE requires that a member institution obtain prior approval, through the Substantive Change process, before offering 50 percent or more of a degree or certificate program through distance education. The 50 percent standard includes hybrid courses utilizing mixed delivery methods. The predominant mode of delivery is the deciding factor in determining whether a hybrid/blended course is considered distance or correspondence education versus onsite/residential education. The Commission requires that the first two programs for which 50 percent or more is offered via distance education be submitted for Commission review and approval. In special circumstances further programs may require formal Commission review and action. The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 requires accreditors to more closely examine distance education programs. For current MSCHE guidelines on distance education, read the policy on Substantive Change

Doctor’s Degree-Other

One of three sub-categories of Doctoral degrees, this is a Doctoral degree that does not meet the definition of a Doctor’s degree-Research/Scholarship or Doctor’s degree-Professional Practice.

Doctor’s Degree- Professional Practice

One of three sub-categories of Doctoral degrees, this is a Doctoral degree that is conferred upon completion of a program providing the knowledge and skills for the recognition, credential, or license required for professional practice. The degree is awarded for a period of study such that the total time to degree, including both pre-professional and professional preparation, equals at least six full-time equivalent academic years. Some of these degrees were formerly classified as “First Professional,” and may include Chiropractic (D.C. or D.C.M.), Dentistry (D.D.M. or D.M.D.), Law (L.L.B. or J.D.), Medicine (M.D.), Optometry (O.D.), Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.), Pharmacy (Pharm.D.), Podiatry (D.P.M., Pod.D., or D.P.), Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.), or others as may be designated by the awarding institution. Source: IPEDS.

Doctor’s Degree-Research/Scholarship

One of three sub-categories of Doctoral degrees, this is a Ph.D. or other Doctor’s degree that requires advanced work beyond the Master’s level including the preparation and defense of a dissertation based on original research, or the planning and execution of an original project demonstrating substantial artistic or scholarly achievement. Some examples of this type of degree include the Ph.D., Ed.D., D.M.A., D.B.A., D.Sc., D.A., D.M., and others as designated by the awarding institution. Source: IPEDS.

Documents Receipt Of…

The Commission “Documents Receipt Of…” a letter or report when it addresses the Commission’s concerns only partially because the letter or report had limited institutional responses to requested information, did not present evidence and analysis conducive to Commission review, were of insufficient quality, or necessitated extraordinary effort by the Commission’s representatives and staff performing the review. Relevant reasons for not “accepting” the letter or report are noted in the action. The Commission may or may not require additional information in order to assess the institution’s status.

Dual or Concurrent Degrees

In these programs, often referred to as joint degrees, two separate degrees are pursued concurrently and seamlessly by the student. The degrees may be conferred by one or more institutions. For example: a dual J.D./M.B.A. program in which the transcript and diploma for the J.D. bear the name of the law school’s parent institution, while the transcript and diploma for the M.B.A. bear the name of the business school’s parent institution.

Evaluation (Self-Study)

A process through which MSCHE and member institutions periodically and jointly conduct a review of the institution’s adherence to the Commission’s accreditation standards. See also Decennial Review and Comprehensive Self-Study.  

Evaluation Committee

A committee of MSCHE commissioners, staff members, and peer evaluators that reviews reports from evaluation teams and makes recommendations to the full Commission.

Evaluation Team

The group of peer evaluators that reviews an institution’s self study, visits the campus to verify the contents of the self study, and makes recommendations to the Commission for reaffirmation of accreditation, corrective action, or other steps.

Evaluator

A volunteer from a peer institution who serves on an Evaluation Team or in other roles, such as a reviewer of Periodic Review Reports, a member of a Monitoring Team, or a reviewer of Substantive Change requests.

 

Experiential Learning

Knowledge gained through practical work experience for which an institution, through a formalized process, may analyze and award related academic credit to a student. See the definition of Cooperative Education, to see how that differs from Experiential Learning.

Faculty

The instructional staff of a college or university. At some institutions certain academic support personnel, including librarians and counselors, are also classified as faculty. Part-time faculty are typically known as adjunct faculty.

Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The primary federal law that regulates student records and what limited information may be released without a student’s permission. For further details visit www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html.

Financial Aid

Assistance that is provided to a student to help him/her pay tuition and fees, purchase books, or cover other college-related costs, such as transportation to classes, and room and board. Financial aid may take the form of grants, scholarships, or loans from federal, state, local, and private sources.

For-Profit Institution (Proprietary)

For-profit institutions are managed and governed by an organization, corporation, or individual, with profits benefitting shareholders/owners. See also Control/Change of Control and the policy on Related Entities.

Full-time Student

A full-time student is one who is enrolled for 12 or more semester hours, 12 or more quarter credits, or 24 or more contact hours per week each term. A full-time graduate student is enrolled for 9 or more semester credits, 9 or more quarter credits, or is involved in thesis or dissertation preparation that the institution considers as full-time.

General Education

A core group of courses that are typically required of all Associate and Baccalaureate degree-level students, regardless of their major. As defined in MSCHE’s accreditation standards, institutions should identify and provide a recognizable core of general education that expresses the educational philosophy of the institution for each undergraduate degree program or cluster of degree programs; incorporates essential knowledge, cognitive abilities, and an understanding of values and ethics; enhances students’ intellectual growth; and draws students into new areas of intellectual experience, expanding their cultural and global awareness and sensitivity, and preparing them to make enlightened judgments outside as well as within their academic specialty.

Geographically Separate Sites or Locations

A branch campus (BC), additional location (AL), or other instructional site (OIS) that is located physically apart from the institution’s main campus. MSCHE monitors branch campuses, additional locations, and other instructional sites via the Substantive Change process and the annual Institutional Profile (IP).

Grant Accreditation

The institution meets the Commission’s requirements of affiliation and accreditation standards, and there is no question regarding the institution’s continued compliance. 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 or outstanding issues requiring monitoring prior to the next evaluation visit. The Commission may ask that the institution address areas of improvement in the next Self-Study evaluation. Accreditation with follow-up indicates that the institution is being asked to follow-up on areas of improvement and to submit a progress report or a monitoring report with or without an on-site visit.

Higher Education

Postsecondary education that focuses primarily on the earning of degrees, certificates, or credentials. Higher education is typically available to individuals who have successfully completed high school or who have earned a General Education Development (GED) high school equivalency certificate.

Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA)

Enacted by Congress on August 14, 2008, the HEOA sets guidelines for colleges and universities, accreditation agencies, and others involved in U.S. higher education. The law also established rules on student loans, grants to institutions, and other issues. For details, visit the U.S. Department of Education website, www.ed.gov/policy/highered/leg/hea08/index.html. Federal regulations require Congress to re-authorize the Act approximately every five years.

 Independent College/University

An institution of higher learning that receives little or no tax support and whose board is not publicly chosen or appointed. Also commonly known as private colleges/universities.

Independent Study Credit Hour

One independent study hour (including thesis or dissertation research) is calculated similarly to practice credit hours (see MSCHE Degree and Credit Guidelines for further details).  According to federal regulations, for the purposes of direct assessment programs independent study occurs when a student follows a course of study with predefined objectives but works with a faculty member to decide how the student is going to meet those objectives. The student and faculty member agree on what the student will do (required readings, research, and work to be produced), how the student’s work will be evaluated, and on what the relative timeframe will be for the completion of the work. The student must interact with the faculty member on a regular and substantive basis to assure progress within the course or program. Source: 34 CFR 668.10.

Jointly Conferred Degree

A single degree jointly conferred by two institutions, such as a B.S. in Environmental Science jointly conferred by both. The transcript and diploma bear the names of both institutions.

Licensed to Operate

The institution is established by name as an educational institution by a State through a charter, statute, constitutional provision, or other action as issued by an appropriate state agency or state entity. Source: 34 CFR 600.9. Note: for institutions based in the Middle States region this would include appropriate agencies in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  

Licensure

The process by which a state or federal government agency grants permission for people who have earned certain credentials and met pre-determined qualifications, to work in a designated field and use designated titles. Under certain conditions, institutions of higher learning can also be licensed to perform designated functions.

Main Campus

The main campus is generally a college or university’s primary base of operations, including its key administrative offices, classrooms and labs, facilities for student activities, the institution’s library, and more.

Mid-Atlantic Region Commission on Higher Education (MARCHE)

The Mid-Atlantic Region Commission on Higher Education (MARCHE) is the corporate name of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, effective March 1, 2013. From its origins in 1919 through February 2013, the Commission was a unit of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. On March 1, 2013, the Commission became separately incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Under a business services agreement with the Middle States Association, the new corporation continues to do business as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Master’s Degree

An award that requires the successful completion of a program of study of at least the full-time equivalent of one but not more than two academic years of work beyond the baccalaureate/bachelor’s degree.

Merger

                The acquisition of one institution’s assets by another.

Mission and Goals

The words that identify an institution’s specific purpose(s) and aims. An institution’s mission statement describes its philosophy and serves as a guide for all that it does. The mission and its supporting goals provide points of reference for decisions on student admission, course and program offerings, community outreach, financial matters, and more.

Monitoring Report

Monitoring reports are follow-up  requested by MSCHE when, during an accreditation team visit or during the review of an institution’s Periodic Review Report, the Commission becomes concerned about the potential for future non-compliance with one or more standards of accreditation. Issues may have been identified that are more complex, numerous, or require a substantive, detailed response from the institution. Requests for monitoring reports include a deadline for receipt.

Non-Compliance Actions

A non-compliance action indicates that the Commission has identified one or more areas in which the institution does not meet the Commission’s standards for accreditation. These areas are identified as requirements in a team, reviewers’ or other report, and they are specifically stated in the Commission’s action. Non-compliance actions include Warning, Probation, Show Cause, and Withdrawal of Accreditation.

Non-Profit Institution

Non-profit colleges and universities typically offer a learning environment that is devoted first and foremost to serving students’ academic interests and helping them achieve career and life success. Many non-profit colleges and universities also work to support the educational, training, and cultural needs of surrounding communities.

OPE ID

Identification number used by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) to identify schools that have Program Participation Agreements (PPA) so that their students are eligible to participate in Federal Student Financial Assistance programs under Title IV regulations. This is a six-digit number followed by a two-digit suffix used to identify branches, additional locations, and other entities that are part of the eligible institution.

Other Instructional Sites (OIS)

MSCHE defines an instructional site/other instructional site as a location, other than a branch campus or additional location, at which the institution offers one or more courses for credit. Other instructional sites should be noted on the annual Institutional Profile (IP). Commission approval is not required for an instructional site to be included within the scope of accreditation. However, if an instructional site changes over time and meets the definition of an Additional Location or Branch Campus, further reporting and a Substantive Change review are required. Sites established outside the U.S. for the sole purpose of offering courses through the study abroad experience are not considered to be instructional sites. If 50 percent or more of a program is offered, the site will meet the definition of an Additional Location and must be reviewed and approved accordingly. See the policy on Substantive Change for details.

Ownership

Ownership or Ownership Interest, as defined by federal regulations, refers to a legal or beneficial interest in the entity, or a right to share in the profits derived from the operation of an entity. The term does not include the interests of a mutual fund that is regularly and publicly traded, an institutional investor, or a profit-sharing plan in which all employees of an entity may participate.

Part-time Student

A student who is typically enrolled for fewer than 12 credits per semester and does not attend a college on a full-time basis.

Peer Evaluator

An individual who has been trained by MSCHE to serve on a visiting team or as a reader/reviewer of institutional self studies, Periodic Review Reports, monitoring reports, or other documents requested by MSCHE. Peer evaluators typically are employed by peer institutions as presidents, provosts, deans, directors, or faculty, but may also be subject matter experts in higher education.

Peer Review

The process by which representatives from similar institutions analyze an institution’s self study or other written reports to determine the institution’s compliance with MSCHE accreditation standards. Peer reviewers also participate as members of visitation teams during each institution’s

MSCHE decennial review. Peer reviewers include presidents, provosts, directors of assessment, chief financial officers, faculty, and others from MSCHE member institutions.

Periodic Review Report (PRR)

The PRR, due five years after the decennial self study and reaffirmation of accreditation, is a retrospective, current, and prospective analysis of the institution. As an essential phase of the accreditation cycle, the PRR should demonstrate that the institution meets the standards by which the Commission reaffirms or denies accredited status. For further details read MSCHE’s Handbook for Periodic Review Reports.

Policies, Guidelines, and Procedures

MSCHE has developed policies, guidelines, and procedures that address the responsibilities of the Commission and its member institutions. These documents, all available under the Policies  section of this website, include general accreditation policies as well as those that refer specifically to the peer review process, the programs and services offered by member institutions, and administrative procedures of the Commission.

Political Intervention

MSCHE policy prohibits direct intervention by elected or appointed officials, political parties, or pressure groups in the selection of faculty, the determination of curricula, textbooks, course content, or in admissions or retention policies. In addition, the tenure of an educational administrator must not be subject to political partisanship, nor should appointments to the Board of Trustees or the faculty be made only with regard to their political implications. Click here to view the complete MSCHE policy on Political Intervention in Education.

Postsecondary Education

Education offered to individuals who have successfully completed high school or who have earned a General Education Development (GED) high school equivalency certificate. Postsecondary education focuses primarily on the earning of degrees, certificates, or credentials. See also Higher Education.

Pre-Accreditation Status

Once an institution is accepted as an Applicant for Accreditation it is considered to have Pre-Accreditation Status. This Pre-Accreditation phase continues until the institution is awarded Candidacy. Throughout the many phases of Pre-Accreditation, an institution must follow specified processes for application, institutional self-study, and other reporting required by the Commission. For details see the Commission’s online handbook, Becoming Accredited.

Prior Learning

Learning that has occurred outside the classroom and typically, before enrollment in college. In many cases credit can be awarded for prior learning through various means of assessment. Policies on credit for prior learning can vary between colleges, so consult the catalog of the institution in which you plan to enroll.

Private College/University

An institution of higher learning that receives little or no tax support and whose board is not publicly chosen or appointed. Also commonly known as independent colleges/universities.

Probation

Probation indicates that an institution has been determined by the Commission not to meet one or more standards for accreditation and is an indication of a serious concern on the part of the Commission regarding the level and/or scope of non-compliance issues related to the standards.

The Commission will place an institution on Probation if the Commission is concerned about one or more of the following: (1) the adequacy of the education provided by the institution; (2) the institution’s capacity to make appropriate improvements in a timely fashion; or (3) the institution’s capacity to sustain itself in the long term. Probation is often, but need not always be, preceded by an action of Warning or Postponement. If the Commission had previously postponed a decision or placed the institution on Warning, the Commission may place the institution on Probation if it determines that the institution has failed to address satisfactorily the Commission’s concerns in the prior action of Postponement or Warning regarding compliance with Commission standards. This action is accompanied by a request for a monitoring report, and a special visit follows. Probation may, but need not always, precede an action of Show Cause.  By federal regulation, the Commission must take immediate action to withdraw accreditation if an institution is out of compliance with accreditation standards for two years, unless the time is extended for good cause. For details on the Commission’s complete range of actions, read the MSCHE policy on Range of Commission Actions on Accreditation.

Procedural Actions

The Commission takes a procedural action when it requires further information in order to make a decision regarding accreditation. The Commission postpones a decision and requests 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 action. A Lapse of Accreditation also is considered to be a procedural action.

Program

A systematic grouping of courses that forms most or all of the requirements for a degree or other academic credential.

Program Participation Agreement (PPA)

A written agreement between a postsecondary institution and the U.S. Secretary of Education. This agreement allows institutions to participate in any of the Title IV student assistance programs other than the State Student Incentive Grant (SSIG) and the National Early Intervention Scholarship and Partnership (NEISP) programs. The PPA conditions the initial and continued participation of an eligible institution in any Title IV program upon compliance with the General Provisions regulations, the individual programs regulations, and any additional conditions specified in the program participation agreement that the U.S. Department of Education requires the institution to meet. Institutions with such an agreement are referred to as Title IV institutions.

Progress Report

A Progress Report is a type of follow-up  in which the Commission may direct the institution to describe its progress relative to recommendations made by the visitation team or reviewer. The Commission also may require the institution to address activities that were being planned or implemented at the time of the on-site evaluation to enhance institutional effectiveness. For details on the Commission’s complete range of actions, read the MSCHE policy on Range of Commission Actions on Accreditation

Proprietary Institution (For-Profit)

Proprietary (for-profit) institutions are managed and governed by an organization , corporation, or individual, with profits benefitting shareholders/owners.

Provost

                The title given to the chief academic officer at many colleges and universities.

Public Disclosure Statement (PDS)

When a Commission action involves Warning, Probation, or Show Cause, Commission staff will develop a Public Disclosure Statement that is sent to the institution with the Commission’s action letter and the Statement of Accreditation Status. The Public Disclosure Statement is also posted on the Commission website along with the institution’s Statement of Accreditation Status.

Quarter (Calendar System)

Some U.S. institutions use a quarter calendar, in which the academic year is divided into three terms, called quarters, of 10-11 weeks’ duration plus a summer session (considered the fourth quarter, but optional), a short winter term, and other calendar breaks. Source: USNEI

Quarter Credit Hour/Quarter Hour

                Quarter credit hours represent proportionately less work than semester hours due to the shorter terms, about two-thirds of a semester credit hour. Source: USNEI. A quarter hour must include at least 20 hours of instruction. Source: 34 CFR 668.8.

Rapid Growth (in Enrollment and/or Additional Locations)

The Commission may, at its discretion, conduct visits to additional locations, to ensure that accredited and pre-accredited institutions that experience rapid growth in the number of additional locations maintain educational quality. Institutions contemplating rapid growth (or uncertain whether planned changes fall under this category) should be in contact with the institution’s designated staff liaison prior to submitting comprehensive information to the Commission. For further details about rapid growth, read MSCHE’s policy on Substantive Change.

Reaffirm Accreditation

An action by the Commission when the Commission determines an institution is in full compliance with all of the accreditation standards. The Commission “reaffirms” or renews an institution’s accreditation for a designated period of time. For details on the Commission’s complete range of actions, read the MSCHE policy on Range of Commission Actions on Accreditation.

Reaffirmation

When the Commission determines an institution is in full compliance with all of the accreditation standards, it “reaffirms” or renews an institution’s accreditation for a designated period of time. For details on the Commission’s complete range of actions, read the MSCHE policy on Range of Commission Actions on Accreditation.

Regional Accreditors (Accreditation Commissions)

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is one of seven regional accreditors throughout the United States, each with a designated geographic region. Each of the accreditors applies its accreditation standards to member institutions within its region. The regional accreditors are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as “gatekeepers” for federal Title IV funds, meaning an institution’s students can receive federal financial aid only if that institution is accredited by a USDE-recognized regional accreditor. For a list of all regional, national, and specialized accreditors recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education, visit www.chea.org

Reject

The Commission “rejects” a letter or report when its quality or substance is insufficient for the Commission to respond appropriately to the Commission’s concerns. The Commission requires the institution to resubmit the report and may, at its discretion, request a visit.

Related Entity

A corporate parent, system administration or Board, religious sponsor, funding sponsor (such as an equity or investment fund), or other entity---that can affect decisions related to accreditation, including financing, planning, governance, budget and approval processes, employee recruitment, information systems, or employee compensation. Local, county, and state legislatures, other accreditors, local advisory boards, and government agencies are not related entities. See the policy on Related Entities and the Commission’s requirements for certification statements.

Requirements of Affiliation

To be eligible for Candidacy status, Initial Accreditation, or Reaffirmation of Accreditation, an institution must demonstrate that it meets or continues to meet these Requirements in addition to

the Standards of Accreditation. The Requirements of Affiliation and the Standards can be found in the MSCHE handbooks, Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education and Becoming Accredited.

Self-Study

The decennial evaluation of each MSCHE member institution consists of an extensive institutional self study process that produces a written self-study report. This report and the Commission’s accreditation standards serve as the basis for an on-site evaluation by a team of peer evaluators.  See also Comprehensive Self-Study, Decennial Review, and Evaluation, For further details, read the MSCHE publication, Self-Study: Creating a Useful Process and Report.

Semester (Calendar System)

Most U.S. higher education institutions operate on an academic year divided into two equal semesters of 15-16 weeks’ duration, with a Winter break of 2-3 weeks and a summer session of 10-12 weeks, plus additional shorter breaks. Normal full-time registration is usually 15 credit hours per semester or 30 per academic year (shortfalls can be made up in summer sessions or independent study). Source: USNEI

Semester Credit Hour/Semester Hour

                A semester hour must include at least 30 clock hours of instruction. Source: 34 CFR 668.8. For a more complete description of the actual amount of academic work that goes into a single semester credit hour and how it is calculated, see MSCHE’s Degree and Credit Guidelines.

Separate and Independent

According to 34 CFR Part 602.14(b), the U.S. Department of Education requires that accrediting agencies be “separate and independent.” Federal regulation defines “separate and independent” as the following: (1) The members of the agency’s decision-making body—who decide the accreditation or pre-accreditation status of institutions or programs, establish the agency’s accreditation policies, or both—are not elected or selected by the board or chief executive officer of any related, associated, or affiliated trade association or membership organization; (2) At least one member of the agency’s decision-making body is a representative of the public, and at least one-seventh of that body consists of representatives of the public; (3) The agency has established and implemented guidelines for each member of the decision-making body to avoid conflicts of  interest in making decisions; (4) The agency’s dues are paid separately from any dues paid to any related, associated, or affiliated trade association or membership organization; and (5) The agency develops and determines its own budget, with no review by or consultation with any other entity or organization.

Separately Accreditable Institutions

An educational site located in a region other than that of the home campus of the accredited institution must seek separate accreditation in the region where it exists if it functions independent of operational control of the home campus of the college or university. An educational site located within the Middle States region also must seek separate accreditation if it is operationally independent of the home campus of the college or university. An educational site will be deemed operationally independent and accreditable by the host region when it meets such criteria as: (1) It has, under governing body policy, substantial financial and administrative independence from the home institution, including matters related to personnel; (2) It has a full-time chief administrative officer; (3) It is empowered, under governing body policy, to initiate and sustain its own academic programs; and (4) It has degree-granting authority in the state or jurisdiction where it is located. For further details, read the MSCHE policy on Separately Accreditable Institutions.  

Show Cause

An institution is asked to demonstrate why its accreditation should not be withdrawn. A written report from the institution and, if specified by the Commission, a follow-up team visit, are preliminary to a hearing with the Commission. Show Cause may occur during or at the end of the two-year Probation period, or at any time the Commission determines that an institution must demonstrate why its accreditation should not be withdrawn. Probation is not a necessary precursor to Show Cause. For details on the Commission’s complete range of actions, read the MSCHE policy on Range of Commission Actions on Accreditation.

Site Visits

Visits to an institution by one or more peer evaluators appointed by the Commission. Site visits can take many forms and have many purposes, but typically involve peer evaluators and/or members of the MSCHE staff . The types of visits and costs are described in the Commission’s Schedule of Dues and Fees.

Specialized Accreditors

In addition to the seven regional accreditors in the U.S., there are specialized accrediting organizations that focus on distinct fields (examples include Nursing, Engineering, Business, etc.). Most specialized accreditors are recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Standards for Accreditation

The Middle States Standards of Accreditation appear in Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education. The standards address student outcomes assessment, institutional effectiveness, financial planning, student services, and other areas. The accreditation standards must be met in order for an institution to be granted initial accreditation and for accredited institutions to be periodically reaffirmed by the Commission.

Statement of Accreditation Status (SAS)

For each candidate or accredited institution in its membership, the Commission maintains an official document of that institution’s current status and recent accreditation history. This Statement of Accreditation Status (SAS) is developed by the Commission staff based on Commission action and information provided by the institution through annual reporting. The Commission shares the SAS with the general public after the institution has been given notice regarding the Commission’s action. Each institution’s SAS is posted on this website under Institutions.

Substantive Change

When an institution is accredited, or its accreditation is reaffirmed, that action applies to conditions existing at the time of the Commission’s decision. The Commission requires that all institutions be reevaluated periodically because institutions are in continual processes of change. While the decision to modify an institution is an institutional prerogative and responsibility, the Commission is obligated to determine the effect of any substantive change on the quality, integrity, and effectiveness of the total institution. The general areas of Substantive Change include significant changes in mission, goals, or objectives of an institution; distance or correspondence education, including instruction constituting at least 50 percent of a degree or certificate program that represents a significant departure, in terms of either the content or method of delivery, from those assessed when the institution was most recently evaluated; the offering of a higher degree or credential level; contractual agreements with an institution or organization not accredited by a federally recognized agency to provide any portion of a postsecondary educational program that leads to an academic or professional degree, certificate, or other recognized

educational credential on behalf of the accredited institution; non-credit offerings that affect the institution’s mission; new sites or locations, including branch campuses, additional locations, and other instructional sites; rapid growth; mergers and other changes in the legal status, form of control, or ownership of the institution; site closure; institutional closure; or a change from clock hours to credit hours or a substantial change in the number of clock or credit hours required to successfully complete a program. For greater detail, read the MSCHE policy on Substantive Change.

Supplemental Information Report (SIR)

In the event that the Commission has determined that there are out of cycle developments at an institution or there is insufficient information to substantiate institutional compliance with one or more accreditation standards, the Commission will request a Supplemental Information Report. Such reports are intended to allow the institution to provide further information, not to give the institution time to formulate plans or initiate remedial actions. For details on the Commission’s complete range of actions, read the MSCHE policy on Range of Commission Actions on Accreditation.

Syllabus

                A syllabus describes how a course will be taught, including the planned sequence of content,

materials, activities, and assignments. A syllabus typically will also include a description of grading and attendance policies for the course.

Teach-Out

A process whereby an institution which plans to close or which has had its accreditation removed by Middle States develops a formal plan that enables currently enrolled students to complete their degree requirements, either at the same or another institution. See the MSCHE Substantive Change form and instructions for Institutional Closure or Institutional Status Requiring a Teach-Out Plan.

Transfer

The moving of college credits from one institution to another. Most commonly, a student will transfer after graduation from one institution into a program at another institution to earn a more advanced degree.

Transfer Articulation Agreements

Also known as Articulation, this process involves cooperation between two or more higher education institutions to match courses and facilitate the transfer of students’ credits from one college or university to another.

University

This is a generic term that refers to any postsecondary educational institution that is eligible for accreditation or is already accredited by MSCHE. It is a synonym for “institution.” University status can only be conferred upon an institution by a governmental entity that is legally-designated to award degree-granting authority to institutions. Within the Middle States region, such governmental entities include agencies within Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Vision Statement of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education

The Vision Statement accompanies MSCHE’s Mission Statement, and describes what the Commission aspires to be. The MSCHE Vision Statement is as follows: The Middle States Commission on Higher Education aspires to be the preeminent resource for institutions of higher education striving to achieve excellence in fulfilling their missions.

It also intends, through voluntary assessment and adherence to high standards for student learning outcomes and operational behavior, to assure higher education’s publics that its accredited institutions are fulfilling their stated purposes and addressing the publics’ expectations.

Warning

Warning indicates that an institution has been determined by the Commission not to meet one or more standards for accreditation.  For details on the Commission’s complete range of actions, read the MSCHE policy on Range of Commission Actions on Accreditation.

Week of Instructional Time

               An institution provides one week of instructional time in an academic program during any consecutive seven-day period                  that the institution provides at least one day of regularly scheduled instruction or examinations, or, after the last scheduled                day of classes for a term or payment period, at least one day of study for final examinations. Instructional time does not              include any vacation periods, homework, or periods of orientation or counseling.

Source: 34 CFR 668.8.

Withdrawal of Accreditation

An Adverse Action in which the Commission may withdraw an institution’s accreditation if it deems the institution to be in continued non-compliance despite previous Probationary or Show Cause status. No later than 30 days after each Commission meeting, the Commission provides written notice of final decisions to terminate candidacy or accreditation to the U.S. Secretary of Education, the appropriate state or other licensing or authorizing agency, and the appropriate accrediting agencies. For institutions that have appealed an adverse Commission action, the final action is distributed to these agencies only after the appeals process has been completed. For details on the Commission’s complete range of actions, read the MSCHE policy on Range of Commission Actions on Accreditation.

 

4/09; Updated 7/09, 8/31/09, 1/31/14, 7/1/14