MSCHE Endorses Domestic and International Membership Expansion

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) endorsed a plan at its June 25, 2020, meeting to expand membership domestically and internationally through a phased-in approach, which included the following:

  • MSCHE will expand the acceptance of domestic applications beyond the current geographic boundaries under the new Application and Candidacy Review Cycle and Monitoring Policy and Procedures and the United States Department of Education (USDE) regulations effective as of July 1, 2020.
  • MSCHE will lift its moratorium on international applications beginning on January 1, 2021, with a phased expansion, first on a limited basis in targeted areas and then more expansively thereafter.

“What is most impressive about our Commission is that we are already a global enterprise with a global footprint, and we have proudly journeyed where our members have taken us,” said MSCHE President Dr. Heather F. Perfetti. “All told, we have been supporting the work of accreditation in 48 states, two U.S. Territories, the District of Columbia, and 94 countries. The Commission, as a result, determined that it no longer needs to be defined by the simplicity of regional geographic boundaries.”

The decision to expand domestically and internationally resulted from the exploration of the changing landscape of higher education, the important role the Commission serves in supporting that change, and the Commission’s unwavering commitment to its mission and values no matter where it does business. While the new federal regulations by the United States Department of Education that went into effect on July 1, 2020, allowed regional accreditors, now referred to as institutional accreditors, to consider membership expansion, nothing required that the Commission do so. While the consideration of this change may have been prompted by the new regulatory environment, this decision about the Commission’s future was not driven by it.

“The phased approach of the proposal provides a very strategic and thoughtful way of moving the Commission forward to both expand domestically and internationally,” said Commissioner Dr. Katherine S. Conway-Turner, Executive Committee member of MSCHE and President of SUNY Buffalo State, who contributed to the development of the proposal. “I strongly endorsed the proposal and think it is the right direction that builds on the Commission’s thoughtful discussions.”

In order to facilitate the expansion plan, MSCHE amended its bylaws at the June 25 meeting to reflect the regulatory changes going into effect. The changes reflected a revised statement of purpose that eliminated references to regional boundaries giving flexibility to the Commission to determine where it will do business. In addition, policies and procedures have been updated or adopted to reflect the new regulatory environment.  This includes an Application and Candidacy Review Cycle and Monitoring Policy and Procedures, which codifies rigorous policies and procedures for new institutions as well as better controls the workflow for applicants and those institutions in candidacy. In addition, the Dues and Fees Policy and Procedures have been updated to reflect costs for applicants and candidates, so that those are not borne by current membership. The fees have always reflected distinctions appropriate for MSCHE working within the international environment.

“With the Commission identifying potential expansion as a strategic priority, the next steps will be to create a holistic and sound business plan,” said Dr. Perfetti. “The opportunity to support greater diversity of institutions, institutional affiliations beyond a defined region, and an innovative approach to changing institutional needs and the regulatory environment, coupled with an already global footprint, naturally led the Commission to this decision. With that said, the Commission remains cognizant of the uncertainties across the higher education community as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

This is not the first foray the Commission has taken internationally. In 1973, MSCHE accredited what is now the American University of Paris and, two years later, what is now Franklin University, Switzerland, the first of eight international institutions that had degree-granting authority from a state within its region, either Delaware or New York. Often referred to as “U.S.-style institutions” and many have the words “American University of …” in their name.

In 2002, the Commission approved a pilot project to accredit a limited number of institutions located outside the U.S. that were not incorporated in the U.S. The pilot project was closed in 2007 with the last of the institutions accredited in 2015. Currently, MSCHE accredits 17 institutions that are evenly divided between those with in-region and those with international degree-granting authority.

“The Commission has continued to have appeal in the international market, with regular inquiries from new institutions looking to MSCHE for accreditation,” said Dr. James Sunser, Chair of the Commission and President of SUNY Genesee Community College (NY). “Lifting the moratorium on international applications, through a phased approach, will allow us to be responsive to those looking to pursue accreditation with MSCHE.”


Year Accredited Institution Country Degree Granting Authority
1973 American University of Paris France DE
1975 Franklin University Switzerland Switzerland DE
1981 Richmond, the American International University in London United Kingdom DE
1982 American University in Cairo, The Egypt DE
2003 John Cabot University Italy DE
2004 American University of Beirut Lebanon NY
2004 American University of Sharjah United Arab Emirates UAE (DE until 2008)
2004 Central European University Hungary NY
2005 Athabasca University Canada Canada
2005 Open University United Kingdom UK
2007* London Metropolitan University United Kingdom UK
2008 Zayed University United Arab Emirates UAE
2010 American University of Rome, The Italy DE
2010 Ming Chuan University Taiwan Taiwan
2010 Universidad Mayor Chile Chile
2013 Irish American University Ireland DE
2015 H. Lavity Stoutt Community College British Virgin Islands (BVI) BVI
2015 Universidad Andres Bello Chile Chile

*Voluntarily Surrendered as of June 30, 2020