Middle States Commission on Higher Education


Frequently Asked Questions

What accreditation records should an institution retain in its archives?

The Commission does not stipulate which accreditation records an institution should preserve and which retention periods an institution should adopt. The selection of records and retention periods are institutional prerogatives, but they should be consistent with the institution’s overall policies, requirements of law, and best practice in the field of records management.


Nevertheless, an institution would be prudent to keep permanently, on paper or in digital form, any formal correspondence with the Commission and any records of formal Commission actions (including initial accreditation, re-accreditation, and compliance with follow-up requests, and as much background material as is necessary to explain the context of anything other than a completely favorable review). Also important are images (paper or electronic) of each Institutional Profile submitted annually, including the Instructions for that year.


Institutions also should develop a policy on the circumstances under which any of the following accreditation-related materials are worthy of permanent or temporary retention, including: self-study reports and the reports of working committees that developed the final self-study reports, including minority positions; periodic review reports; complaints and the status of their resolution; and e-mails to and from Commission staff.


Aside from requirements of law or regulations, a useful rule of thumb for institution-wide policies would be to archive permanently whatever a historian might be interested in, decades in the future, when writing about how the institution has changed, the issues and challenges it has faced, and how they were addressed. Institutions also may wish to consider and evaluate the advice that the National Archives and Records Administration provides on its website to agencies of the federal government.