Middle States Commission on Higher Education


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Open Letter from the Commission (February 20, 2004)

Middle States Commission on Higher Education

3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104. Tel: 267-284-5000






TO:              Presidents of Member & Candidate Institutions,

                    MSCHE Commissioners, and

                    Other Colleagues in Higher Education


FROM:          Jean Avnet Morse, MSCHE Executive Director


DATE:          February 20, 2004


SUBJECT:     Regional Accreditation and Reauthorization of

The Higher Education Act



All of us have much at stake in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. If reauthorization occurs this year, it will come together very quickly over the next four to five months. It is likely that other national organizations will inform you about and seek your support for other aspects of this vitally important legislation. Therefore, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education thought it prudent to share a legislative proposal that carries the name of our Commission and the names of the higher education commissions for the North Central, Northwest, Southern, and Western regions.


As we listened over the past months, we learned that Congress had an agenda for the recognition of accrediting agencies. Specifically, lawmakers had signaled their intent to make recognized accrediting agencies more accountable for institutional quality, more forthcoming with information about member institutions to facilitate consumer choice, as well as more responsible for easing transfer and ensuring the quality of distance education.


We also learned from key personnel at the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and others that members of Congress and their staffs questioned the absence of any voice as recognizably coming from regional accreditation commissions. Finally, both USED and Congressional staffs repeatedly expressed their interest in hearing legislative proposals from accreditors that would address the accountability agenda in an acceptable and workable manner.


In response, several of the regional accrediting commissions combined time, talents, and resources to create a stronger presence in Washington. We concluded that our major interest in this legislation demanded that we put before the lawmakers and the Department a concrete proposal for the sections of the law related to accountability and the recognition of accreditation agencies. We tailored this proposal to be in accordance

with the Goals for the Reauthorization of Higher Education that had been adopted by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) in late April and which all of you should have received. Click here to read our proposal in Adobe PDF format.


We have shared our proposal with legislators, legislative staffs, USED, and leaders of other Washington higher education organizations, and have received favorable responses. In our documents we have put before Congress a legislative proposal that we believe addresses the Congressional agenda for accrediting agencies and that is consistent with the responsibilities that accreditors and accredited institutions have to our students and to the public.


By creating a productive relationship with the federal government through our participation in this reauthorization, we hope to avoid some of the extremely burdensome and unnecessary approaches that others have proposed.


Our Commission welcomes your comments, and we hope that after reviewing the proposal you will be an advocate for it as you meet with members of Congress or with other presidents in the course of your involvement with reauthorization.