Becoming Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Does the Middle States Commission on Higher Education accredit international schools?

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education accredits a small number of international post-secondary institutions; some are chartered in the U.S., by states which are in the MSCHE region; others were part of an experimental project to explore international accreditation. The Commission ended the international pilot project in 2008. Currently, the Commission accepts applications only from institutions with degree-granting authority and license to operate as institutions of higher education from an appropriate governmental organization within the Middle States region. For more information, please review the Commission’s policy in the Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines section on Institutions Located Outside the United States.

What kind of schools are eligible for accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education?

MSCHE member institutions must be chartered and/or licensed to operate as institutions of higher education within the Middle States region and be able to award postsecondary degrees (Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate). The authorization to do so must originate from an appropriate governmental agency within the region in which the institution operates, and within the Middle States region. Institutions that only offer post-secondary certificates, diplomas, or licenses are not eligible for accreditation by the Middle States Commission in Higher Education. MSCHE does not accredit stand-alone courses or programs. Through peer evaluation, MSCHE examines each of its member institutions holistically, rather than the specific programs offered within an institution. MSCHE accreditation is not transferable from one institution to another; nor is MSCHE accreditation transferable between regions.

What are the basic requirements of an institution seeking accreditation with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education?

An institution seeking accreditation with the MSCHE must be able to meet the Commission’s requirements of affiliation and demonstrate the ability to comply with its standards for accreditation within the federally mandated limit of five years in pre-accreditation status (called Candidate for Accreditation status in MSCHE). In 2014, the Commission adopted the Standards for Accreditation and Requirements of Affiliation for use by all applicant, candidate, and accredited institutions. In addition, the institution must be able to comply with the Commission’s current Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines.

The institution must be currently operational, with students actively enrolled in its academic programs and must be able to demonstrate that its students are able to achieve appropriate learning outcomes.

What are the fees associated with becoming accredited?

An applicant institution is expected to pay fees in accordance with the MSCHE policy found in the Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines section on Schedule of Dues and Fees. These fees are based on the expenses related to accreditation and review activities including, but not limited to the following: Information Session, Application for Candidate Status, Commission Liaison Visit, Applicant Assessment Team Visit, and Candidate Progress Visits, as necessary.

How long is the process to become accredited?

The time required to complete the accreditation process varies widely, depending on how well prepared and equipped the institution is to pursue MSCHE accreditation. For institutions that are exceptionally well-prepared and have at hand the considerable resources needed to meet and demonstrate compliance with MSCHE standards and requirements, the time from submission of the initial application to becoming accredited may be less than three years. Other institutions typically find that the process takes considerably longer.

How does the institution begin the application process?

The institution should begin by engaging in a process of self-assessment and analysis to determine the following, based upon the information provided above:

  • Accreditation with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education is appropriate for the institution.
  • The institution can demonstrate that it meets the following criteria:
    • The institution is authorized or licensed, from an appropriate governmental organization or agency within the Middle States region, to operate as a postsecondary educational institution and to award postsecondary degrees;
    • The institution is operational, with students actively enrolled in its degree programs;
    • The institution will graduate at least one class prior to the evaluation team’s visit for initial accreditation, or can demonstrate that students have achieved appropriate learning outcomes;
    • The institution’s representatives communicate with the MSCHE in English, both orally and in writing;
    • The institution complies with applicable federal and state laws and regulations;
    • The institution complies with applicable Commission, interregional, and inter-institutional policies (Policies, guidelines, and procedures);
    • The institution has a mission statement and related goals that defines its purposes within the context of higher education;
    • The institution and its governing body/bodies make freely available to the MSCHE accurate, fair, and complete information on all aspects of the institution and its operations.
  • The institution has the appropriate resources (time, personnel, financial) to engage in the process of applying for Candidate for Accredited Status.
  • The institution has the capacity and ability to achieve Candidate for Accreditation Status within a reasonable period of time, and to come into compliance with each of the Commission’s 15 Requirements of Affiliation, seven Standards for Accreditation, and the eight areas of accreditation-relevant federal regulations (Verification of Compliance with Accreditation-Relevant Federal Regulations) in order to be granted accredited status within the federally mandated five-year time frame.

To begin the process of applying for Candidate for Accreditation status with the MSCHE, please contact applicationprocess@msche.org.