MSCHE Response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

The coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to be a global concern, and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) has received a number of inquiries about its operations. MSCHE understands that this is a difficult time for institutions and is committed to working with all impacted MSCHE members.

The following information is provided by MSCHE as a resource for institutions, peer evaluators, and the public as to the latest communications, policy waivers, and guidance.

MSCHE is also working closely with the U.S. Department of Education to provide as much flexibility as possible in accreditation related matters. Please refer to the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) COVID-19 Resources for additional and updated guidance.

Please bookmark and check this page for updates.

Waivers Related to MSCHE Policies and Procedures and Other COVID-19-Related Actions

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (Commission) has modified certain policies and procedures to assist institutions with adjusting to COVID-19 interruptions. These modifications are aligned and consistent with guidance provided by the United States Department of Education (USDE) grant of temporary flexibilities to institutions of higher education and to accreditors and approved by the Executive Committee or Commission as noted. The Commission alerted institutions to these modifications through email, recorded broadcasts, and surveys. A timeline of these waivers is provided below.


March 4, 2020, Delay Spring 2020 international visits and restrict all international travel

On March 4, 2020, the Executive Committee acted to delay the on-site evaluation visit to international institutions for Spring 2020. The Executive Committee acted further to restrict all international travel until further notice.


March 6, 2020, Temporary Waivers related to Substantive Change Policy and Procedures

On March 6, 2020, the Executive Committee acted to waive the MSCHE distance education review requirements in the Substantive Change Policy and Procedures for institutions working to accommodate students whose enrollment is otherwise interrupted as a result of COVID-19.

The Executive Committee acted further to waive the MSCHE contractual agreements review requirements in the Substantive Change Policy and Procedures for institutions working to accommodate students impacted by COVID-19 so that students can complete courses at other institutions but be awarded credit by their home institutions.


March 11, 2020, Temporary Waiver related to Accreditation Review Cycle and Monitoring Policy and Procedures

On March 11, 2020, the Executive Committee acted to temporarily waive on-site visits required in the Commission’s Accreditation Review Cycle and Monitoring Policy and Procedures in support of virtual visits in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and in accordance with anticipated USDE guidance. Virtual visits will not be allowed for those institutions under circumstances that require on-site review such as applicant institutions, institutions on probation, and institutions with concerns that warrant on-site review.


April 16, 2020, Actions on March 6, 2020 Waivers

On April 16, 2020, the Executive Committee acted on the waivers approved on March 6, 2020 as follows:

Domestic Institutions:

To support institutions and to align with the United States Department of Education (USDE) guidance, the Executive Committee acted to temporarily waive the substantive change requirements for distance education for institutions not approved to offer this alternative delivery method.

International Institutions:

In response to additional USDE guidance published April 3, 2020, the Executive Committee acted to extend the temporary distance education waivers for international institutions and align the waivers with any clarifications relating to the USDE guidance.


April 16, 2020, Temporary waiver related to Substantive Change Policy and Procedures requirements for distance education

Substantive Change Policy and Procedures:

In accordance with the USDE Office of Postsecondary Education Updated Guidance published April 3, 2020, which encouraged accrediting agencies to develop new policies and procedures to support the rapid approval of distance education programs for institutions working to accommodate students whose enrollment is otherwise interrupted as a result of COVID-19, the Executive Committee acted to grant MSCHE staff the authority to expedite the MSCHE substantive change process, as allowed under the USDE April 3, 2020 Guidance, by temporarily modifying the Substantive Change Policy and Procedures and Substantive Change Guidelines for those institutions seeking to include the distance education alternative delivery method within the institution’s scope of accreditation.

The USDE subsequently extended its temporary flexibilities and allowed those institutions given temporary approval to offer programs through an alternative delivery method to continue their delivery through alternative methods through December 31, 2020. Institutions that wish to continue offering programs through the alternative delivery methods are therefore required to follow the Commission’s established Substantive Change Policy and Procedures and Substantive Change Guidelines.


April 16, 2020, Actions to delay certain visits required in Accreditation Review Cycle and Monitoring Policy and Procedures

Grant of Delay for Visit (Accreditation Review Cycle and Monitoring Policy and Procedures):

As circumstances relating to the coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to change rapidly for institutions, systems, and states, the Commission determined that applicant institutions, institutions on probation, and institutions with concerns that warrant on-site review would conduct delayed visits. The Commission also offered options to institutions and teams to delay on-site Spring 2020 visits.

For institutions scheduled to host an on-site evaluation visit, the Executive Committee acted as follows: To delay the On-Site Evaluation visit scheduled for Spring 2020 due to extraordinary circumstances related to coronavirus (COVID-19) interruptions and to continue accreditation. To note the institution remains accredited during a delay granted by the Commission. The Evaluation visit will be scheduled in accordance with Commission policy and procedures.

For institutions scheduled to host a follow-up visit, the Executive Committee acted as follows: To delay the On-Site Follow-Up visit scheduled for Spring 2020 due to extraordinary circumstances related to coronavirus (COVID-19) interruptions and to continue accreditation. To note the institution remains accrediting during a delay granted by the Commission. The Follow-Up visit will be scheduled in accordance with Commission policy and procedures.

The Commission also postponed substantive change follow-up visits until travel is permissible.


April 16, 2020, Principles related to flexibilities in response to COVID-19

The Executive Committee endorsed the following principles related to the flexibilities in response to COVID-19:

  • The Commission will offer flexibility in the timeline for team chairs to conduct on-site preliminary visits for institutions in the 2020-2021 cohort. (Accreditation Review Cycle and Monitoring Procedures)
  • The USDE guidance affords the Commission discretion on the timing of actions based on their requirement of a virtual site visit and follow-up, in person or verification visit. The Commission will take action following all virtual site visits but prior to the verification visit required in the USDE guidance, except in the non-compliance circumstances described below:
  • For institutions receiving non-compliance as a result of a virtual visit, the Commission will act to postpone the decision, request a supplemental information report (SIR) and conduct a follow-up, in-person visit. This visit will serve the dual purpose of a MSCHE follow-up visit, and the verification visit required by USDE guidance.
  • During a virtual site visit, if an institution was found in compliance by a team, but out of compliance by the Committee, the Commission will waive the Advance Notice of Non-Compliance Recommendations Procedures temporarily in lieu of an action of postponement with a request for an SIR and follow-up visit.
  • The purpose of the follow-up, in person visit will be similar to a substantive change follow-up visit, which is shorter in duration and used only to verify evidence and information provided to the team.
  • In the event that future guidance issued by the USDE no longer requires the verification visit, the Commission should not require such unless the recommendation of non-compliance resulted from the team evaluation or at the Committee-level. Team chairs and MSCHE vice president staff liaisons have visited institutions as part of the Commission’s on-site evaluation procedures, and the additional burden of a verification visit is unnecessary.

May 21, 2020, Waiver related to Accreditation Review Cycle and Monitoring Policy and Procedures

On May 21, 2020, the Executive Committee acted to waive on-site visits required in the Commission’s Accreditation Review Cycle and Monitoring Policy and Procedures for institutions undergoing self-study evaluation visits in Fall 2020 in support of virtual visits in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Virtual visits will not be allowed for those institutions under circumstances that require on-site review such as applicant institutions, candidate institutions, institutions on probation, and institutions with concerns that warrant on-site review.


June 24, 2020, Actions related to Accreditation Review Cycle and Monitoring Policy and Procedures

On May 15, 2020, the United States Department of Education (USDE) provided additional guidance related to the use of virtual visits. Clarification was provided regarding the in-person, follow-up visit that was required after a virtual visit. The USDE guidance requires a focused site-visit to confirm the presence of facilities to meet the Department’s requirements for an on-site visit following the full virtual site visit. The USDE guidance pertains to on-site evaluation visits as opposed to follow-up visits. On June 24, 2020, the Executive Committee acted as follows:

  • Verification Visits following Virtual Follow-Up Visits will not be required.
  • Verification Visits to Branch Campuses and Additional Locations will not be required for those where branch campuses/additional locations that hosted virtual evaluation visits were either able to host onsite visits to locations prior to the travel ban, or have conducted substantive change follow-up visits within the last accreditation cycle.

MSCHE Finance Related Information

  • Travel Reimbursement: The Commission must suspend reimbursements for reasonable and necessary travel expenses that may have been incurred during accreditation activities. This suspension is in effect at least until May 1, 2020. Please email finance@msche.org with questions.
  • Payments to the Commission: Payments to the Commission must be made through ACH payments or wire transfer and should no longer be done through the mailing of checks. Please email finance@msche.org with questions and for instructions on making payments.
  • Vendors:  Electronic billing and invoicing is now required for all Commission business. Please email bills and invoices as well as questions to finance@msche.org.

Recorded Broadcast to Provide MSCHE Accreditation-Related Updates (May 27, 2020)

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) is pleased to provide a recorded broadcast for its membership and the public highlighting recent Commission activities and planning.

During the broadcast, members of the MSCHE staff will address new United States Department of Education regulations that become effective on July 1, 2020, MSCHE plans going forward into the 2020-2021 year,  updates surrounding MSCHE events and policies, changes that have been implemented to allow for accreditation activities to continue under the challenging conditions of the COVID-19 environment, and other pertinent information.

To access the webinar visit the Go To Webinar link.
You will be asked to check a box near the top to accept terms and then can register by providing your name and email.

To download a copy of the webinar transcript visit, click here.

Please be assured of the continuing interest of the Commission in the safety, health, and well-being of MSCHE member institutions and all who contribute to peer review.

Presenters/Topics (Total Time – 44:56) Time Code
Introduction of Speakers 00:05
Dr. Elizabeth Sibolski, President
Welcome 00:43
Dr. Heather Perfetti. President-Elect
Opening Remarks 02:47
New Federal Regulations 05:01
Next Steps 14:55
Dr. Stephen Pugliese, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff
Events Updates 16:56
Policy Updates 21:28
MSCHE Rebranding Updates 22:24
Dr. Ellie Fogarty, Lead Vice President
Virtual Site Visits and Delays 24:11
Report Due Dates 26:20
Fall Visits and USDE Guidance 27:04
Distance Education and USDE Guidance 29:16
Annual Institutional Update Launch 30:36
Dr. Sean McKitrick, Vice President
MSCHE Institutional Responses to COVID-19: Results from April 1, 2020 31:07
Dr. Christy Faison, Senior Vice President for Accreditation Relations
Supporting Institutions 40:30
Contacting MSCHE

MSCHE Recorded Webinar: Virtual Site Visit Training (March 24, 2020)

MSCHE has provided a recorded webinar to assist institutions and evaluators conducting virtual site visits. The Virtual Site Visit Training Module addresses the temporary flexibility provided by the United States Department of Education to address coronavirus (COVID-19) impacted institutions and accrediting agencies. Please note that this recorded webinar is a supplement to training already provided to Team Chairs and peer evaluators and does not negate any previous training.

To access the webinar visit https://go.msche.org/20200324-recorded-webinar-virtual-site-visit
You will be asked to check a box near the top to accept terms and then can register by providing your name and email.

To download a copy of the webinar transcript visit https://go.msche.org/20200324-MSCHE-virtual-site-visit-guide

Virtual Site Visits: A Guide in Response to COVID-19 for Institutions and Teams (Total Time – 22:19) Time Code
Slide 1 – Introduction 00:10
Slide 2 – Disclaimer 02:17
Slide 3 – MSCHE Memo: March 13, 2020 02:18
Slide 4/5 – USDE Guidance: March 17, 2020 03:08
Slide 6 – MSCHE Virtual Site Visits 04:25
Slide 7 – Before the Virtual Site Visit 06:44
Slide 8 – During the Virtual Site Visit 09:27
Slide 9 – After the Virtual Site Visit 13:12
Slide 10 – Virtual Site Visit Etiquette 14:38
Slide 11- Keys to Success for Virtual Site Visits 16:08
Slide 12 – Questions and Resources 20:26
Slide 13 – Thank you 20:49

 

MSCHE Recorded Webinar: COVID-19 Update (March 17, 2020)

On behalf of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and the President’s office, MSCHE senior leadership is providing a recorded webinar to share important messaging and deliver information to all MSCHE constituents, that is accurate as of the date and time of this webinar.

To access the webinar visit https://go.msche.org/20200317-msche-covid-19-webinar
You will be asked to check a box near the top to accept terms and then can register by providing your name and email.

To download a copy of the webinar transcript visit https://go.msche.org/20200317-msche-covid-19-webinar-script

Presenters/Topics (Total Time – 20:41) Time Code
Heather Perfetti, President-Elect
Introduction 00:00
MSCHE COVID-19 Webpage 01:38
Latest Guidance from MSCHE and U.S. Department of Education 02:18
MSCHE Business Continuity and Sponsored Events 05:12
Annual Institutional Update (AIU) 07:43
Christy Faison, Senior Vice President for Accreditation Relations
MSCHE Accreditation Activities 10:13
Spring Visits 10:40
Virtual Visits 13:01
Self-Study Prep Visits and Commission Directed Visits 14:55
International and Veterans – Student Guidance 15:29
Steve Pugliese, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff
Institutional Support 16:11
MSCHE Contacts 17:56
Additional Questions 19:49

 


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