Many times the Middle State Commission on Higher Education receives questions about student resources. The following frequently asked questions are meant to answer many of the questions we receive.
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Does the Commission consider student learning at an institution?
Yes, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education considers student learning to be a very important matter in the accreditation process.
Four principles guided the development of the MSCHE’s Standards for Accreditation:
- The mission-centric standards acknowledge the diversity of institutions;
- The focus of the standards is on the student learning experience;
- The standards emphasize institutional assessment and assessment of student learning; and
- The standards support innovation as an essential part of continuous institutional improvement.
Does the Commission rank colleges?
No. American colleges and universities are so varied in their purposes, types of programs offered, and students served that it is not possible to offer a valid general ranking of institutions based on educational quality.
While accreditation does not provide a basis for ranking institutions of higher education, it does seek to strengthen and sustain the quality and integrity of institutions. In each instance, a college or university is judged by how effectively it meets its stated mission and the Commission’s standards.
The MSCHE does not endorse any third-party platforms and/or tool.
Can the Commission recommend a college or university?
No. The selection of a college is an individual decision.
How can a prospective student evaluate and compare colleges and universities?
The U.S. Department of Education provides many useful tools for interested individuals to get started in addition to many directory, rating, and information sites.
What should students know about expectations for learning at an institution?
The Preamble to the MSCHE’s Standards for Accreditation and Requirements of Affiliation (adopted 2014) states, “An institution of higher education is a community dedicated to students, to the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge, to the study and clarification of values, and to the advancement of the society it serves. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, through accreditation, mandates that its member institutions meet rigorous and comprehensive standards, which are addressed in the context of the mission of each institution and within the culture of ethical practices and institutional integrity expected of accredited institutions. In meeting the quality standards of MSCHE accreditation, institutions earn accredited status, and this permits them to state with confidence, “Our students are well-served, society is well-served.”
The Requirements of Affiliation require that an institution’s student learning programs and opportunities are characterized by rigor, coherence, and appropriate assessment of student achievement throughout the educational offerings, regardless of certificate or degree level or delivery and instructional modality.
MSCHE Standard III (Design and Delivery of the Student Learning Experience) requires accredited institutions to offer a curriculum that is designed so that students acquire and demonstrate essential skills including at least oral and written communication, scientific and quantitative reasoning, critical analysis and reasoning, technological competency, and information literacy. Consistent with the institution’s mission, the general education program must also include the study of values, ethics, and diverse perspectives.
MSCHE Standard IV (Support of the Student Experience) requires institutions to commit to student retention, persistence, completion, and success through a coherent and effective support system sustained by qualified professionals, which enhances the quality of the learning environment, contributes to the educational experience, and fosters student success.
Will a college accept credits transferred from another college?
Each institution makes its own decisions about transfer credits, and it may take into account a variety of factors, such as how well the credits students earned at another institution fit the requirements for the program they wish to pursue, the comparability of learning goals for the courses at the other institution, the grades students received in the courses they took, whether the college they attended is accredited, and other factors that vary from one institution to another.
The only way to determine which credits (if any) a college or university will accept is to contact the institution directly. Students who know in advance that they may wish to transfer to another institution should contact the receiving institution as soon as possible about the transferability of credits.
For further information about transfer, consult the MSCHE policy Transfer Credit, Prior Learning, and Articulation found in the Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines section.
What happens to student records when a college closes?
The closing institution arranges with the state department of higher education or other appropriate agency to file all academic records as well as financial aid information. If the college merges with another institution, arrangements are made with that institution to receive the records. Students should receive a notice from the college about any arrangements made for filing student records.
Sometimes students wish to know about where their records are filed, long after an institution has closed. In that case, students should begin their inquiries by contacting the higher education agency in the state where the institution was authorized.
How are complaints against the Commission handled?
Individuals or institutions that have complaints against the Commission itself should address their concerns to the President of the Commission (or to the Chair of the Commission, if the complaint involves the President). See the policy, Complaints Against the Commission, in the Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines section.
How can I protect myself from Diploma or Degree mills and fake accrediting agencies?