University accreditation under warning

Insufficient evidence that University is compliant with Standard 14

COLLEEN DAY
MANAGING EDITOR

The University’s accreditation received a warning from The Middle States Commission on Higher Education on Nov. 21, 2013.
Kathryn Yerkes, director of planning and institutional effectiveness, said a former Middle States Commission chair visited campus Tuesday and Wednesday in the capacity of an assessment consultant to offer additional suggestions to help The University get back on track. The consultant met with the interim provost, deans and faculty as well as Yerkes and Rev. Quinn.
Yerkes said the Middle States Commission is particularly concerned with the College of Arts and Sciences because of the lack of physical documentation of student learning outcomes. Many of the programs in the other colleges within The University already have written student learning outcomes because of external accreditation.
“Because of this the other colleges are a little further along, but the College of Arts and Sciences needed a little bit of extra help,” Yerkes said.
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education reviews institutions based on 14 Standards of Accreditation and 10 Requirements of Affiliation. The Middle States Commission follows a 10-year accreditation cycle that includes a self-study, an on-site evaluation visit and a Periodic Review Report. The University was last fully reaccredited in 2008. Every five years, institutions accredited by the Middle States Commission must submit a Periodic Review Report.
According to the public disclosure statement, these reports should “demonstrate that the institution meets the standards by which the Commission reaffirms and denies accreditation.”
The University submitted its Periodic Review Report during Spring 2013 and it was accepted by The Middle States Commission just before Thanksgiving. The report was reviewed by the Middle States Commission’s Periodic Review Report readers and by the Committee on Periodic Review Reports.
The Middle States Commission “acted to warn the institution that its accreditation may be in jeopardy because of insufficient evidence that the institution is currently in compliance with Standard 14 (Assessment of Student Learning),” according to the public disclosure statement.         According to an email from Father Quinn to University students, University officials will concentrate on improving four areas:
• institutional learning outcomes
• course learning outcomes
• College of Arts and Science’s outcomes assessment
• general education program learning assessment
According to the public disclosure statement, “When the Commission warns an institution, it believes that, although the institution is out of compliance, the institution has the capacity to both make appropriate improvements within a reasonable period and to sustain itself  in the long term.”
The University is also required to submit a monitoring report to demonstrate that “appropriate improvements” have been made “within a reasonable period” so that The University can “sustain itself in the long term,” according to the disclosure statement. The University’s monitoring report is due Sept. 1, 2014. A small team of representatives will also visit The University to validate progress and complete an on-site report.
According to the public disclosure statement, “the monitoring report, the small team report and the institutional response to the small team report will be considered by the Committee on Follow-Up Activities, and then by the Commission.”
If the Middle States Commission believes The University has properly addressed the concerns, they will lift The University’s warning and reaffirm accreditation. However, if the Middle States Commission determines that the progress has been insufficient, the Commission “may take further action,” according to the public disclosure statement.
Administrators, staff and faculty drafted Institutional Learning Outcomes, which have been endorsed by the deans as a working document and shared with the University Governance Council.  The document will also be reviewed by the representative Senates, the President’s Cabinet, and others in the spring. The goal is to have a final document in May 2014.
College of Arts and Sciences classes have gone through Program Review. Over intersession, 20 faculty members volunteered to use their intersession courses to perform learning outcomes assessments. These results will help guide the college-wide assessment in the spring.
“Middle States will be looking at the compliance again this fall. We have every expectation the warning will be removed at that time,” Yerkes said.
The University was last reaffirmed by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education on June 26, 2008 and has been accredited since 1927.

Contact the writer:
colleen.day@scranton.edu

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