The Periodic Review Report: Re-accreditation at the Mid-Point

In December, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) held its annual conference. At that conference, MSCHE Vice Presidents Christy L. Faison and Debra G. Klinman discussed the Periodic Review Report (PRR). The PRR is submitted five years after a higher education institution’s decennial review. Lehman College will be submitting its next PRR in 2014.

Briefly, Middle States lists the five goals for the PRR:

  1. To help institutions gauge their progress in achieving their own goals and objectives.
  2. To enable the Commission to assess the current status, as well as the future prospects of institutions, within the framework for the Commission’s accreditation standards.
  3. To fulfill the Commission’s accountability to the public, the academic community at large, and its member institutions.

Among other things, a PRR should contain an executive summary, summary of a college’s response to MSCHE’s recommendations from the previous evaluation and to Commission actions, a narrative identifying major challenges and/or opportunities, enrollment and finance trends and projections, and evidence of organized and sustained processes to assess institutional effectiveness and student learning (MSCHE Standards 7 and 14).

The presenters covered the PRR report’s components. They also explained that the peer review procedures entailed 2 peer reviewers (1 financial reviewer and 1 reviewer who focuses on an institution’s compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act, particularly Title IV). The reviewers typically offer suggestions, provide recommendations for improvements necessary for an institution to remain in compliance with MSCHE standards, and identify areas in which an institution is not in compliance with MSCHE standards. Each institution has an opportunity to provide a formal response.

Based on the PRR outcome, MSCHE can take a range of actions. It can reaffirm an institution’s accreditation, request a follow-up (monitoring report or progress report), issue a warning, or place an institution on probation. The 2009 decennial review led to MSCHE asking Lehman College to submit a monitoring report.

The presenters then provided PRR outcomes statistics for 2012 to date. During 2012, 40 colleges and universities submitted PRRs to Middle States. Thirty six (90%) had their accreditation reaffirmed with 19 (53%) of those institutions receiving commendations. There were also requests for 10 progress reports (25% of institutions) and 11 monitoring reports (28% of institutions).  Four institutions (10%) received warnings.

According to the presentation, the MSCHE standards receiving the most requests for follow-up were:

• Standard 14 (Assessment of Student Learning): 71% of follow-up requests

• Standard 7 (Institutional Assessment): 43% of follow-up requests

• Standard 2 (Planning, Resource Allocation, and Institutional Renewal): 33% of follow-up requests

• Standard 4 (Leadership and Governance): 29% of follow-up requests

• Standard 8 (Student Admission and Retention) and Standard 12 (General Education): 24% of follow-up requests

Standards 7 and 14 relate to core higher education programs and services. MSCHE is likely to continue to rigorously examine compliance with those standards. Emphasis on Standards 2 and 8 could increase on account of fiscal pressures arising from the recent recession, structural budget issues confronting the federal and state governments, and increasing attention being devoted outcomes by political leaders and the general public.

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