Frequently Asked Questions
What is accreditation?
Accreditation is a process of peer review that the educational community has adopted for its self-regulation since early in the 20th century. It is a voluntary process intended to strengthen and sustain the quality and integrity of higher education, making it worthy of public confidence. Institutions choose to apply for accredited status, and once accredited, they agree to abide by the standards of their accrediting organization and to regulate themselves by taking responsibility for their own improvement.
What Standards Must an Institution meet to be Accredited?
In the Middle States region, accreditation is an expression of the confidence that the Middle States Commission on Higher Education has in an institution's mission and goals, its performance, and its resources. Based upon the results of an institutional review by a team of peers assigned by the Commission, accreditation attests to the judgment of the Commission that an institution has met the following criteria:
- that it has a mission appropriate to higher education;
- that it is guided by well-defined and appropriate goals, including goals for student learning;
- that it has established conditions and procedures under which its mission and goals can be realized;
- that it assesses both institutional effectiveness and student learning outcomes, and uses the results for improvement;
- that it is accomplishing its mission and goals substantially;
- that it is so organized, staffed, and supported that it can be expected to continue to accomplish its mission and goals; and
- that it meets the eligibility requirements and the standards for accreditation of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
How often is a College or University Evaluated?
Colleges and universities in the Middle States region normally are evaluated every five years, but Commission staff members also monitor each institution in the interim to determine if special circumstances require more frequent evaluations.
The most comprehensive evaluation is based upon a report that the institution prepares about itself, called a self-study report. This evaluation always includes a visit by a team of evaluators who report to the Commission. It occurs immediately before a candidate institution is granted initial accreditation, five years after that initial accreditation, and every 10 years thereafter.
Five years after receiving initial accreditation, and five years after each subsequent decennial comprehensive evaluation, there is an interim evaluation that is based upon a Periodic Review Report (PRR). The PRR is a restrospective, current, and prospective analysis of an institution since its last evaluation. It includes a description of how the institution responded to any recommendations made by the institution in its own self-study report, by the visiting team that evaluated the institution, and by the Commission.