What is the Middle States Commission on Higher Education?

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is the accrediting arm of Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, a private, voluntary membership association that defines, maintains, and promotes educational excellence in colleges and universities with diverse missions, student populations, and resources. In accrediting member institutions, the commission examines each institution as a whole rather than specific programs within the institution. The Middle States Association accredits degree-granting colleges and universities in the region that includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, and also Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

What is accreditation?

Accreditation is a process of peer review that the higher education community has used for self-regulation since the early 20th century. This voluntary process is intended to strengthen and maintain the quality and integrity of higher education, making it worthy of public confidence. Institutions choose to apply for accredited status and, once accredited, agree to abide by the standards of their accrediting organization and to regulate themselves by taking responsibility for their own improvement.

Why is it important to have accreditation?

Accreditation is a means of assuring the public that an institution is providing quality education consistent with its own mission and the principles established by the accrediting body. It demonstrates to other institutions, institutional leadership, faculty, and students a commitment to excellence. Accreditation is also a requirement for any institution seeking federal financial aid for its students.

What are the criteria for Middle States accreditation?

The Middle States Commission has identified 14 key characteristics of excellence (PDF). These characteristics address all aspects of an institution’s effectiveness, including mission, infrastructure, faculty, student body, resources, leadership, and educational offerings.

How does the reaccreditation review occur?

This comprehensive review process is based on a self-study produced by the institution. Through the self-study, an institution evaluates how well it is meeting both its own goals and the commission’s standards. Another important part of the review process is a visit by a team of external evaluators. The team reviews the self-study and other background materials and visits the institution to gather additional information and perspectives from students, faculty, administrative staff, and community members. The team then produces a report for the Middle States Commission. After reviewing all the documentation from the review process, the commission makes a decision about accrediting the institution.

How long does the reaccreditation review process take?

The process takes about two years from the time when the institution begins designing the self-study to the time when the Middle States Commission issues its decision on reaccreditation. The New School’s process began in spring 2011. Originally, we expected the external review team to visit in spring 2013 and the commission to make its determination in summer 2013. In Fall 2011 we approached the Middle States Commission about a one-year extension to align our review process with the installation of our new president, David Van Zandt, and our new strategic planning process. We now expect the external review team to visit in spring 2014 and for the commission to make its report in summer 2014. (See a timeline of the process.)

Who is involved in the self-study?

Broad input is needed in order to create a self-study that accurately and comprehensively reflects our institution. The New School therefore involves a cross-section of the campus community in creating the self-study report. The process is led by a steering committee appointed by the president and the provost, including representatives from the faculty, administration, trustees, and student body. In addition, various working groups collect and analyze information and develop chapters of the self-study. There will be forums and mechanisms for feedback from the university community.

How did The New School do on its last reaccreditation review?

The New School last completed the Middle States reaccreditation review in 2003. We were reaccredited without reservation. Read the full 2003 self-study report (PDF) or the visiting team report. In 2008, the university produced a periodic review report (PDF). The report was positively reviewed by the Middle States Commission and was among a handful of periodic review reports that received a special commendation that year.

I have other questions or comments about the Middle States review. How can I share them?

Send your comments and questions by email to provost@newschool.edu. We invite input from the New School community and will do our best to answer your questions. This FAQ list will be updated and expanded periodically.

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