What is accreditation and why is it important?
Accreditation is a voluntary evaluation process in which an institution of higher education demonstrates its ability to provide and maintain standards of a quality education. It bolsters the public’s confidence in our college as an institution that delivers high quality education. Accreditation demonstrates that the college maintains academic rigor in our courses and programs, which confirms the legitimacy of our educational offerings to employers, the community, and to other colleges and universities. It assures credits may be considered for transfer and allows SUNY Broome to offer federal financial aid to our students to aid them in pursuing their degree.
Accreditation demonstrates SUNY Broome’s commitment to providing our students with a quality education, helps ensure our accountability, and demonstrates that we engage in a process of self-evaluation, continuous improvement, and innovation within the context of our college’s mission.
Who is our accreditor?
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) is the accreditor of SUNY Broome. MSCHE is a private, independent, non-governmental organization that is responsible for more than 525 accredited institutions located in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and some locations abroad. MSCHE examines institutions as a whole, rather than individual programs within institutions. While we have several programs within our college that are accredited by specific accrediting bodies, SUNY Broome as a whole is accredited by MSCHE.
What does it mean to be accredited by MSCHE?
Institutions who are accredited by MSCHE must be able to meet the Commission’s Requirements of Affiliation and demonstrate ability to comply with its Standards for Accreditation. They must also comply with all policies, procedures, and guidelines. Through accreditation, MSCHE mandates that institutions meet rigorous standards.
The 7 standards of accreditation include:
- Standard 1: Mission and goals;
- Standard 2: Ethics and integrity;
- Standard 3: Design and delivery of the student learning experience;
- Standard 4: Support of the student experience;
- Standard 5: Educational effectiveness assessment;
- Standard 6: Planning, resources and institutional improvement;
- Standard 7: Governance, leadership and administration.
Institutions must also demonstrate that they have met institutional compliance with accreditation relevant federal regulations developed by the U.S. Department of Education by completing an Institutional Federal Compliance Report, in conjunction with the self-study report.
Institutions must provide evidence that they have documented policies and procedures in the following areas:
- Student identity verification in distance and correspondence education
- Transfer of credit policies and articulation agreements
- Title IV program responsibilities
- Institutional records of student complaints
- Required information for students and the public
- Standing with State and other accrediting agencies
- Contractual relationships
- Assignment of credit hours
What is involved during the accreditation process?
A Self-Study report is compiled and written by a diverse team of campus community members. The Self-Study is a detailed written document that demonstrates how our college is meeting the requirements of affiliation and standards of accreditation. This report is developed from the work of our Steering Committee, a committee who oversees the self-study process, and members of the 7 Work Groups (one for each standard), who collect evidence and prepare a written report detailing how the college is meeting the standard it has been assigned.
This report is presented to MSCHE prior to our scheduled site visit, during which time a peer evaluation team will come to our campus. Peer evaluators are made up of professionals from similar colleges who assess the evidence that we are adhering to MSCHE requirements and standards, and most importantly, effectively serving our students. During the site visit, the peer evaluators will meet with students, faculty, staff, Board of Trustees members, and administrators to discuss how the college is in compliance with its requirements and standards.
What happens if a college loses accreditation?
If a college loses its accreditation, by not demonstrating its ability to adhere to the requirements and standards of MSCHE, they lose their ability to offer federal financial aid to students. Most post-secondary institutions of higher education rely heavily on financial aid to operate. The federal government does not award financial aid to unaccredited schools. This could force a college to shut its doors. In addition, students who graduate from an unaccredited school may have difficulty finding a job or transferring to further their education. Most colleges and universities do not accept credits from unaccredited degree granting programs. Losing accreditation is rare and a final step. Typically, when MSCHE has identified issues with an institution’s ability to meet its standards and requirements, other actions are taken.
What other types of actions can MSCHE take?
If an “Affirming Action”, reaffirming accreditation is not granted, MSCHE may elect to take an action of “Noncompliance” (e.g. warning, probation, or show cause) if they have identified one or more areas in which an institution has not met the Commission’s standards for accreditation, requirements of affiliation, policy and procedures, or federal compliance requirements. A noncompliance action means an institution is in jeopardy of losing its accreditation. A “warning” may be issued if the institution is not in compliance with one or more standards and the Commission believes it has capacity to make improvements. An institution may also be placed on probation if it is believed the non-compliance is serious enough to impact the quality of student learning experiences or there is concern about capacity to improve. A monitoring report, follow-up team and Commission Liaison visits would be required until the institution has presented evidence it is in compliance. The more serious “show cause” action, requires an institution to demonstrate why its accreditation status should not be withdrawn and will result in a Commission Liaison visit, the institution to write a show cause report, followed by a show cause visit. If an institution fails to demonstrate compliance, its accreditation status may then be withdrawn.
To read more about the self-study process we are undergoing at SUNY Broome, please see the “What You Need to Know About Accreditation” handout (pdf).