Temple Times Online Edition
    FEBRUARY 2, 2006
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Middle States Commission reaccreditation

Temple’s regional accreditation reaffirmed

A few months ago, without much fuss or fanfare, Temple passed a significant milestone.

On Nov. 16, 2005, an unimposing, one-page letter arrived at President David Adamany’s office from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, one of seven regional peer-based groups that assess the missions, performances and resources of American degree-granting institutions. The letter announced the culmination of a process that began in spring 2004: the reaffirmation of Temple’s accreditation following the acceptance of the University’s periodic review report.

Although the reaffirmation of the University’s accreditation was expected, the Middle States Commission’s reviewers’ reports on Temple were unusually positive in their assessment of the University’s institutional progress.

“We’re pleased by the commission’s vote of confidence,” Adamany said. “It’s gratifying that our peers recognize that Temple’s academic standards, faculty, facilities and fiscal health are better than ever.”

Since a Middle States Commission evaluation team last made an official visit in 2000, Temple has entered a “new period of transition, opportunity, and development,” wrote the commission’s appointed reviewers, Daniel Rich, provost of the University of Delaware, and Roberta Matthews, provost of the City University of New York’s Brooklyn College. “Clearly, Temple remains in compliance on all 16 standards [for accreditation set by the commission] and the University continues to add to its list of accomplishments. … It appears that Temple is seeking to fulfill its potential to rank among the finest public universities in the nation.”

In addition, University of Delaware Executive Vice President David Hollowell prepared a fiscal analysis of Temple.

“The finances of Temple are stronger now than in 2000,” Hollowell wrote. “There have been operating surpluses in each year since 1999; net assets have increased from $391 million to $616 million; unrestricted cash and investments have increased from $257 million to $471 million; and the bond rating agencies have recently upgraded Temple’s rating.”

Adamany stressed that the reviewers’ reports also highlight Temple’s future challenges.

“There’s plenty of room for Temple to grow,” Adamany said. “The commission’s reviewers provide a blueprint for change as we prepare for the next cycle of assessment.”

According to the reviewers’ reports, Temple’s top goals for the future should include the implementation of institutional planning and assessment models, growing the University’s endowment (which was described as “small relative to [Temple’s] size and stature”), implementing the University’s new general-education program, and determining the optimal size of its student population.

The Middle States Commission currently has 503 institutional members, mostly in the mid-Atlantic region. Its accreditation process is voluntary and self-regulated. Schools that apply for accreditation must meet the commission’s standards, as assessed by a team of peers, in areas such as mission, goals, institutional planning, resources and resource allocation, leadership and governance, administration, integrity, institutional assessment, educational effectiveness, student admissions, student support services, faculty, educational offerings, general education and assessment of student learning.

The consequences of failing to meet the commission’s standards range from submitting to more frequent evaluations to loss of accreditation, which would cause, among other things, students to be declared ineligible for select federal student assistance programs.

Assessment cycles begin when an institution prepares a comprehensive internal analysis called a self-study report, which occurs approximately every 10 years. After receiving the report, the Middle States Commission sends a team for an on-campus evaluation visit to verify the conclusions of the self study. At that point, the commission may decide to ask for follow-up evaluations. Five years later, at the midpoint of cycle, institutions develop a self-analysis called a periodic review report, which is followed by a written evaluation from external reviewers, after which institutions may offer a response. (See below for more information about the Middle States Commission and the accreditation process.)

Provost Ira Schwartz praised the Temple committee that worked for more than a year to prepare Temple’s periodic review report.

“They did a great job of putting together an honest, thorough and thoughtful assessment of Temple’s progress and challenges,” Schwartz said. “The group that prepared the PRR was made up of administrators, faculty members and students — the whole process was inclusive, collaborative and transparent.”

The University will soon announce initiatives to address challenges outlined in the Middle States Commission’s reviewers’ reports and prepare for the next self-study and campus evaluation visit, currently scheduled for 2009–10.

- By Hillel J. Hoffmann

To learn more about accreditation
Want more information on Temple’s accreditation and the various reports described in this article? The Office of the Deputy Provost has a special Web page devoted to accreditation at www.temple.edu/deputyprovost/middle_states, where you’ll find electronic versions of several documents that were critical in the accreditation process, including Temple’s periodic review report, the Middle States Commission’s reviewers’ reports and President Adamany’s response to the reviewers’ reports. The deputy provost’s site also has links to other accrediting bodies specific to individual disciplines, as well as a schedule of future self-studies and visits by various accrediting organizations.

To learn more about the complex process of accreditation, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education has an excellent Web site at www.msche.org. Try the site’s helpful list of frequently asked questions.