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Middle States Issues Warning, Putting Penn State's Accreditation in Jeopardy

by on August 13, 2012 7:30 PM

Penn State has been notified its accreditation is in jeopardy in the wake of the university-commissioned Freeh Report and consent decree with the NCAA, the school said Monday.

Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which accredits degree-granting colleges in the region, issues a warning when an institution is not in compliance with government policies and the university’s governing body responsibility for quality and integrity. It is requiring the university to submit a report on issues like governance and financial stability by Sept. 30.

"It is critical to emphasize that Middle States does not issue a warning unless the commission believes that an institution has the capacity to make appropriate improvements within a reasonable period and then sustain itself to stay in compliance," Blannie Bowen, vice provost for academic affairs, said in a press release. "This certainly is true for Penn State. We're confident that our monitoring report and the site visit will confirm this to the commission."

Once Penn State submits its report, a team from Middle States will descend on the university and prepare its own report. The two bodies will then review.

If the Commission is not satisfied with Penn State’s report, it can choose to place the university on probation, which could force Penn State to issue a show-cause for why it should not lose its accreditation.

According to the US Department of Education, accreditation ensures that education meets acceptable levels of quality. Without being accredited, Penn State’s degrees lose significant value. Enrollment would likely plummet, crushing Penn State's main source of revenue.

“We certainly understand the concerns that Middle States has raised, but I am confident that we will satisfy those concerns,” Bowen said.

The school is also confident it can fully cover the costs of all civil lawsuits and pending financial burdens associated with the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal using unrestricted resources and insurance and without tapping into tuition, state or philanthropic money.

Penn State, by agreeing to the NCAA consent decree, accepted the findings of the eight-month-long Freeh investigation as fact. The NCAA, in turn, sacked the football program with a four-year postseason ban, reduction of 40 scholarships over four years, a $60 million fine and an athletics integrity agreement.

Penn State, which remains accredited, has been an accredited institution since 1921 and was last reaffirmed Nov. 18, 2010, according to Middle States.

A link to the Aug. 8 letter detailing the warning is available here.

Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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