Middle States Takes Penn State Off 'Warning List,' Accreditation Intact
Penn State's accreditation is no longer at stake, with the Middle States removing the university from its 'warning list', Penn State President Rodney Erickson said on Friday in his opening remarks at the Board of Trustees meeting.
While Penn State's accreditation always remained intact, Erickson said, the university was put on warning by The Middle States Commission on Higher Education on Aug. 8, "based on the fallout from the sexual abuse scandal involving retired former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky."
"The Middle States Commission on Higher Education verified that Penn State is in full compliance with all of its requirements, and that our university's accreditation is solid," Erickson said. "The report unequivocally stated that Penn State meets all quality standards for accreditation, and it also acknowledged the university's resilience, fiscal stability and rapid change in the face of numerous challenges."
"When notified of the warning we were confident we could verify our ongoing commitment to integrity, stable leadership and financial security -- the areas that Middle States had questioned. I'm grateful that these areas of strength have now been validated by Middle States," said Penn State President Rodney Erickson. "While the excellence of our educational programs was never in question, it is reassuring that Middle States continues to recognize Penn State as a world-class academic institution that is stepping up to meet its current challenges."
According to Penn State Live, Penn State must return a monitoring report to the commission by Nov. 1, 2013, per request. It will document the Penn State's progress in implementing leadership and governance reforms and in addressing financial obligations related to the ongoing rebuilding process.
Middle States evaluators visited Penn State in October. The team, led by William Kirwan, chancellor for the University System of Maryland, determined that Penn State is responding appropriately to the leadership, governance and financial challenges created by the fallout from the Sandusky sex abuse scandal, Penn State said.
The evaluation team wrote a report that said they were "impressed by the degree to which Penn State has risen, as a strong campus community, to the sad events that led to its placement on 'warning' status by the MSCHE." It also said Penn State's process to respond to the Freeh recommendations has been "thorough, inclusive, systematic and timely."
The commission's notification in August came subsequent to the Freeh report's release and the NCAA sanctions levied against Penn State, including a $60 million fine.
Penn State said the evaluators also commended the entire Penn State community for "its response to tragic events in a way that, to date, has emphasized unity and positive change over recrimination."
Also assessed was Penn State's ability and plans to address financial obligations related to the sanctions and lawsuits from victims of Sandusky and other costs associated with the scandal. Penn State has, to this point, spent more than $20 million on the Freeh study and other related costs.
"It is fortunate that Penn State has been fiscally conservative for a number of years: the institution's fiscal stability is supported as well by Penn State's continuing success in securing external research support and in private fundraising, as well as by the University's ongoing ability to attract a strong pool of student applicants, none of which appears to have been impacted negatively by the events of the last year," the report stated.
The evaluation team also said that Penn State has broad insurance coverage that should provide a source of funding for many of the fees associated with settling lawsuits and related costs.
"Since August, we have worked vigorously to document all that we have done and are doing to meet the Freeh recommendations and the standards of the MSCHE," said Erickson. "Currently, we are nearly half of the way through responding to and addressing those 119 recommendations."
Other notable areas of the team evaluation that impacted the commission's decision were:
- Swift changes made in leadership positions both within the Board of Trustees and among key administrative officers;
- Changes to Board structure and processes;
- Efforts to increase awareness of child abuse and sexual assault across the University;
- The creation of new positions to ensure campus knowledge of and compliance with laws and regulations; and
- The development and revision of numerous policies to address concerns related to integrity.