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Tomorrow, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) will post the 2014 Periodic Review Report (PRR) outcomes. The range of possible outcomes includes reaffirmation of accreditation without any follow-up requests, reaffirmation of accreditation with a follow-up request (monitoring report or progress report) related to one or more MSCHE standards, a warning with a monitoring report, or probation with a monitoring report. This blog entry provides a quick preview.
Among the questions leading up to the release of the PRR outcomes concerns what share of institutions will be asked to submit a follow-up report on one or more MSCHE Standards. Over the past three PRR cycles (2011-2013), 52% of schools were asked to submit follow-up reports. That percentage has varied widely. In 2009, 38% of PRRs resulted in follow-up requests. A year later, 68% of institutions were requested to complete follow-up reports.
When it comes to addressing matters raised in requests for follow-up reports, time and resources are often required to turn things around. As a result, an institution’s previous self-study might offer some insight into the risk of a follow-up report subsequent to an institution’s PRR.
One possible factor might be the number of standards on which an institution was asked to produce a follow-up report following the decennial review. If the 2008 cohort of schools that produced PRRs in 2013 is representative, there would be above average risk of being asked for a follow-up report if that institution had been asked to follow-up on three or more standards in response to its self-study report. In other words, the challenges of addressing so many issues often required more than five years’ time.
A second possible factor might be the MSCHE standards for which an institution was cited in its self-study report. Planning (Standard 2) is a foundation for an institution’s activities and operations. As a result, one would reasonably expect that an institution that had planning-related issues in its self-study report might require more than five years to fully address issues related to Standard 2 and their related impacts. In fact, for the 2008 self-study/2013 PRR cohort, three of every four institutions that were cited for Standard 2 in their self-study report received follow-up requests arising from their PRR. Issues with assessment-related standards (Standards 7 and 14) also resulted in frequent requests for follow-up reports from the PRR.
Although Standard 3 (Institutional Resources) saw follow-up requests below the 2008-2013 average for PRRs, MSCHE has been placing greater focus on Standard 3 in the most recent years in its review of self-study reports. The 2013 and 2014 self-study cycles saw Standard 3 mentioned in 45% and 44% of follow-up requests respectively. It would not be implausible to see some of that increased scrutiny show up in the PRR process.
If the 2008 self-study-2013 PRR cohort is representative, what does this mean for the 2014 PRR outcomes? Based on the data from the 2009 self-study reports, odds favor a somewhat higher percentage than the 2011-13 average for follow-up requests. Something around 60% of PRRs resulting in follow-up requests would be a ballpark figure, assuming MSCHE conducted its PRR reviews in a similar fashion as it did in 2013 and institutions have comparable success with the 2008 self-study/2013 PRR cohort in addressing issues raised by MSCHE. A trend toward tougher scrutiny in the context of a more demanding environment e.g., increasing federal pressure, could lead to a higher figure. In sum, a figure that is higher than the 2011-13 mean and longer 2008-13 average appears more likely than not.