Accreditor places SUNY Potsdam on non-compliance warning

·3 min read

Sep. 23—POTSDAM — An organization that accredits colleges has placed SUNY Potsdam in non-compliance warning status.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which first accredited the school in 1952, describes itself as "a Title IV gatekeeper" and "link to federal programs, and institutions access Title IV through MSCHE accreditation." The commission evaluates based on U.S. Department of Education criteria, its website says.

During the Sept. 9 SUNY Potsdam College Council meeting, officer-in-charge Philip T. Neisser said the university still has its accreditation, but was found in non-compliance with two of the seven accreditation standards and two of 11 institutional affiliation requirements. He said they essentially deal with academic and non-academic assessments, as well as budgeting and financial liability.

"We're doing what we're supposed to be doing, or much of what we're supposed to be doing, virtually. But, we haven't compiled it necessarily in a way that makes it easy to find. We haven't published it on the web properly. We have to reveal more of that and put the final pieces in place," Mr. Neisser told the board. "It's not unusual for colleges to go through this and deal with these processes."

SUNY Potsdam was found in violation of MSCHE's fifth and sixth standards. MSCHE's website describes the fifth standard as "assessment of student learning and achievement demonstrates that the institution's students have accomplished educational goals consistent with their program of study, degree level, the institution's mission, and appropriate expectations for institutions of higher education." The commission describe's the sixth standard as "the institution's planning processes, resources, and structures are aligned with each other and are sufficient to fulfill its mission and goals, to continuously assess and improve its programs and services, and to respond effectively to opportunities and challenges."

The two affiliation requirements cited against SUNY Potsdam, respectively, are described on the commission's website as "the institution systematically evaluates its educational and other programs and makes public how well and in what ways it is accomplishing its purposes," and, "the institution has documented financial resources, funding base, and plans for financial development, including those from any related entities (including without limitation systems, religious sponsorship, and corporate ownership) adequate to support its educational purposes and programs and to ensure financial stability. The institution demonstrates a record of responsible fiscal management, has a prepared budget for the current year, and undergoes an external financial audit on an annual basis."

A warning letter sent to the school says it has until March 1 to demonstrate "evidence that the institution has achieved and can sustain ongoing compliance" with the standards.

In response, Mr. Neisser said they've composed working groups to address the deficiencies and "the campus is rallying around this effort."

"These are groups representing folks from across the campus, relevant stakeholders and the like," he told the college council. "All college departments and divisions are currently gathering data that will be included in the updated report we submit to Middle States on March 1."

"We're being placed on warning instead of probation," he added. "We have what it takes to come into compliance ... we will get this done."