Protocol for the Review of Institutions Seeking Accreditation or Renewal of Accreditation
The New York State Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education are an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary of the United States Department of Education (USDE). An institution may apply to the Regents and the Commissioner for accreditation for the purpose of establishing eligibility to participate in Title IV student aid programs established by the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. An application for initial accreditation can occur only after the Regents and the Commissioner, acting in their capacities as a State approval agency have conferred degree authority and registered the institution’s program(s). Institutional accreditation focuses on institutional policies and on the qualitative effectiveness of the institution as a whole, particularly with respect to promoting student achievement and development. It takes into account an institution’s compliance with its responsibilities as a recipient of Title IV funds if it participates in such programs.
An institution may be accredited for a period of up to ten years or for a shorter time, at the discretion of the Regents and the Commissioner. During its accreditation period, an institution provides annual reports and a mid-point self-study for review to assure sustained compliance with all accreditation standards. The mid-point report normally includes any matters of concern and recommendations noted in an accreditation action by the Regents and the Commissioner. Annual or mid-point reports or information from other agencies related to compliance with standards for accreditation may occasion a review of the accreditation standing of an institution. Such review may take the form of reports on specified topics, a special on-site review, or acceleration of the scheduled periodic accreditation review.
The Department publishes a list of institutions scheduled for accreditation or renewal of accreditation review in the New York State Register, requesting third-party comment regarding the institution's qualifications for accreditation.
Application for Accreditation
An institution seeking institutional accreditation from the Regents and the Commissioner submits a written request and preliminary application describing the scope of requested accreditation. It shows that it has all required State approvals and that it is not under adverse action by the Federal government (with respect to use of Title IV funds) or by another nationally recognized accrediting agency. It may apply for accreditation at any time after obtaining required State agency approvals. Following a preliminary review and assessment of readiness by accreditation staff, an institution may begin the self-study process. The institution will not be reviewed for possible accreditation through a site visit until the self-study can document student outcomes consistent with the institution's statement of mission, purpose and objectives. The accreditation process may take at least 18 months.
Preparation of a Self-study
Upon receipt of an application for accreditation, the professional accreditation staff member of the Office of Higher Education who has been designated as the review coordinator contacts the institution's chief academic officer to discuss the self-study to be prepared for the review. A Self-study Guide, including the accreditation standards, suggested documentation, and other pertinent materials, is provided to the institution. Technical assistance is provided at the institution’s request. The review coordinator may visit the campus or representatives of the institution may visit the Department during the self-study preparation. Following receipt of the institution's self-study, the review coordinator examines the self-study to determine the institution's readiness for a site visit by a review team. The Department may require the institution to submit additional information related to the self-study and the accreditation process.
The Department invites written comment from the public concerning the institution's qualifications for accreditation by publishing in the New York State Register, or its successor publication, a notice that the institution is being considered for accreditation action.
Site Review Team Selection
The review coordinator establishes the composition of the visiting team well before the visit. The team consists of outside peer reviewers as well as professional accreditation staff from the Department. Team size varies, depending on the scope of the institution; however, it is usually in the range of four to six persons. Team members include faculty and administrators from comparable institutions in New York and other states. Care is taken to identify persons who are expert in their fields and objective in their judgments. Team members have attended a training session on institutional accreditation conducted by the Department's Office of Higher Education. A peer reviewer serves as chair. This person has undergone both the general training for peer reviewers and specific training for team chairs. The Department provides the names and affiliations of proposed team members to the institution, which may request substitutions when there is an actual or appearance of conflict of interest. Conflict of interest guidelines are provided in advance to the institution.
Team Preparation for the Visit
The institution provides each team member with the completed self-study at least 30 days prior to the visit. At the same time, the Department’s review coordinator provides the team members with guidelines for conducting review activities, guidelines on conflict of interest, the format for the reporting of findings and recommendations, a tentative schedule of review activities during the visit, and supplementary guidelines for use in assessment activities and determinations. Team members with a conflict of interest under the written guidelines are expected to recuse themselves from the review.
Team members are asked to review carefully the self-study and the Department's review standards and procedures prior to the visit and to seek any needed clarifications from the Department's review coordinator regarding the meaning or application of standards or appropriate documentation. Prior to the start of review activities, the review coordinator and team chair meet with team members for on-site training review. The review session assures consistency in the application of standards, sufficiency of documentation, and appropriateness of findings and recommendations in relation to the institution’s mission and scope.
The Department will conduct a site visit to the institution to assess compliance with the standards for institutional accreditation. Department staff, a team of peer reviewers, and a team chairperson conduct the visit, which usually lasts three days. During the visit, team members interview faculty, administrators, and students; visit classes; review course syllabi and student work; examine student and faculty folders; examine administrative records and policy statements; assess physical facilities, library resources, and instructional equipment; and visit all branch campuses. Team members meet daily during the site visit to share observations, work on recommendations under the guidance of the chair, and clarify any uncertainties related to the application of standards. Particular attention is given to the development of findings related to the institution's qualitative effectiveness in promoting successful student outcomes and development in relation to applicable standards and the institution’s mission and scope.
At the end of the site visit, the chair, other members of the team and the Department's review coordinator meet with the chief executive officer and any staff he or she may designate. The team chair and the review coordinator outline subsequent steps in the review process. No accreditation recommendation is announced at this time.
Report of the Visit
After the site visit, each team member submits to the review coordinator a written report of observations and findings concerning the institution's compliance with the accreditation standards and any recommendations for institutional improvement in relation to the standards. Team member reports are advisory and confidential. In consultation with the team chair, and based on the members' written reports and the team's overall agreement concerning accreditation action, the review coordinator prepares a preliminary draft compliance report. The report includes the team's recommendations for institutional improvement or compliance with specific standards and a preliminary recommendation on accreditation action. Following review of the preliminary draft by Department accreditation staff, the review coordinator sends it to the team for review of clarity, accuracy, internal consistency, pertinence of observations to the accreditation standards, and the preliminary recommendation for accreditation action. Following any revisions based on any team members' comments, the review coordinator sends a revised draft to the team chair for review and comments. The Department then transmits the draft report, including the preliminary recommendation on accreditation, to the chief executive officer of the institution and asks the institution to note any factual errors, respond to particular requests for clarification or additional information, and provide any comments. The institution is given the opportunity to respond in writing to the draft compliance report within 30 days from the date the Department sends the draft report to it.
The Senior Deputy Commissioner of Education P-16 sends the final report to the institution after the Department receives the institution’s response. The final report consists of the draft report and the institution's response. The final report includes the Department’s preliminary recommendation with respect to accreditation action and a summary of the institution's compliance with the standards.
The Office of Higher Education transmits the final compliance report and a preliminary recommendation for institutional accreditation action to the Regents Advisory Council on Institutional Accreditation, together with the self-study and other pertinent supporting documentation at least 20 days prior to the scheduled Council meeting. The Council reviews these materials at its next regularly scheduled meeting, drawing on the observations and recommendations of a subcommittee of readers appointed by the Council Chair. Accreditation staff present a summary of the findings and recommended action and are available to respond to questions by Council members. The Council invites representatives of the institution under review and, at the Council’s discretion, other interested parties, to make oral presentations. After concluding its review, the Council prepares a recommendation on accreditation action to the Commissioner and the Board of Regents, together with a report on the factual basis supporting the recommendation. (The possible actions are noted in the next section.) The Department transmits a copy of this recommendation and report to the institution.
In the case of a recommendation that is other than accreditation without conditions, the institution and/or the Senior Deputy Commissioner has the right to appeal the Council's accreditation decision as set forth in §4-1.5(b)(9) of Regents Rules. If neither the institution nor the Senior Deputy Commissioner appeals the Council’s findings and recommendation, the Commissioner adopts the Council’s findings and recommendation as the Commissioner’s findings and recommendation to the Regents. At a regularly scheduled public meeting, the Board of Regents considers the Commissioner’s findings and recommendation and makes the final determination on accreditation action. At least one member of the Council, normally one of the principal readers, will be available as a resource to the Board of Regents. The Department’s accreditation staff, including the review coordinator, also will be available as a resource. Representatives of the applicant institution may be present at this meeting; however, they do not participate in discussion of their application.
The Regents may act or may defer action pending further consideration by the Council or the receipt of additional information. If the Regents take adverse action as defined in Regents Rules §4-1.2(c) on an application for institutional accreditation or renewal of accreditation, a statement of the reason(s) for this action will be provided to the applicant institution.
Possible Accreditation Actions
- Accreditation without conditions. The institution is in full compliance with the standards for institutional accreditation. Any follow-up matters are not, in the judgment of the Regents, of a nature or scope that affects the institution’s capacity to maintain adherence to the institutional accreditation standards for the period of accreditation. Recommendations or any follow-up reports relate either to minor compliance matters or to the strengthening of practices that meet the standards of compliance. Accreditation without conditions may be for a period of up to ten years; customarily it is not for a period of less than five years. Accreditation without conditions may apply to institutions seeking initial accreditation or renewal of accreditation.
- Accreditation with conditions. The institution is in substantial compliance with the standards for institutional accreditation. Any areas of non-compliance are not of such nature or scope as to call into question the institution’s substantive adherence to the institutional accreditation standards during the term of accreditation. The institution has demonstrated the intent and capacity to rectify identified deficiencies and to strengthen practice in marginally acceptable matters within no more than two years. The institution will be required to take steps to remedy issues raised in the review for accreditation and to provide reports and/or submit to site visits concerning such issues. Accreditation with conditions may be for a period of up to ten years, contingent on a finding of compliance within no more than two years on any areas for deficiency cited in the Regents accreditation action. Accreditation with conditions may apply to institutions seeking initial accreditation or renewal of accreditation.
- Probationary accreditation. The institution is in partial compliance with institutional accreditation standards and may reasonably be expected to meet accreditation standards within no more than two years. During this period, the institution provides documentation of compliance with standards, particularly all standards that were not met at the time of the Regents action. A follow-up visit by Department staff and/or peer reviewers may be required following provision of a required report. Probationary accreditation may apply only to institutions seeking renewal of accreditation.
- Denial of accreditation. The institution does not meet standards for institutional accreditation and cannot reasonably be expected to meet those standards within two years. Denial of accreditation may apply to institutions seeking initial accreditation or renewal of accreditation.
Summary of Selected Policies Related to this Protocol
- Institutional accreditation for Title IV purposes is the outcome of an application that is separate from application for State approvals by the Regents and the Commissioner of Education.
- All determinations about accreditation and renewal of accreditation are based solely on the defined standards and requirements for institutional accreditation set forth in Subpart 4-1 of the Rules of the Board of Regents.
- Approvals by the Regents and the Commissioner, acting singly or together as a State agency, do not impute accreditation by the Regents and the Commissioner acting as a nationally recognized institutional accrediting agency.
- Denial, non-renewal, or other adverse accreditation action, or voluntary withdrawal by an institution, does not impute loss of State approval.
- In the event of institutional closure, State approval policies and processes relative to that action do not impute compliance with teach-out requirements of the standards for accreditation.
- Accreditation and renewal of accreditation are not granted to any institution that is under adverse action by another nationally recognized accrediting agency, by the Federal government with respect to Title IV participation, or by the State approval agency.
- Institutions and the Senior Deputy Commissioner of Education P-16 may appeal accreditation recommendations of the Advisory Council, as set forth in Subpart 4-1 of the Rules of the Board of Regents.