After being warned last year that Hudson Valley was not in compliance with accreditation regulations, the college’s accreditation is once again secure.
The federal government requires colleges to be accredited in order to be able to receive any federal funds. In practical terms, this means that loss of accreditation cuts off funding for financial aid, work study, federal grants, and anything else that is financed by the federal government.
According to Michael Green. Vice President for Technology, Institutional Assessment and Planning, “If you lose your accreditation, you are basically closing your doors.” In addition, student degrees essentially become worthless as other universities will not accept transfer credit from a school without accredited degree programs. Also, federal licensing bodies for nurses, doctors, and lawyers will not allow students with degrees from unaccredited institutions to take their licensing exams.
Hudson Valley has its accreditation through the Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE), which is the regional accreditor for the New York area and surrounding states. MSCHE is one of 6 regional accreditors across the nation divided by geographical regions.
In order to remain in good standing with MSCHE, member institutions are reviewed every 10 years, with smaller evaluations occurring every five years. When Hudson Valley was required to go through this reaccreditation process in 2014, MSCHE required that colleges meet 14 standards of excellence that included areas such as Resource Allocation and Student Admissions and Retention.
First, college administration had to prepare a massive self-study for MSCHE to evaluate how the university was meeting each of those 14 guidelines. Following the acceptance of the self-study report, a team of 8 officials from neighboring institutions came and conducted a 3-day peer review that included interviews of college faculty and students and an assessment of college services.
After the dust had settled, the MSCHE team gave its report; Hudson Valley was perfectly in compliance with all but one of the 14 standards: Institutional Assessment. According to Dr. Green, “It’s not at all unusual to be found to still need some work on that particular area. It was one that we as an institution had already identified as something that we needed to work on, and had already begun to do the work.”
In simple terms, Institutional Assessment forces a college to look inward and be performing continual self-evaluation. When a problem is identified on campus, the college goes through a process of collecting data, creating a solution, and allocating resources toward the resolution of the problem. “Basically, [Institutional Assessment] is constant improvement,” said Dr. Green.
Fortunately, accreditation agencies give out a series of warnings before yanking a university’s certifications and allow institutions to remain fully accredited while on warning. In June 2014, Hudson Valley was officially “put on warning” and informed that it had two years to both work its way back into compliance with MSCHE guidelines and provide supporting documentation that it had done so.
In response to MSCHE instructions, Hudson Valley created the Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness Committee. Administration set a goal to get the college taken off warning in one year instead of two, and in March 2015, they submitted a monitoring report to prove the college was once again in compliance with Institutional Assessment.
A smaller team from MSCHE came to review the college and recommended that Hudson Valley be taken off warning. This past June, MSCHE officially voted to reaffirm Hudson Valley’s accreditation, provided that the college provide another monitoring report to MSCHE by Mar. 1, 2016 to ensure that it “keeps up the good work.”
Dr. Green says this second monitoring report is required to ensure that once colleges fix their issues, they do not let themselves slip until their next five-year review, which, for Hudson Valley, will be in 2019. “Our plan, of course, is that we don’t want to do anything like that. We’ve done the good stuff, they’re happy with what we’ve done, and we are going to make sure that continues,” Dr. Green said reassuringly.