Institutional Research and Assessment

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Accreditation

The College has been accredited by the Middle States Commission in Higher Education, a division of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, since 1921.  We completed our most recent formal review in spring, 2006.

What is the Middle Commission on Higher Education?
The Middle Commission on Higher Education is a voluntary, non-governmental, peer-based membership association dedicated to educational excellence and improvement through peer-evaluation and accreditation. As a recognized leader in promoting and ensuring quality assurance and improvement in higher education, the Commission defines, maintains, and promotes educational excellence and responds creatively to a diverse, dynamic, global higher education community that is continually evolving.

The Commission supports it members in their quest for excellence, and provides assurance to the general public that accredited member institutions meet its standards. The Commission achieves its purposes through assessment, peer evaluation, consultation, information gathering and sharing, cooperation, and appropriate educational activities. The Commission is committed to the principles of cooperation, flexibility, openness, and responsiveness to the needs of society and the higher education community.

What is the Re-Accreditation Process?
taken from Characteristics of Excellence, published by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education

An institution of higher education is a community dedicated to the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge, to the study and clarification of values, and to the advancement of the society it serves. To support these goals, institutions of higher education within the Middle States region joined together in 1919 to form the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, a professional association devoted to educational improvement through accreditation. Today's successor organization for higher education accreditation is the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Accreditation is the means of self-regulation and peer review adopted by the educational community. The accrediting process is intended to strengthen and sustain the quality and integrity of higher education, making it worthy of public confidence and minimizing the scope of external control. The extent to which each educational institution accepts and fulfills the responsibilities inherent in the process is a measure of its concern for freedom and quality in higher education and its commitment to striving for and achieving excellence in its endeavors.
Middle States' accreditation is an expression of confidence in an institution's mission and goals, its performance, and its resources. Based upon the results of institutional review by peers and colleagues assigned by the Commission, accreditation attests to the judgment of the Commission on Higher Education that an institution has met the following criteria:


  • that it has a mission appropriate to higher education;
  • that it is guided by well-defined and appropriate goals, including goals for student learning;
  • that it has established conditions and procedures under which its mission and goals can be realized;
  • that it assesses both institutional effectiveness and student learning outcomes, and uses the results for improvement;
  • that it is accomplishing its mission and goals substantially;
  • that it is so organized, staffed, and supported that it can be expected to continue to accomplish its mission and goals; and
  • that it meets the eligibility requirements and standards of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

....The Middle States Commission on Higher Education reviews institutions periodically through either on-site evaluation or other reports. Accreditation is continued only as a result of periodic reviews and evaluations through assessments of institutional achievements.

....In their self-review processes, institutions demonstrate how they meet these accreditation standards within the context of their own institutional mission and goals. No assurance is given or implied that every accredited institution manifests these characteristics and meets these standards in equal proportion. Accredited institutions are expected to demonstrate these standards in substantial measure, to conduct their activities in a manner consistent with the standards, and to engage in ongoing processes of self-review and improvement.

Higher education is changing, and many institutions are in a state of important transition. It is both exciting and unsettling that new educational models and means of delivering educational programs and services are evolving at all levels of higher education. Complex challenges include federal and state regulation, performance-based funding, issues of intellectual property, and increased calls for definition and review of student learning and for other types of public accountability.

Mindful of these realities, the Commission and the constituent Steering Committee charged with overseeing the development of these revised accreditation standards formulated several principles as a guide and foundation for the standards review process. ....Among the principles that guided the development of these revised standards, three are particularly noteworthy. First, these standards place greater emphasis on institutional assessment and assessment of student learning. Second, the standards acknowledge the diversity of educational delivery systems that enable institutions to meet accreditation standards. And third, in order to achieve greater specificity, the standards are more clearly defined and illustrated, including examples of evidence that could substantiate an institution's achievement of the standards.

The emphasis on institutional assessment and assessment of student learning follows naturally from the Commission's existing standards and decades of attention to outcomes assessment through publications, workshops, and training sessions. Nonetheless, the Commission is aware of the institutional effort and cultural change that the increased relative emphasis on assessment may require. The Commission on Higher Education acknowledges that in order to meet these revised standards, institutions will be called upon to commit resources to the tasks of research and analysis, particularly as related to the assessment and improvement of teaching and learning. The Commission hopes, too, that existing self-study resources can be redirected by reducing the emphasis on the detailed study of institutional resources and other input measures of institutional performance. Concurrently, there is an understanding that in this changing environment, there is much that warrants further research and study. We have more to learn about assessing learning and measuring effectiveness, whether within traditional educational structures or the newer technologically mediated environments.

What is the Purpose of the Middle States Self-Study?
According to the Middles States Commission on Higher Education, the “accrediting process is intended to strengthen and sustain the quality and integrity of higher education.” The re-accreditation process, taking place once every ten years, with a five-year interim review, is intended to give institutions an opportunity to evaluate programs in terms of the mission of the College and to determine what is being done well (and why) and what can be done (and how). This process is consistent with the Strategic Planning process that has taken place at Muhlenberg since the arrival of President Randy Helm.

What are key elements? What is Assessment?
The Commission continues to emphasize institutional assessment and assessment of student learning, both quantitative and qualitative. Consistent with higher education at large, the Commission has become increasingly focused on student learning outcomes. The Commission is looking for serious, on-goingassessment within the context of an institution’s mission statement.