Middle States Reaccreditation FAQs

Frequently asked questions about how reaccreditation works, how long it takes, and other important information.

Is Wells College still an accredited institution?

Yes. In its actions on June 28, 2019 and March 5, 2020, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education opted delay the reaffirmation of Wells College’s accreditation. Instead, the College was required to submit additional monitoring reports and was visited twice by teams of peer evaluators (in December 2019 and February 2021). While this process continues, Wells College remains an accredited institution. Wells has up to three years from the initial June 2019 action to provide evidence that the College has returned into compliance.

What led the Middle States Commission to issue its initial 2019 ruling?

On June 28, 2019, the Commission announced that  Wells did not “fully meet the criteria” for Standard VI (“Planning, Resources and Institutional Improvement”) or the 11th Requirement of Affiliation, which is focused on financial documentation, bases of funding, and plans for financial development. As a result, the Commission opted to place the College on probation while it worked to return to compliance in these areas.

On March 5, 2020, the Commission announced that Wells College had returned into compliance in regards to Requirement of Affiliation 11, but was still not in compliance regarding Standard VI. As a result, the Commission decided to continue the College's probationary status.

You can read the full criteria at the Middle States website at this link and also read more about Wells College's accreditation status at the same website.

Despite all of this difficult feedback, the visiting teams have fully acknowledged that many private colleges—especially small liberal arts institutions in the Northeast such as ours—face very significant, real, and immediate challenges related to financial stability and student enrollment. But just as we worked together to problem-solve around the feedback from our previous accreditation cycle, we will once again rise to meet this current challenge in the same way.

Is the College back in compliance with the Requirement of Affiliation 11? 

Yes. In its action of March 5, 2020, the Middle States Commission stated that the "the institution is now in compliance with Requirement of Affiliation 11" but that "the institution’s accreditation remains in jeopardy because of insufficient evidence that the institution is currently in compliance with Standard VI (Planning, Resources, and Institutional Improvement)." You can read the full criteria at the Middle States website at this link.

What is the latest status of our progress toward reaffirming the College's accreditation?

On Feb. 1, 2021, Wells College submitted a second follow-up monitoring report to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education as it had requested. That report was accepted and reviewed by the Commission, which then assigned a small team of peer evaluators who made a virtual follow-up "visit" on Feb. 25 and 26, 2021. As per the regular Middle States accreditation process, the team's goal is to interview selected campus constituents to clarify and verify the information that was submitted in the monitoring report. 

The follow-up visit, however, represents only the first step in the Commission's multi-level decision-making process; any findings made by the visiting team are considered preliminary until the Commission makes its final ruling. Following their February 2021 visit, the team will share a draft of its report with the College's administration, who has an opportunity to correct any factual errors before the report is finalized. The team chair submits the final report to the Commission's Committee on Follow-Up Activities, which will review that report at its May 2021 meeting. That committee will then submit its recommendations to the full Commission, which we expect will issue its action(s) at its next meeting in June 2021.

What does it mean for the Middle States Commission to place a college on "probation"?

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) "places an institution on probation . . . when, in the Commission's judgment, the institution is not in compliance with one or more Commission standards for accreditation, requirements of affiliation, policies and procedures, or federal compliance requirements, and the non-compliance is sufficiently serious, extensive or substantial that it raises concern about one or more of the following:

  1. The quality of the student learning experience provided by the institution;
  2. The institution's capacity to make appropriate improvements within a reasonable period of time; or
  3. The institution's capacity to sustain itself in the long term."

The Commission's procedures also state that "a sequence of action is not required (e.g., warning need not precede probation . . . " (See the policies and procedures documents at the Middle States website for more details.)

What does it mean when the Commission requests a “monitoring report?” When is it due?

In order to ensure that an institution has returned to compliance following an action of warning or probation, "the Commission will require a monitoring report and follow-up team visit, and the action will state the required topics to be addressed in the report, and the due date of the report. A follow-up team visit always will follow submission of the monitoring report for a non-compliance action." (See the policies and procedures documents at the Middle States website for more details.)

The typical deadline is anywhere from 6 to 24 months following a commission non-compliance action; in Wells College’s case, the monitoring reports were due Dec. 1, 2019 and Feb. 1, 2021. Per the commission’s procedure, the Commission arranged for follow-up site visits following the submission of each monitoring report. 

Is Wells College closing?

No. We are extremely optimistic that the College will ultimately prevail over these short-term obstacles. As of February 2021, we are planning for a continuation of our educational mission and for the 2021–2022 academic year.

What is the Middle States Commission on Higher Education?

From the Middle States website: “The Mid-Atlantic Region Commission on Higher Education, doing business as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), was formally incorporated under Pennsylvania Commonwealth law on March 1, 2013. From its origins in 1919 through February 2013, the Commission was a unit of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Although now an independent corporation, the Commission maintains an ongoing relationship with the Middle States Association.

“The Commission on Higher Education is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education to conduct accreditation and pre-accreditation (candidacy status) activities for institutions of higher education in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including distance education and correspondence education programs offered at those institutions . . . The commission is a voluntary, non-governmental, membership association that defines, maintains, and promotes educational excellence across institutions with diverse missions, student populations, and resources. It examines each institution as a whole, rather than specific programs within institutions.”
(Source: https://www.msche.org/about-us/)

How frequently is Wells College evaluated for reaccreditation?

The College’s accreditation was last affirmed by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in 2014, after Wells submitted a Periodic Review Report (PRR) that was accepted by the Commission. The following year, the Middle States Commission made a substantial change to its procedures and schedules for evaluating colleges and universities. Moving forward, the College will be subject to a Mid-Point Peer Review (MPPR) in 2023, and is scheduled for its next full evaluation visit in the 2026–2027 year.

What is a “teach-out plan”?

When an institution is placed on warning or probation by Middle States, the commission may request that it begin preparing a “teach-out” plan that prepares the institution to ensure that its students can complete their studies elsewhere should the commission ultimately withdraw its accreditation.

In December 2018, the Middle States Commission approved a new policy about teach-out plans and agreements as part of its overall efforts to revise and update their entire set of policies and procedures; that policy became effective on Jan. 1, 2019. Essentially, any college that appears not to be in compliance is required to submit a teach-out plan to ensure uninterrupted operation, and to push schools to start creating a contingency plan, regardless of the likelihood that such a plan will actually need to be enacted.

Questions? Concerns?

Please send any additional questions and concerns to communications@wells.edu. Although we cannot guarantee a response, we will make every effort to do so.

This page was last updated on March 1, 2021.

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