The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents


Johanna Duncan-Poitier


Higher Education and Professional Practice


Report on Institutional Accreditation by the Board of Regents


January 28, 2004




To update the Board of Regents on institutional accreditation standards, policies, and procedures in accordance with Federal requirements


Goal 2







The Board of Regents has engaged in the evaluation of institutions of higher education for more than 200 years.  Since 1952, the Federal government has recognized the Board as a national institutional accrediting agency.  In October 2002, the U.S. Secretary of Education renewed recognition of the Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education as a national institutional accrediting agency for a three-year period. 


Federal criteria for recognition require, among other things, that a recognized accrediting agency “has competent and knowledgeable individuals, qualified by education and experience in their own right and trained by the agency on its standards, policies, and procedures, to conduct its on-site evaluations, establish its policies, and make its accrediting and preaccrediting decisions.”  To assure that the members of the Board of Regents are trained on the Regents accreditation standards, policies, and procedures, the Board receives an update on institutional accreditation twice a year, in addition to discussions at the time decisions are made on the accreditation of specific institutions. 


Attached is a report on the outcomes of institutional accreditation and a review of the Regents institutional accreditation standards.









            In November, the Regents discussed their role in the Regents Accreditation of Teacher Education (RATE).  This month, the discussion turns to the Regents role as an institutional accrediting agency.  The Federal government has recognized the Board of Regents as a national institutional accrediting agency since 1952.  On October 2, 2002, the U.S. Secretary of Education renewed this recognition of the Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education for three years.   Students who attend colleges accredited by a national accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education are eligible for Federal student financial aid (e.g., Pell Grants and student loans).


Institutional accreditation by the Regents may be sought voluntarily by a degree-granting institution that already holds all required State approvals, including degree authority and program registration.  Twenty-three of the 266 colleges and universities in New York State (8.6 percent) have applied voluntarily for institutional accreditation by the Regents.  Of the 23 institutions, 13 (56.5 percent) are independent colleges and universities and 10 (43.5 percent) are proprietary colleges.  Sixteen of the 23 institutions (69.6 percent) offer undergraduate programs (three at the baccalaureate level and 13 at the associate level); the other seven (30.4 percent) offer only graduate programs and do not enroll undergraduates.  In the fall of 2003, the 23 institutions enrolled a total of 13,136 students.


            In carrying out the Department’s quality assurance responsibility for institutions of higher education, Education Law provides for the Regents and the Department to approve new colleges and universities and register all postsecondary educational programs leading to a degree.  These functions are commonly referred as our “State Approval Functions.” 


A major difference between State approval functions and Regents accreditation is that State approval indicates that an institution meets State standards for awarding specific degrees and offering particular programs at the time of approval of the institution or program.  Regents accreditation indicates that an institution is carrying out its mission effectively.  The standards used for State approval and for institutional accreditation have many similarities; however, institutional accreditation requires that an institution meet additional standards of quality relating to mission, administration, and outcomes.  An example of a standard for institutional accreditation that is not included in the State approval functions is the requirement of a minimum graduation rate for the institution as a whole.


This report has three parts:  a summary of accreditation actions; a summary of outcomes; and a description of the process for reviewing accreditation standards. 


Discussion of this report will meet the Federal requirement to update the Board of Regents twice a year on accreditation standards, policies, and procedures.  Federal regulations require every recognized accrediting agency to assure that it has “competent and knowledgeable individuals, qualified by education and experience in their own right and trained by the agency on its standards, policies, and procedures, to conduct its on-site evaluations, establish its policies, and make its accrediting and preaccrediting decisions.”  An accrediting agency also must maintain a systematic program of review of its accreditation standards to demonstrate that the standards are adequate to evaluate the quality of the education or training provided and relevant to the educational or training needs of students.  The Department included such a program of evaluation in the application for renewal of recognition. 





            With respect to the 23 institutions that have applied for accreditation by the Board of Regents, the Regents have taken the following actions:


Ø      Accreditation:                                          13 institutions (56.5 percent)


Ø      Accreditation with conditions:                7 institutions (30.4 percent)


Ø      Probationary accreditation:                   2 institutions (8.7 percent)*


Ø      Denial of accreditation:                          1 institution (4.4 percent) **


Requirements for maintaining accreditation.  The 13 institutions that received accreditation are required to submit annual reports to the Department and a self-study at the mid-point of the accreditation period.  The Department may use what it learns from the annual reports and mid-term self-study to raise questions about compliance with the standards and could schedule a site visit to review compliance, if necessary.


Requirements for institutions achieving accreditation with conditions.  The seven institutions that received accreditation with conditions were found to have areas needing improvement but to be in substantial compliance with the accreditation standards.  They received shorter accreditation terms than institutions achieving accreditation without condition, and are required to make specific reports on the areas of improvement identified, in addition to the annual reports and mid-term self-studies required of all accredited institutions.  The Department may schedule a site visit to review specific areas, if necessary.


Requirements for institutions granted probationary accreditation.  The two institutions granted probationary accreditation were found not to be in substantial compliance with one or more standards; however, the Regents determined that each institution had reasonable prospects of coming into compliance within two years.  These institutions were required to make periodic progress reports.  Peer review teams visited the institutions toward the end of the probationary period to review compliance with the standards at issue.  The Regents subsequently determined that institutions met the standards for accreditation but required additional reports of progress in specified areas in order to monitor their continuing compliance.





Accredited institutions have consistently reported that the Regents accreditation process has helped them to focus on what is essential to high quality education.  As a result of the accreditation reviews conducted during the past two years, a number of the institutions have taken specific steps to improve quality in relation to the accreditation standards in Subpart 4-1 of the Rules of the Board of Regents, as follows: 


Ø      Focus on student outcomes, including documenting student learning as well as retention, graduation, and placement;


Ø      Become more centered on the quality of services to promote strong student achievement and development;


Ø      Adopt good practices in reflective self-study, teaching, and learning;


Ø      Strengthen institutional effectiveness in promoting high quality in student achievement and development with benchmarked plans and assessments;


Ø      Upgrade faculty expertise and faculty engagement with students;


Ø      Upgrade library resources (both print and virtual), promote the use of library resources in teaching, and ensure information literacy of students;


Ø      Strengthen assessment, intervention, and support services for students, particularly those with significant deficiencies in skill or knowledge and those at risk of non-persistence from one year to the next;


Ø      Upgrade learning expectations, where needed, and assure the integrity of all coursework and credits, building on the higher standards in secondary schools; and


Ø      Clarify faculty responsibility for the educational program, including responsibility for academic quality assurance for all students and participation in decision-making regarding academic resource allocation.





Integral to the Regents accreditation process is a comprehensive review of the Regents standards on a regular, periodic basis. Standards must be reviewed continually for relevance and effectiveness in assuring quality in higher education.  The current process began in 2002 and will conclude in 2005.  In November 2003, we provided the Secretary of Education with an update on our progress to review the Regents Accreditation Standards.  The report summarizes the results of two constituent surveys and two colloquia for accredited institutions that the Department hosted, one in the fall of 2002 and one in fall of 2003.  The Regents Advisory Council on Institutional Accreditation has regularly contributed to these activities.  This year, the Department will complete a detailed review of each accreditation standard, the related attributes of compliance, and documentation of compliance for pertinence, centrality, and completeness. The questions we propose to ask are the following:


·        Is the standard or attribute clearly related to the promotion of high quality in student learning and development?


·        Can compliance with the standard or attribute be documented?


·        Is the standard or attribute pertinent to a determination of an institution’s effectiveness in meeting its educational objectives?


·        Does the standard or attribute encompass diverse institutional clientele, missions, goals and objectives?


·        Does the standard or attribute accommodate diverse instructional modes and methods?


·        Does the standard or attribute contribute to determination of “even-handedness,” “fair play,” or adherence to due process?


·        Does the standard or attribute reflect appropriate and reasonable consumer expectations of information?


·        Is the standard or attribute reasonably related to institutions’ self-assessments of their effectiveness in attaining their goals and objectives?



While the Regents institutional accreditation standards have worked well in the recent comprehensive cycle of reviews, discussions during the colloquia, in particular, have suggested the value of review, clarification, and restatement of particular areas.  There have been, for example, suggestions that the description of administrative responsibilities for institutional planning be enhanced and that advisement not be exclusively linked to faculty.  There is a general concern that standards, attributes, and documentation not become excessively narrow or prescriptive for such a diverse group of institutions. 


As the process continues, any proposed revisions in the accreditation standards themselves will be brought before the Regents for consideration, public comment, and possible action.  In addition, the Regents will be apprised of developments and possible recommendations on all aspects of institutional accreditation. 





Institutional accreditation, like the Regents accreditation of teacher education programs, has occasioned significant self-renewal in the Office of Higher Education and in participating institutions.  The sense of community among diverse institutions has been broadened and deepened.  Most of all, there has been a sharpened focus on what is essential to promote high quality in student learning and development. 


* Subsequently granted accreditation or accreditation with conditions.

**Regents action regarding the denial of accreditation to an institution has been appealed and is under review.