SUNY New Paltz is currently in the midst of a 10-year reaccreditation process by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
Former president Steven Poskanzer previously said the process, which includes a comprehensive self-report and a visit by accreditation officials, is important because without accreditation, students will not be able to apply for federal financial aid.
The process is voluntary and non-governmental but the United States Department of Education only sends federal financial aid money to institutions it believes are of strong academic quality, or accredited.
“Accreditation is important,” she said. “It tells the public and parents and everyone who is interested that we are doing our job and have plans in place for what needs to be done. ”
Interim President Donald Christian said every 10 years, colleges must undergo a process that leads to reaccreditation. Before accreditation can be achieved, each college must put together a self-study document that includes data collection and analysis in relation to the 14 criteria the college is judged against. This document is later sent by the college to the review committee.
“The self-study document provides evidence that bares on how we are positioned as an institution relative to those criteria,” Christian said. “It identifies areas that we do really well in and areas where we, ourselves, see that we have some need for improvement.”
According to Greenow, the document was a broad-based effort that members of the campus community worked on together and for a 10-day period the document was available online and people were able to comment on it. Greenow said that once the comments were taken into account, a final draft of the report was completed.
Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs and Middle States Steering Committee Co-Chair Laurel M. Garrick Duhaney said that SUNY New Paltz has spent the last 28 months analyzing the school’s progress, strengths and opportunities for improvement in certain areas.
Christian said the self-study document includes six chapters that include the structure and history of the institution and an assessment of institutional effectiveness and student learning and the focus of the document has changed since his first reaccreditation process 20 years ago.
On April 10 a visitation team, headed by Shippensberg University President William Ruud, will visit SUNY New Paltz and meet with individuals and groups across campus. The team will ask questions based on the self-study document and other materials and gather information they believe is important in the reaccreditation review.
Christian said the accreditation process in the United States is different than European countries because independent regional accrediting bodies composed of peers review each other, which he believes is important for students to understand.
“It’s not a matter of a government bureaucrat saying that this institution is doing its job or not doing its job, it’s a body of pure educators and administrators, ” Christian said. “The process is one of assuring accountability and helping every institution continue to improve.”
Duhaney said former Student Association representatives Breanna Fearey and Stephanie Samuels worked for a “Leadership and Governance” group that was part of the self-study process.
Christian said he assumed that students will have an opportunity to meet with the visitation team and ask questions, but added that more details about the itinerary will be available closer to the visit.