Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Middle States Commission keeps University of Puerto Rico in show cause

By on March 20, 2019

(Screen capture of md.rcm.upr.edu)

Reports on why accreditation should not be withdrawn due Sept. 1

SAN JUAN – The evaluating committee of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) has recommended the continuation of the show cause status for the University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR) 11 campuses, including a “good cause” extension of one year for the eight campuses that were about to reach the two-year limit allowed under federal law.

As detailed in the March 14 letters that were sent to the chancellors, the campuses must present by Sept. 1 show cause reports on why accreditation should not be withdrawn, as well as an update on the Teach Out plans, in which the units explain the academic and administrative processes were they to lose accreditation. Following the report, the evaluating committee will conduct on-campus visits.

The letter also explains the commission’s decision to grant what is known as good cause extension, which is a respite given to the institutions that have exhausted the two-year limit that established in Title 34 of the Higher Education Act for an institution to be classified as noncompliant before entering the adverse action process.

The committee indicated that its decision to keep the units on show cause status responds to continued noncompliance with Affiliation Requirement 11, which deals with internal planning and documenting processes, and Accreditation Standard VI, which is used to evaluate whether the institution has the resources to achieve its mission.

However, the campuses were found to comply with the Affiliation Requirement 14, whereby the commission is satisfied with the access it has to institutional information. The campuses became noncompliant with the requirement in January when the administration was unable to meet the deadline to submit the audited financial statements.

Falling in noncompliance with Requirement of Affiliation 14 triggered the show cause action, which included the Arecibo, Bayamón, Carolina, Cayey, Humacao, Ponce, Utuado and Río Piedras campuses, which had been on probation since May 2017, and the Aguadilla, Mayagüez and Medical Science campuses, which were not on probation.

In a release, UPR President Jorge Haddock reiterated that the campuses remain accredited while on show cause and argued that the commission’s latest decision is a result of the university administration’s commitment.

Haddock added that the action reveals the “seriousness with which all the campuses, the chancellors and their teams are carrying out the accreditation process, that it is not just a procedure necessary to comply with federal requirements, but it also represents a validation of the quality and the excellence of our academic programs, research projects, infrastructure and service that we provide with such dedication.

“We have worked hard and are pleased with the work that has been done but we won’t rest until we achieve the renewal of the full period. We are taking firm steps in the right direction.”

Aside from the commission’s requirements, the UPR received an extension until April 30 to submit the audited financial statement for fiscal year 2018 to the U.S. Department of Education.

Regarding the show cause reports, these should include evidence of “the quality of the student learning experience has not been compromised at the institution; (2) the institution has the potential to remedy the non-compliance issues identified by the Commission within the period of extension; (3) the institution has developed reasonable plans to meet the Commission’s expectations for reaffirmation within the period of the extension; (4) the institution has support from the University of Puerto Rico central administration, the Financial Oversight Management Board for Puerto Rico, and other constituencies for ongoing institutional compliance; and (5) the institution has been impacted by other circumstances outside of the institution’s control,” reads the letter.

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