Middle States Commission issues warning

August 13, 2012

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education notified Penn State President Rodney Erickson on Aug. 8 that it has issued the University an accreditation warning based on information contained in the Freeh Report and the binding consent decree with the NCAA. The commission also stressed that Penn State’s accreditation remains intact.

"We must be clear about what this warning means so there are no misunderstandings," said Blannie Bowen, vice provost for academic affairs, who also is the University’s accreditation liaison officer. "This action has nothing to do with the quality of education our students receive. Middle States is focusing on governance, integrity and financial issues related to information in the Freeh report and other items related to our current situation."

Erickson said that, "The commission wants us to document that steps we have already taken and are planning to take will ensure our full compliance with its requirements. I am confident that we will provide that documentation by the Sept. 30 deadline Middle States has given us." Further, Erickson said, "We are a University that is fully committed to its core values of honesty, integrity and community. We are a University that will rebuild the trust and confidence that so many people have had in us for so many years."

Middle States is the organization that accredits degree-granting colleges and universities in the Middle States region, which includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and several other locations. The commission is requiring Penn State to submit a monitoring report by Sept. 30. The commission is keying in on issues that have followed the conviction of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on charges of child abuse and sexual assault, such as University governance and financial stability.

"After we submit this report, a team from Middle States will visit the University and then prepare a report. We will then be able to offer comments to make sure that there are no misunderstandings about our efforts and activities that could impact our accreditation," Bowen said. "Middle States then will decide what action is appropriate. Based on the report and the visit, the commission could remove the warning, keep it in effect, or take other action. We certainly understand the concerns that Middle States has raised, but I am confident that we will satisfy those concerns."

Erickson also pointed out that the University is already working diligently to implement the recommendations put forth in the Freeh Report, and in doing so, also will address all of the concerns put forth by the commission.

"It is critical to emphasize that Middle States does not issue a warning unless the commission believes that an institution has the capacity to make appropriate improvements within a reasonable period and then sustain itself to stay in compliance," Bowen said. "This certainly is true for Penn State. We're confident that our monitoring report and the site visit will confirm this to the commission."

The commission’s notification states there is "insufficient evidence that the institution is currently in compliance with the Requirements of Affiliation 5 (compliance with all applicable government policies, regulations and requirements) and 9 (institution's governing body responsibility for the quality and integrity of the institution, for ensuring that the institution's mission is being carried out and for making freely available to the commission accurate, fair and complete information on all aspects of the institution and its operations) and with Standard 4 (Leadership and Governance) and Standard 6 (Integrity)."

The commission also is examining the University's capacity and plans for addressing financial obligations related to the current situation (Standard 3). "I am confident that we will fully demonstrate our fiscal stability," Erickson said.

Erickson has stated in the past that no tuition, state or philanthropic money will be used to pay the $60 million NCAA fine, costs surrounding legal defense or public relations efforts for the University associated with the Sandusky matter.

Because of its fiscally sound policies and practices, University officials believe there are sufficient unrestricted resources along with insurance coverage to address the financial obligations which may arise from known and expected litigation and claims as well as other costs associated with recent events.

For more information on the Middle States process and recent actions relative to the University, visit http://www.psu.edu/vpaa/accreditation.htm online.

Last Updated May 24, 2019