Middles States Accreditation
The Western Integration completed a significant integration milestone: the Preliminary Complex Substantive Change Form submission to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Last week, the Western Integration outlined its plan to create a single Integrated University (Middle States uses the term “consolidate”), and explains why this is a good fit for the partner universities.
In the weeks ahead, the Northeastern Integration will follow the same submission process. Middle States recommended that one set of integration partners submit first and wait for feedback before the second set of partners makes its submission.
While not identical, the forms submitted to Middle States will be aligned and consistent, with common boilerplate, timelines and details. Some areas that will align between the West and the forthcoming Northeastern submissions include:
Administrative hub: Middle States requires each new Integrated University to identify one of its three partner campuses as its administrative hub for accreditation purposes. To meet that requirement most efficiently and provide a seamless transition, each Integrated University will retain the accreditation and degree-granting authority of one of its three partner campuses. That will be California in the West and Bloomsburg in the Northeast because those are the schools that most recently completed the Middle States accreditation process. If we did not follow this path, Middle States would see the Integrated Universities as “brand-new” entities that would have to pursue accreditation for the first time, which is a much more involved process. Middle States uses the term “main campus” to describe the administrative hub. Although this designation is required by their accreditation policies and appears in the submission for compliance purposes, we have clearly stated to Middle States that the three campuses in each new Integrated University will operate as partners in all other respects.
Naming process: Middle States officials are aware that each Integrated University will have a new name, which has yet to be determined. While market research is underway to assist in those efforts, we have made it clear that the identities of the existing partner institutions must be represented in the naming conventions for the new Integrated Universities.
Functional areas: Tentative organizational charts for the West and Northeast integrations are required for the submissions to Middle States. The Western chart has been drafted and included in its submission sent last week. These are basic, three-level org charts (president > direct reports > functional areas) that will be expanded to include job details in the months ahead. While the process of filling positions at each Integrated University is still being developed, we anticipate a transition period during the implementation phase of the project with some roles filled by appointment and others through an interview process. No potential changes will impact our legal responsibility to honor collective bargaining agreements. In the meantime, retirement incentives are being offered through System Redesign.
Once Middle States has reviewed the documents submitted by the Western Integration, feedback from that review will help inform the documents the Northeast provides to Middle States.
Western Integration: Working groups have used enrollment, completion, faculty complement and regional workforce data to identify approximately 80 disciplinary units, or areas of study, that will be offered at the Integrated University. The goal is to expand academic opportunities and offer an exemplary educational experience for all students, while retaining expert faculty, meeting workforce needs and reducing costs by sharing programs across the partner campuses.
Some academic programs will be delivered in person at multiple locations, others at one or two campuses, based on student demand, faculty complement, facilities and other factors. Academic hubs will be identified as coordinating points for faculty and resources in program delivery. Program structure, assessment and program-level accreditation locations and processes will be determined in the coming months.
The developing model calls for general education courses to be delivered on all three partner campuses. A typical student at the Integrated University would take in-person courses delivered on their home campus, plus some hybrid, remote-learning or online courses with faculty based at another campus. Fully online degree programs will be offered through the “virtual campus” as well.
Northeastern Integration: The team has been to increase program options for students from high school dual-enrollment through associates, bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees. Leveraging the academic strengths of each partner university promises the growth potential to pursue emerging areas of student interest and develop career and degree pathways grounded in both student and workforce demand.
The combined array of the Integrated University will offer a robust educational experience with enhanced access points for students across the region. In the future students will realize the benefit of expanded access to all disciplines on all campuses. The increased options will provide students with more opportunities to access exemplary, affordable degree programs and well-qualified faculty while taking part in high-impact experiences aimed at ensuring career readiness.
Regionally, this means a significant broadening of the program array options. For Lock Haven and Mansfield students, this expansion leads to nearly double the bachelor’s degree program options from which to choose. Expanded academic opportunities and alignment with workforce development initiatives means that universities will be able to offer an exemplary educational experience for all students—including outlined pathways for efficient degree-completion programs. Students will have more choices than ever before and the flexibility to complete a degree that works for their lifestyle and their timeline.
Finally, both the Western and Northeastern integration teams have made a formal proposal to the NCAA to retain the full complement of intercollegiate sports on all partner campuses. We continue to pursue this path with the NCAA and are encouraged by the thoughtful response to our request. For student-athletes currently being recruited, this path would provide the ability to retain existing sports teams.