Penn graduates can hang their degrees with pride for another 10 years, thanks to the University’s reaccreditation earlier this summer.
On June 26, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education reaffirmed the University’s accreditation after a rigorous process which started in October 2012. To obtain reaccreditation, Penn prepared an in-depth self-study report and was reviewed by an evaluation team consisting of faculty members and administrators from peer institutions in late March. The evaluation team was led by Georgetown University President John DeGioia.
Although there was little doubt that Penn would receive reaccreditation — as it must every decade — administrators utilized the self-study as a means of reviewing undergraduate education on campus. While in 2004, the reaccreditation committee concentrated its efforts on Ph.D. education, this round focused on undergraduate academics. The self-study report outlined six objectives to be completed within in the next five years, including increasing undergraduate socioeconomic diversity, facilitating research opportunities and integrating innovation into instruction with new methods and technologies.
Students also played a larger role throughout the process. A student steering committee consisting of 16 students helped to shape the self-study, and a student representative sat on each of the self-study’s seven working groups, excluding finance.
In preparation for the 2014 reaccreditation, Penn also instituted a schedule change for the 2013-14 school year. The Pennsylvania Department of Education issued new regulations in March of 2008, mandating that institutions offer a minimum of 42 instructional hours for a semester-based course. Because some fall semester courses at Penn formerly offered only 36 total hours of instructional time, the University instated a schedule change under which classes would begin before Labor Day and fall break would be held on a Thursday and Friday.
The next step in maintaining accreditation will be a Periodic Review Report in 2019, for which the MSCHE will ask Penn for evidence that it has been working toward the objectives outlined in the reaccreditation process.