Penn State Threatened with Loss of Accreditation

For Pennsylvania State University, the bad news just keeps on coming. Based on the conclusions of an internal investigation led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh and a slate of penalties imposed on their sports program by the NCAA, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education has warned the school that they are at risk of losing their accreditation.

The Commission, which accredits colleges and universities in the Mid-Atlantic region, indicated that Penn State will maintain its accreditation while it remains “on warning,” but said that the school will need to submit a report by the end of this month outlining steps it is taking to ensure integrity in leadership and governance. In addition, the report should address financial concerns dealing from a possible spate of civil suits from former football coach Jerry Sandusky’s sex abuse victims.

Sandusky was convicted on June 5th of 45 cases of child sexual abuse with some of the incidents taking place in the shower room of the Penn State training facility. The Freeh report accused several Penn State administrators, including former university president Graham Spanier, of a coverup going back to 1998.

As part of the process to remove the warning status from the school, representatives of the commission will also make a team visit to the campus to “verify institutional status and progress.” Earlier this week Penn State officials said that they were confident that once the report had been submitted and the visit had been paid, the university’s accreditation will be reaffirmed.

“This action has nothing to do with the quality of education our students receive,” said Blannie Bowen, vice provost for academic affairs in a statement posted on the university’s website. “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.”

Bowen added that even by issuing a warning, the accreditation body was indicating that it believed that Penn State could successfully address their concerns. The university can present documentation to prove that it was in an excellent position to remain in compliance.

Rodney Erickson, the university president appointed after Spanier’s resignation, reiterated that the warning status was a signal by the commission that they need reassurance that the university remains financially stable and that steps were being taken to make sure that a similar situation wouldn’t arise again.