University launches self-study to prepare for reaffirmation of accreditation process
In 2021, the university will undergo a week-long review process by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) to determine whether the university is eligible for a reaffirmation of its accreditation.
Without accreditation, students at a university cannot receive financial aid from the federal government. An accredited university is also more likely to give degrees that are recognized by employers and recruiters. All 598 universities in the middle states region must have their accreditation reaffirmed once every ten years.
“It’s not an option to not be accredited as a public university,” Mark Rieger, dean of the university’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and co-chair of the accreditation committee, said. “Just not an option.”
To prepare for the review, the university commissioned a self-study comprising seven different committees, composed of students, faculty and administrators. The goal of the self-study is to produce a 100-page document that tells the story of the university over the last ten years.
“Once you read [the document] and study it, you should reach the conclusion that our students are well-served and that society is well served by the University of Delaware,” Rieger said.
The self-study is a 18-month process that will be completed and submitted in time for MSCHE’s visit in 2021. During this time, no change in day-to-day operations for students or faculty is predicted.
The self-study document will be split into seven chapters, each dealing with a different standard for accreditation. These standards are put in place to assure that universities remain honest and consistent in following through with their mission statements and goals. The document will go public in March for further review from people outside the committees.
“Once the document goes public in March, students, faculty, staff, external stakeholders, anybody, can look it over and provide input,” Rieger said. “About this time next year it will be done and must be sent in to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.”
Matthew Robinson, professor of sport management and president of the Faculty Senate, believes there are benefits to the self-study outside of the fact that it is required for reaffirmation.
“I think [the self-study] is a very healthy process for an institution,” Robinson said. “It allows you to really look at what you’re doing, look for opportunities to grow and also reaffirm things you’re doing well.”
Dean Rieger has similar feelings towards the process, believing it can play a large role in bettering the university and making it a better institution overall.
“By going through a self-study, we’re going to find out things about ourselves,” Rieger said. “It’s not just a document for [the accreditors] that just goes on a shelf and checks a box. We’re hoping to grow from this, we’re hoping to become a better university as a result of this reflection document.”
The university also hopes to have student input on the self-study document once it goes public. There will be a series of town halls in April that will be open for students and faculty to attend and give input about what should be included in the self-study.
“We’d love for students to come to the town halls and give us input,” Rieger said. “This is your time to make sure the document is accurately telling the story of the University of Delaware.”