MSCHE Accreditation: Preparing for Your Onsite Visit

Posted by Joe Bauman, M.S. on Nov 26, 2019 5:34:04 PM

So, your institution has an upcoming reaffirmation of accreditation with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)? Here are some tips to help you put your best foot forward and prepare for a successful reaffirmation.

First, there are two important kickoff meetings that will help you gear up for your self-study. About two academic years prior to the due date for your self-study, MSCHE will invite your institution to a Self-Study Institute to provide some orientation to the self-study process. Your MSCHE Staff Liaison will also schedule a preparation visit to your institution. For this visit, you should plan on the President, your self-study steering committee, your assessment committee, the Board of Trustees, and a representative group of faculty, staff, and students being available to meet with your MSCHE Staff Liaison.

Second, prior to your preparation visit, you will choose a model for your self-study. Your model will include an overview of your institution, the intended outcomes of the self-study, the organizational structure of the steering committee and the working groups, the charge for each working group, an outline of the final self-study report, style guidelines, a timetable for the self-study, your institution’s recommendations for the characteristics of your evaluation team, and an inventory of the documents that the working groups will use as they prepare their sections of the self-study report. Your MSCHE Staff Liaison will review your chosen model, and provide feedback during the preparation visit.

Among other useful resources on its website, MSCHE provide. Completing the rubric, at least when you’re gearing up for a reaffirmation report if not annually, will be a useful exercise.

A very important component to a successful self-study is making sure the right people are involved in the process. Put your self-study steering committee together early, two or even three years in advance of a comprehensive self-study. MSCHE provides several detailed timelines for the self-study process. When putting together your working groups (the teams that will be writing the report), make sure to include subject matter experts from across the institution to cover the topics addressed in each Standard. The size of your reaffirmation team will depend on the size of your institution. In smaller institutions, people tend to “wear many hats,” while in larger institutions it is common for people to be more specialized. Plan for multiple stages of writing and review before the report is ready for submission. If possible, engage different people at each stage of the review/edit process to get “fresh eyes” on the report. The SPOL Accreditation module can help you to manage the workflow at every stage in the process of your MSCHE reaffirmation, from setting up your working groups, to publishing the final report.

Your self-study report should be provided to the Chair of your Evaluation Team four to six months in advance of the Evaluation Team’s visit. The Chair will provide you with feedback that should be incorporated into the final report, which should be approved by your governing board and made available to the Evaluation Team members at least six weeks prior to their visit.

After your report is finalized, your attention will turn to preparing for your on-site visit. The Chair of your Evaluation Team will be in contact with you regarding travel arrangements and other accommodations needed by the Evaluation Team. Your Chair and your MSCHE Staff Liaison will work with you to make sure the logistics are smooth. The most important thing to remember is that the on-site reviewers are peers and colleagues from other institutions like yours. Treat them as colleagues and as guests, and not as adversaries, and your visit will be a smooth one.