Penn State receives accreditation warning linked to Freeh report, NCAA sanctions

Panel requires university to show compliance with governing policies

State College - Centre Daily TimesAugust 14, 2012 

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The bell and Old Main on the Penn State campus on Saturday, June 23, 2012.

ABBY DREY — CDT file Buy Photo

The organization that accredits Penn State has put the university on warning status, saying information in the Freeh Report and the NCAA penalties puts its status in jeopardy.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which accredits colleges and universities in Pennsylvania and other states, notified the university Wednesday of the status change.

According to the letter to Penn State President Rodney Erickson, the warning follows “insufficient evidence that the institution is currently in compliance” with various requirements. Those include areas related to governing policies, ensuring the institution’s mission is being carried out, leadership and governance and integrity.

Penn State needs to provide a report to the commission by Sept. 30, documenting the steps it’s taking to make sure it is meeting the requirements. That includes addressing how Penn State will handle the financial obligations that come from the Freeh report.

The university-commissioned Freeh report found that former Penn State leaders tried to cover up Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse, some of which took place on campus. Penalties from the NCAA followed those findings.

The university is facing at least three civil suits and more are expected, in addition to a $60 million penalty from the NCAA. Erickson has said that insurance and internal unrestricted funds will cover the costs, and no state money or tuition will be used for the expenses.

A news release from the university notes that Penn State’s accreditation status is intact.

“This action has nothing to do with the quality of education our students receive,” said Blannie Bowen, vice provost for academic affairs and the university’s accreditation liaison officer. “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.”

According to the commission, a warning means that while the institution isn’t complying, it “has the capacity to make appropriate improvements within a reasonable period of time and the institution has the capacity to sustain itself in the long term.”

Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @AnneDanahy.

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