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Penn State’s Accreditation in Jeopardy Over Abuse Scandal

Penn State’s Accreditation in Jeopardy Over Abuse Scandal

Penn State University is in jeopardy of losing its accreditation in the wake of the child sex abuse scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. On August 8 — less than a month after the NCAA issued $60 million in sanctions to Penn State — the Middle States Commission on Higher Education has put the university on warning status. Penn State must nowdocument that its finances, governance, and integrity meet Middle States’ standards and that it is not violating federal regulations.

AsJudith Eaton, president of theCouncil for Higher Education Accreditation, says in Bloomberg, Im not aware of any major research university in the US losing its accreditation. It would be extraordinary if it happened.

94 of the approximately 7,800 colleges and universities in the US lost their accreditation last year.

Losing accreditation would certainly have serious consequences for Penn State students and faculty. Students at schools who have lost their accreditation may not be able to get financial aid or transfer their credits to other colleges and they (and Penn State alumni) may not be able to use their degrees to attend graduate school. Without accreditation, a university cannot apply for federal funds for student loans but also for research.

In 2011, Penn State received $477 million in federal research support and its main campus in State College, Pennsylvania — in whose athletic facilities a number of children were abused by Sandusky — received $44.8 million in need-based financial aid.

Penn State could be placed on probation if Middle State concludes that it has not taken the right steps.

As Eaton notes, the university certainly has the resources to remedy any concerns Middle States has. Nonetheless, for a university of Penn State’s academic reputation — its faculty includes experts in a number of fields who have won prestigious honors such as the Pulitzer Prize — even to be given a warning about its accreditation is indeed an extraordinary development.

Penn State Vice Provost Blannie Bowen said in a statement that “This action has nothing to do with the quality of education our students receive.” But it very well may: Under former late football coach Joe Paterno, and certainly with Sandusky’s assistance, Penn State acquired a national reputation for its athletics program. The Nittany Lions’ legendary prowess on the field translated into generous donations for the university, not to mention lucrative deals with national TV, radio and other media networks. These funds not only enriched the university’s athletics programs, but also the university as a whole; its library, and much else, bears Paterno’s name.

The university’s response to Middle States’ warning will be a first step in understanding whether Penn State football can be separated from Penn State University. To what extent has the university as a whole been tainted by the child sex abuse scandal?


Related Care2 Coverage

Catholic Church Official Gets 3-6 Years For Child Abuse Cover-up

Former Penn State President: I Was Abuse Victim

Penn State Fined $60 Million By NCAA



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8:34AM PDT on Aug 20, 2012

Perhaps this level of accountability will have a national impact on all colleges and universities who do not take their responsibilities to have policies, procedures and practices conform to federal law sufficiently seriously.

11:35AM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

How does this make sense they are punishing the student's some of which are the victims. This is ridiculous.

7:16AM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

Yes, more consequences for the school that knew something was wrong, and turned their heads in ignorance!

7:48AM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

Linda T, I am a Penn State graduate. i graduated in 1989. I was there when Sandusky was there. By your reasoning, I am guilty of a cover up, along with every other person associated with the university. I say this because, by your reasoning, Penn State should lose its accreditation. Where would that leave its students and graduates? I would like to study for a doctorate, but if Penn State loses its status, how could I? Why should the students and faculty be punished, when most if not all of them had not idea this was happening?

9:38PM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

Gee, Vickie P. and Nyack C., it's nice to hear those of you that think EVERYONE should pay. There are 45,000 students here and it's amazing how few of them have anything to do with the football team, other than vigorous cheering. Which they also do for wrestling, basketball, soccer, baseball, and any game anyone created lately for competitive beer drinking. (Yes, I am a local, and yes, they can be extremely annoying.)

Grads and grad students come here for our (award winning) med and vet schools, law school, engineering, chemistry of all flavors. They have WORLD recognition for these. Grad students from every country in the free world compete for foreign student grad slots. And NONE of these come for football. Many have no doubt appreciated a winning team to cheer for, but that's not why they came here.

9:28PM PDT on Aug 16, 2012


4:10PM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

Don S. states "The Penn State Athletic department did not exist in a vacuum !"

Exactly! And this is a warning, not a (blind) removal of accreditation. If they did, indeed, ignore what was going on because football was more important than all else, what else may have been ignored? If there is nothing (else) to hide, Penn State will not suffer from this development.

3:18PM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

I think this stands as a warning to other large and lucrative schools that they cannot cover up this type of criminal behavior and still rake in the cash. I think it is a shame that many students and faculty members are going to have to pay for some monster's misuse of their school but the people in charge need to know that avoidance is not the correct action to take either. Hopefully this is just a threat and not a promise so that the many innocents involved do not have to live with the consequences of this gross negligence.

3:15PM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

Too bad the athletic department took their filthy lucere, 30 pieces of silver, and spread them around campus to build libraries and facilities bearing Paterno's name. Everyone is going down together.

2:12PM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

Gotta say I agree with what Don S summed up.

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