(PhatzRadio / AP) — The regional accrediting agency that oversees Penn State has placed the university on warning, the agency and the school disclosed Monday.
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education said it took the action based on the information in former FBI director Louis Freeh’s report on the university’s handling of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children and the consent decree into which the university entered with the NCAA. As part of the consent decree, Penn State agreed to a $60 million fine and a four-year postseason ban.
Commission spokesman Richard Pokrass said it was very unusual for an NCAA Division I school to receive a warning from the group.
Of the more than 530 schools accredited by the Middle States Commission in 2011, 23 were placed on warning that year, according to statistics compiled by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Among more than 7,800 schools accredited nationally, 161 were placed on warning in 2011.
A warning does not immediately jeopardize a school’s accreditation, which it must maintain to receive federal funds and to be an NCAA member.
In a definition included in its public disclosure statement regarding Penn State, the commission states that when it warns a school, “It believes that, although the institution is out of compliance (with the commission’s accreditation standards), the institution has the capacity both to make appropriate improvements within a reasonable period and to sustain itself in the long term.”
Penn State must submit a report to the commission by Sept. 30 that includes information about its progress toward compliance with the commission’s standards and about “the institution’s capacity and plans for addressing financial obligations that will or may result from the investigation and related settlements, etc.,” the public disclosure statement said. A commission team then will visit the school and make a report to which Penn State will be able to respond before the commission reconsiders the school’s status.
“We certainly understand the concerns that Middle States has raised, but I am confident that we will satisfy those concerns,” Blannie Bowen, Penn State’s vice provost for academic affairs and accrediting liaison officer, said in a school news release.