Rider prepares for Middle States evaluation

By Katie Zeck

Debbie Stasolla described the importance of the regional accreditation and gave an overview of Rider’s Periodic Review Report.

Members of Rider’s administrative staff and University community members congregated in the Shapiro Board Room of North Hall on Tuesday morning to discuss and provide feedback on Rider’s Periodic Review Report (PRR). The report will be read and evaluated by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education for regional accreditation.
Rider has until June 1 to submit the report and will receive a response from Middle States by November 2012, on the status of the University’s accreditation.
According to the Middle States website, Middle States is the unit of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools that accredits degree-granting colleges and universities in the region, which includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Middle States accreditors who review the institutions’ reports are administrators from colleges and universities within the Middle States region — making the Middle States accreditation a peer-review process.
Associate Vice President for Planning Debbie Stasolla gave a presentation describing the details of the report as well as the importance of gaining a regional accreditation through Middle States.
“I believe in [Middle States] because I would rather have peers review each other because we know our institution better than, I think, the federal government [knows our institution],” she said.
According to Stasolla, a regional accreditation is an accreditation of an entire institution.
“For colleges and universities to receive federal financial aid for students, you have to be regionally accredited,” she said. “Middle States is one of about five or six regional accreditations across the country.”
According to Rider’s website, the PRR is intended to provide a retrospective, current and prospective analysis of the institution. The report highlights four of Middle States’ 14 accreditation standards. These standards are also the basis for Rider’s self-study. They include planning, resource allocation and institutional review, institutional resources, institutional effectiveness and assessment of student learning.
Stasolla also addressed the importance of adding value to the University during a time when college graduates are either underemployed or unemployed and many are questioning the worth of a college degree.
“We, as part of the regional accreditation process, are demonstrating not only to Middle States, but to the external world, the value that we provide,” Stasolla said. “The fact that we evaluate ourselves on a regular basis is to prove that what it is we say we’re doing with our students is indeed what we are doing. That’s why I’m such an advocate for [the Middle States accreditation].
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree college graduates under the age of 25 was 5.2 percent as of March 2012. This is almost a 3 percent decrease since last March’s unemployment rate of 8.5 percent. Despite these more positive numbers, students are concerned about their prospects post-graduation.
“I’m glad Rider puts emphasis on the value of the University as a whole,” sophomore Tiffany Morales said. “With the job market being so unstable, it’s nice to know [administrators] are making sure everyone knows that students from Rider are getting a quality education because that means a better chance for graduates to get a job.”
Stasolla provided a description of the PRR and how it is different from the University self-study.
“A self-study is done every 10 years and the PRR is done within the fifth year of that cycle,” she said. “The PRR is supposed to be an opportunity for further analysis and demonstrate compliance. [In the PRR] we need to demonstrate sustained and organized assessment and also demonstrate evidence of linked institutional planning and budget.”
The floor was later opened for questions and feedback on the report.
Audience members, specficially graduate students from the Planning and Evaluating Budgeting class of the organizational leadership major, provided suggestions on how to improve certain sections of the report.
Their suggestions included  clarifying certain sections on the importance of student and faculty diversity and increasing the importance of the freshman seminars and effective alcohol education classes.
Stasolla summed up the presentation by stressing the importance of making it clear to Middle States accreditors that Rider is fully meeting the proper standards to receive the regional accreditation.
“The bottom line is, we want to demonstrate compliance with Middle States standards, and I think we have great stories to tell of how we’ve been doing early decision making and resource allegation,” she said.

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