Oldest HBCU in the US re-accredited after it was put on probation

BY Preta Peace Namasaba July 4, 2024 8:07 AM EDT

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, the oldest HBCU in the US has had its accreditation reaffirmed after being put on probation for a year.  The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) in November, stated that the university was in jeopardy of losing accreditation for insufficient evidence that it was meeting several required standards. The standards in question included ethics and integrity; design and delivery of the student learning experience; and planning, resources, and institutional improvement. There were also concerns about compliance with laws, regulations, commission policies, financial planning, and budget processes.

“Cheyney University appreciates Middle States Commission on Higher Education’s (MSCHE) review of our accreditation and its decision to remove our probationary status as of June 27, 2024. This reaffirmation of accreditation by MSCHE validates our unwavering commitment to academic and operational excellence. It also reinforces our view that an accreditation process must be fair and transparent for all institutions of higher education, including HBCUs,” said university officials.

The commission recently announced that Cheyney University has met the required standards, resulting in the decision to reaffirm its accreditation. The university is expected to submit a customary monitoring report due March 1, 2025, to the commission as a part of its accreditation action. It must demonstrate the sustainability of implemented corrective measures and provide evidence of compliance in over half a dozen areas. The next evaluation in the university’s eight-year accreditation cycle is scheduled for 2030-2031.

Although Cheyney appreciates the decision, it remains concerned about the Middle States’ accreditation process and wishes it faster. State officials including Gov. Josh Shapiro and State Sen. Vincent Hughes, the chancellor and board chair of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, the chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, and other influential figures have been critical of the decision to put Cheyney on probation. They remain concerned about the impact the probation decision has had on enrollment, retention, and donations to the school.

“While we agree with this decision, we remain disappointed by the process to arrive at this long-overdue outcome and will continue to advocate for equity and transparency. This current Commission decision is consistent with the assessment of three separate MSCHE-appointed peer evaluator teams that visited Cheyney’s campus between February 2023 and April 2024 and formally reported that Cheyney appears to meet the Commission’s Standards of Accreditation and Requirements of Affiliation,” the university said in a statement.

‌Probation is the second level of action that the commission takes when it has concerns about the schools’ ability to reach compliance. Warnings are the least serious action while show cause where schools must prove they should keep their accreditation or lose it is the most serious. In 2017, Cheyney was on show cause and battled back from the brink of losing accreditation. The university would have been ineligible for federal and state financial aid without accreditation.

Cheyney currently has an enrollment of more than 700 students, up from a low of 469 a few years ago. The school has launched a strategy to improve its handling of federal financial aid, updated policies, conducted training, and found ways to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. It has also finished with a balanced budget in the past four years. The school’s athletic programs (men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball) play an independent schedule consisting of area Division III and community college-level opponents.

Founded in 1837 as the African Institute and soon renamed the Institute for Colored Youth, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania became the nation’s first Historically Black College and University (HBCU). The university was established through the bequest of Richard Humphreys, a Quaker philanthropist who bequeathed $10,000 to design and establish a school to educate people of African descent and prepare them as teachers. It is a member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.