The HLC is an accrediting body, not an oversight body.
“We don’t have oversight; we don’t have authority. All we
have is accreditation,” said Manning. “We’re a 501-C3, membership organization
and an institution joins and is permitted to become a member, that is, it is
“So you have to think of an organization in which there are
standards for membership, the members agree to hold themselves and each other
accountable to these standards and to work to constantly improve on these
standards,” she said.
“And so periodically there is a process of checking to make
sure the institution is in fact abiding by the standards.”
A series of HLC evaluations starting in 2010 and following the
loss of accreditation of MSU’s nursing program resulted with the Higher Learning
Commission withdrawing general accreditation of the university effective Aug.
Manning noted that for almost 50 years a higher education institution
has had to be accredited in order for its students to receive federal financial
“So in fact, it is voluntary, but for most institutions it’s
an absolute necessity in order to be able to function.”
When asked to evaluate the performance of MSU’s Board of Trustees in the matter of accreditation and the multiple problems found at the
university, Manning declined.
“You know I can’t respond to that because I don’t know what
the board did or did not do; I don’t know the workings behind the scene. We
simply go to the institution and see the condition the institution is in,” she
“But in terms of a private institution like MSU, in higher
education in general, it is the Board of Trustees that has the fiduciary responsibility
for the institution, its policies and for its larger practices.”
“So ultimately the Board of Trustees is accountable for the
well-being of the institution,” said Manning.
Following an HLC team visit to the Beckley
campus in 2010, the Commission issued a Show-Cause order in June 2011.
“The Show-Cause order says show us cause as to why we should
not withdraw accreditation based on what we have seen,” explained Manning. “And
so the institution then gets close to a year in which to respond to that report
and then in Feb 2012 we sent a team to Beckley
again to allow the institution to make its case for us not to withdraw
“So we had two reports, two visits, that essentially found
the same problems. We found some had been allayed, but most had not.”
Manning said the problems include poor leadership, a lack of
qualified administrators, the institution's unsound financial standing, academic
quality, a lack of realistic planning, lack of resources, and administrative actions
that demonstrated a lack of integrity.
“There were multiple concerns here and the Commission takes
these very seriously.”
Manning said the decision to withdraw accreditation was
painful realizing the economic impact on both the community and individual
“On the other side of it, not to withdraw accreditation
would be to not represent to those students and to the public the assessment we
made of this institution, so it is very difficult,” she said.
“ he HLC Board is very conscious of it, but really to do
its job right it has to focus on the quality of the institution, the fact that
we are assuring that quality, and the fact that if we can no longer assure it,
we are morally obligated to let the public and future students know that.”
University officials say the
institution will submit an appeal to the HLC’s decision before the Aug. 6