Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools

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Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools logo.png
MSA logo
MSA map.png
MSA operational area
Abbreviation M.S.A.S.C. or M.S.A.
Formation 1887
Legal status Association
Purpose Educational Accreditation
Headquarters Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Region served
Delaware, District of Columbia - (Washington, D.C.), Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands
Board President
John Cavanaugh
Main organ
Board of Trustees
Affiliations CHEA
Website www.middlestates.org

The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (Middle States Association or shorter as M.S.A.C.S. or M.S.A.) is a voluntary, peer-based, non-profit association that performs peer evaluation and accreditation of public and private universities, colleges, secondary/high schools, and elementary schools in the United States and foreign institutions of American origin. It is one of the six regional accreditation organizations dating back 125 years, recognized by the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

The Middle States Association should not be confused with the separate "Middle States Accrediting Board" (M.S.A.B.),[1] an unrecognized accreditation agency with a somewhat similar name, that some diploma mills or illegitimate, so-called educational institutions cite to legitimize and publicize their operations and attract potential students with their tuition funds.[citation needed]

Its headquarters are in Center City, Philadelphia.[2]

Commission on Higher Education[edit]

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (dba the Mid-Atlantic Region Commission on Higher Education—MARCHE) is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education to accredit degree-granting institutions in the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland; the District of Columbia, (Washington, D.C.), plus the American territories/commonwealths of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (in the Caribbean Sea), that wish to participate in Federal "Title IV" student loan programs.[3][4] The commission also accredits non-American institutions, such as Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada.[5]

Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools[edit]

The "Middle States Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools" (M.S.A.-C.E.S.S.) accredits public and private schools and school systems throughout the United States and it states it is active in more than 85 countries around the world.[6]

The Commissions also accredit other types of educational organizations:

Supplementary Education Organizations. A supplementary education organization is defined by the following characteristics--

  • Is not a school or school system;
  • Does not grant a high school diploma or a degree;
  • Offers educational programs that meet narrowly focused curricular purposesd;
  • Offers programs that are educational(as opposed to recreational or avocational);
  • Enrolls students generally on a part-time basis;
  • Generally delivers its educational programs outside of the normal school day and often outside a school; and
  • Often offers diagnostic, remedial, enrichment, or alternative instruction.

Learning Service Providers. A learning services provider is an organization that develops and provides various types of educational learning programs and services such as curricula, instructional materials, and management systems to education institutions with or without a fee.[citation needed]

Educational Service Agencies. An educational service agency is a regional provider of educational programs and services to schools and/or school systems schools/school systems cannot provide as efficiently and effectively on their own.[citation needed]


The genesis of the Association can be traced to a meeting of activist college presidents in the state capital of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in February 1887. The meeting was held to protest a proposed tax on college properties and concluded with the consensus that American public and private education from an early attendance age from the elementary or grammar school through the newly-developing secondary schools/high schools continuing onto the college and university was in chaos. The school presidents and principals chartered themselves first as the "College Association of Pennsylvania", soon thereafter renamed the "Association of the Colleges and Secondary Schools of the Middle States and Maryland".[citation needed]

During the early years, many of the education luminaries of the day contributed to the formation of the "Middle States Association" as it became quickly known. A few of the early leaders included President E.H. Magill of Swarthmore College, President Nicholas M. Butler of Columbia University, in New York City, President Charles Adams of Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, Headmaster Thomas Sidwell of the Sidwell Friends School, in Washington, D.C., Headmaster James McKenzie of the Lawrenceville School, of Lawrenceville Township, New Jersey, Provost William Pepper of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia and President Woodrow Wilson of Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey (and future 28th President of the United States, 1913-1921).[citation needed]

The initial objectives of the Association were to standardize the qualifications required for admission to college, to determine the desired characteristics for college preparatory schools, to recommend courses of study for both colleges and schools, to foster school and college relationships to each other and to the government, and to study and recommend best practices of organization and governance.[citation needed]

During the early years, the Association’s discussions on the standardization of academic credentials led to the creation of the College Board and the Carnegie Unit as ways to assure quality of academic offerings and the trustworthiness of the participating institutions. Educational accreditation, the current mission of the Association, was introduced in 1919 and 1921 with the formation of the Commission on Higher Education (CHE) and Commission on Secondary Schools (CSS). The Commissions established the concept of peer evaluation in the Region and contributed to the evolving collegiality between the two levels of education.[citation needed]

In the years that followed, accreditation in the Middle States region and around the country defined the characteristics of quality in American secondary and higher education. The Middle States Association concentrated its efforts on accreditation activities. The original objectives of the Association that concentrated on the critique of American education shifted to national organizations of educational specialists. The Commission on Higher Education was located at Columbia University and the Commission on Secondary Schools at the University of Pennsylvania. The two Commissions created standards and protocols to accredit their institutions.[citation needed]

Initially, only four-year colleges and universities and traditional high schools were offered accreditation. Visits were short, conducted often by only one person and were often very prescriptive in nature. Information sought from the institutions was quantitative, and denial of accreditation was often based on a single issue. During these early decades, institutions accredited by MSA-CHE had little or no contact with the Commission. It was not until the mid-fifties that the ten-year cycle of accreditation was introduced, and the process became more qualitative. Institutions were expected to submit comprehensive self-studies, and the process became mission centered.[citation needed]

At this time, institutions were required to submit periodic review reports and host special Commission visitors. MSA-CHE offered a number of qualitative approaches for self-study, and MSA-CSS was an important partner in the creation of the Evaluative Criteria, published by NSSE. This document defined the American public high school. The two Commissions expanded the scope of their work to include community colleges, teacher education institutions, vocational technical schools, special education schools, as well as other types of educational organizations.[citation needed]

In 1957, the Association obtained a Charter of its own from the Board of Regents of the State of New York. In 1975, the Association changed its name once more to accommodate the emerging interest in the accreditation of elementary schools: The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1976, the two Commissions relocated together to the University City Science Center in Philadelphia. In 1978, the Trustees of the Association unanimously voted to form a third accreditation unit, the Assembly of Elementary Schools, ten years later to become the Commission on Elementary Schools (MSA-CES).[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Welcome to California Postsecondary Education Data". Postsecondary Education Data. Retrieved February 16, 2014.
  2. ^ Home page. Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Retrieved on May 12, 2015. "200 Market Street Philadelphia, PA 19104"
  3. ^ "College Accreditation in the United States - Pg. 6". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  4. ^ "Newsletter June 2010". Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  5. ^ Tamburri, Rosanna (2013-06-19). "More Canadian universities seek U.S. accreditation". University Affairs. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  6. ^ MSA-CESS website, retrieved June 3, 2014.

External links[edit]