The New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), Salem State University’s regional accreditor, has approved the university’s continued accreditation for the next decade following a thorough review required every 10 years. The self-study and external review by higher education administrators throughout New England included close examination of the university in areas that include academics, student support services and preparedness upon graduation, financial strength, positioning for the future and more.
“Salem State University (SSU) is commended for its comprehensive and thoughtful self-study that documented the institution’s accomplishments over the past decade and provided an opportunity for it to reflect on the challenges ahead,” wrote Chair of the Commission George W. Tetler in a letter dated November 29, 2021.
NECHE’s letter went on to recognize the university’s strong academic offerings, growth of student programming, commitment to civic learning as evidenced by obtaining Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, adoption of the student success platform Navigate as a coordinated care approach, efforts to build an “inclusive and respectful community,” and significant increases in graduation rates and institutional financial aid, among other successes.
The NECHE review team included nine representatives from institutions throughout New England and was chaired by Southern Connecticut State University President Joseph Bertolino. The re-accreditation was granted without conditions, following a two-year self-study that engaged faculty, staff, and administrators across campus. The university is asked to provide an update on several matters in three years and file a standard five-year report prior to its next 10-year accreditation in 2031.
“Our campus is dedicated to ensuring the strength of our academic programs and supporting our students as they progress through them and prepare to launch careers or enter graduate school. This commitment is reflected in the rigorous self-study that led us to this affirming support from our regional accreditor, putting Salem State on a path to continue enhancing the way we serve students and the region,” said President John D. Keenan. “I am deeply grateful for the time and attention put into this campus-wide effort, and to the work of our peers on the NECHE commission who completed this review. I am particularly appreciative of all that was accomplished despite the unforeseen challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The re-accreditation process forms the bedrock of what it means to be an ever-changing academic institution committed to ongoing improvement,” said Provost and Academic Vice President David Silva. “We take very seriously our responsibility to offer strong academic programs, and this review is particularly important to ensuring our ongoing academic strength. I am appreciative of our NECHE review team for its thoughtful and thorough feedback and thankful to our faculty and staff for not only completing this self-study, but for doing the day-to-day work to strive for success in all of the commission’s standards.”
The review process began in the summer of 2019 and included a self-study, virtual site visit by a regional accreditation team, a preliminary report, a response by the university, and a final meeting on September 23, 2021. Salem State was reviewed on nine regional standards, including: Mission (1); Planning and Evaluation (2); Organization and Governance (3); The Academic Program (4); Students (5); Teaching, Learning & Scholarship (6); Institutional Resources (7); Educational Effectiveness (8); and Integrity, Transparency and Public Disclosure (9). Salem State’s self-study was chosen as the exemplar from among all of the regional public institutions accredited in the last year, and NECHE invited university representatives to present at regional workshops on its self-study process.
The letter also recognized the university for establishing the Center for Research and Creative Activities, creating a vice president of student success position, and “embracing a culture of transparent assessment and continuous improvement,” including sharing student success measures “frequently and broadly.”
Noting areas for institutional improvement, NECHE requests a report in August 2023 outlining the university’s progress and success in effective shared governance; building a culture of assessment; achieving enrollment and retention goals; and strengthening its financial position, referencing challenges that include enrollment declines and reliance on tuition and fees.