An accrediting commission has put Harrisburg University of Science and Technology on probation, but HU is questioning that action.
HU spokesman Steven Infanti issued a statement saying the university is "shocked and disappointed" by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education action. HU went through its normal reaccreditation process from 2012 to 2014, which culminated in a "thorough multi-day visit" from the Middle States team in March, he said.
The team reported that HU met all accreditation standards then, according to Infanti, and "the report issued by the Commission simply repeats portions of the standards which the visiting team said Harrisburg University met." The commission's peer review process, he said, "does not appear to have been followed in the case of Harrisburg University."
HU is therefore "presently unclear about what it needs to do to improve" but has requested a meeting with the commission president and fully anticipates having the probation lifted in 2015, Infanti said. "The University has made solving Middle States’ concerns its top priority.”
HU has been accredited since 2009 and remains accredited while on probation, the commission said. According to its posted notice, the commission put HU on probation on June 26 "because of a lack of evidence that the institution is in compliance with Standard 3 (Institutional Resources) and Standard 14 (Assessment of Student Learning)."
The commission requested a monitoring report, due March 1, 2015, to be followed by a small team on-site visit and report. Those reports and the institutional response will then be considered, the Commission said.
The Commission will be looking for documentation of the following:
• "that the institution has the financial resources, funding base, and plans for financial development adequate to support its educational purposes and programs and to assure financial stability (Standard 3)
• "a documented, organized, and sustained process to evaluate and improve student learning, in all programs including general education (Standard 14)
• "a well-defined system of collegiate governance including written policies outlining governing responsibilities of administration and faculty and that are readily available to the campus community" (Standard 4)
• and "assessment of policies and procedures to ensure the use of qualified professionals to support the institution's programs (Standard 10)."
HU's financial woes are well known and, according to President Eric Darr, stem largely from its $73 million, 16-story, state-of-the-art academic center on Market Street.
Despite significant contractually obligated help from Dauphin County, HU had fallen into default on its $60 million bond. It emerged from that default only by getting the bondholder to giving Harrisburg Parking Authority a clear deed to the seven floors of parking facilities in the HU building in exchange for $3.6 million in December; the authority originally paid $14 million for the parking facility in 2007.
HU's next bond payment of $1,806,750 is due in September. Bond filings include HU's latest unaudited financial report, which shows total revenues of $12,656,295 against expenses of $11,834,202 from July 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014.
News of HU's probation came almost simultaneously with word that the commission had lifted an accreditation warning that had been on Harrisburg Area Community College since November 2012.