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STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT BAKER Keystone College President David Coppola spoke Thursday about the process that the school went through over the past two years to be an accredited institution of the Middle States Higher Education Association.

Keystone College has received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education after almost two years of preparation from a college committee of board members, faculty and staff.

The process to develop a self-study document and host an external evaluation visit takes place every 10 years and applies to the entire college.

College president David Coppola took some time out last Thursday to review the process.

He remembered this past spring when the visiting committee reviewed their findings with some key faculty, mostly comprised of those who completed the self study.

“They felt pretty good about the process, but you never can be sure what they might come up with as your weaknesses,” Coppola said.

The group went through each of 14 standards and “It was all very positive,” Coppola said, with the school in compliance with all the standards.

For the record, they included mission and goals, planning and resource allocation, institutional resources, leadership and governance, administration, integrity, institutional assessment, student admissions and retention, student support services, faculty, educational offerings, general education, related educational offerings, and assessment of student learning,

“It was a very important moment for the campus community to be affirmed over what we do here,” Coppola said.

Before arriving at Keystone in 2013, Coppola noted that he had been part of accrediting teams visiting colleges and universities in the New England region, and recognizes it can be an anxious time for some institutions.

“But, it really wasn’t that way here,” he said. “Everyone here is pretty clear about what our core work is about.”

“If there was a criticism, it’s that maybe we understated our strengths,” Coppola added.

The institution was first evaluated by a Middle States higher education body 80 years ago, when the institution went from being Keystone Academy - a secondary institution offering the equivalent of a high school diploma - to offering associate degrees as Scranton Keystone Junior College.

In the 1990s probably at the mid-point in a 10-year accreditation cycle, the institution began exploring the possibility of offering baccalaureate degrees.

That was clearly affirmed by the time of the 2004 accreditation cycle.

This go-round the Middle States body also noted a “substantive change request.”

It asked that proposed new Masters-level programs in Accounting and Early Childhood Educational Leadership be considered within the scope of the institution’s future accreditation.

The Middle States body has given its blessing and the only thing that remains is permission from the state department of education to begin offering such programs.

“It’s hard to say when that might occur, but we have the resources to start either this fall, although the permission may not come until next year,” Coppola said. “It’s exciting and awkward at the same time, but another indication we are ready for the future.”

Keystone’s five-year Periodic Review Report for the Middle States Commission is due in 2019. The next accreditation review of self-study document and evaluation visit is tentatively scheduled for 2024.

The University of Scranton and King’s College have received warnings the Middle States Commission. Both remain fully accredited from the commission, but the schools may need to do a better job with assessing student learning.