Answers to Your Unified Accreditation Questions
The University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel P. Malloy has promised full transparency as the University of Maine System considers and pursues a unified accreditation for all seven universities and law school.
NEASC: New England Association of Schools & Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
NECHE: New England Commission of Higher Education (formerly NEASC)
UMS: University of Maine System
UMaine: University of Maine (Orono)
UMA: University of Maine at Augusta
UMF: University of Maine at Farmington
UMFK: University of Maine at Fort Kent
UML: University of Maine School of Law
UMM: University of Maine at Machias
UMPI: University of Maine at Presque Isle
USM: University of Southern Maine
Frequently Asked Questions:
Find answers to frequently asked questions below.
Chancellor Malloy has spoken about our need to prepare for a possible economic downturn. How will unified accreditation help during a recession?
It will allow us to provide the highest quality academic programs and research opportunities at the lowest possible cost. Our state is small. Our system is small. We need to act proactively and sustainably, which at times means we will want to share resources and combine efforts in order to maintain access to vital programs at every one of our universities and the local communities they serve.
Spring 2021 finds us in the midst of a pandemic, and we do not yet know what the full economic impact will be on our System. Unified accreditation, however, will allow us to share our resources—programs, services, expertise, technology and more—to better serve our state and stabilize our institutions, even in the midst of unprecedented challenges. By removing the primary barrier to extensive inter-institutional academic collaboration—individual institutional accreditation—we can work more effectively and expeditiously to provide workforce development and educational opportunities for all Mainers even as we face economic uncertainty.
The fourth Guiding Principle addresses part of this concern. University of Maine System presidents will preside over the day-to-day operation of their respective universities, as well as the development of their university’s academic, research, service and extracurricular programs within the limits defined by the Board of Trustees and Chancellor. While some services are already centralized, it is too early to say whether fewer or more administrators will be needed in the future. Those decisions will be based—as they always have been—on programmatic needs and availability of resources. Given the current economic uncertainties, however, we are unlikely to add more administrators at this time. Additionally, the Board’s resolution approving unified accreditation requires that the University of Maine System not substantially increase System administration at the expense of university governance and academic program and student support resources.
There are several models of consortia, mergers and other institutional combinations in higher education, but the University of Maine System is the only one of its kind considering a full unification of its individual institutional accreditations in this way. Three campuses of the University of South Florida are in the midst of consolidating their accreditations. The University System of Georgia merged 18 of its universities into nine. The University of Alaska System considered unified accreditation in response to a System-threatening state budget cut. For the first time in the nation, however, we have the opportunity to attain an institutional accreditation model that will consider how well all of our public universities work together in meeting the nine NECHE standards: mission; planning and evaluation; organization and governance; academic programming; students; teaching, learning and scholarship; institutional resources; educational effectiveness; and integrity, transparency and public disclosure.
How will we balance the resources that go to campuses in the system? Will there be internal competition for finances?
Tuition and fees generated on a campus will continue to stay on that campus, unless specific program agreements call for an alternative revenue sharing model. The System’s budget allocation model will also continue to be used to distribute the state’s investment in the University of Maine System. That model, developed in consultation with each campus, allocates resources based on a series of data points involving peer institutions identified for each of our universities.
Unified accreditation will allow more programs the ability to collaborate with other University of Maine System universities for a variety of reasons: to achieve greater efficiency, to share faculty expertise, to respond creatively to advances in technology and changes in the economy, to reduce internal competition, to preserve programs that may be too small at any one university and to provide more options for students. Programs offered individually by a single university that have sufficient enrollment, resources and quality outcomes will likely not combine with a program at another university unless they want to. Faculty and academic leaders at the participating universities, working with System leadership, would determine if collaborating makes sense as an opportunity to provide some of the benefits listed above, or if dwindling resources suggest a necessity for doing so. The System and campuses will collaboratively and strategically address program gaps and explore new opportunities.
Yes. Unified accreditation presents unprecedented opportunities for developing collaborative graduate programs between two or more universities in new and emerging fields. New graduate programs will still need to follow the established approval processes, including working with other University of Maine System leaders, and will then have to file substantive change requests with NECHE. Those requests will require demonstrating how we will meet the relevant standards for graduate program delivery.
No. Tuition rates are set by the Board and vary greatly across the University of Maine System. In-State rates are consistent across 3 separate tuition bands with UMFK/UMPI/UMM/UMA at one level, USM/UMF at another and UMaine with its own rate. Out-of-State rates vary by campus. Going forward, unified accreditation may present us with greater opportunities to use differential tuition rates at the program level that align with costs, demand or potential career earnings for students.
Because it will allow the System to be more innovative and responsive in delivering programs and curricula, unified accreditation will foster improved retention and time to graduation. Unified accreditation on its own is not the full answer to these issues, but it will position us to better address state and student needs, and to pursue needed innovations more nimbly and creatively than we can within the current structure.
Unified accreditation is a tool that will allow us to simplify processes between our universities and make them more transparent, bring greater opportunities, facilitate more timely degree completion and remove key barriers to student success. Unified accreditation alone will not solve all of the challenges we face when trying to partner with each other, but it will allow us to collaborate in ways we haven’t been able to due to the restrictions of individual institutional accreditation and will allow us to improve and streamline processes and create better experiences for students.
How will financial aid, and specifically the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education Identification Number (OPEID), be handled under unified accreditation? Will the unique identities of the campuses/universities be protected?
The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) will reactivate OPEID 008012-11 for the University of Maine System (UMS), and the System’s universities will be identified by the common UMS OPEID but each will have a unique 2-digit suffix identifier not yet assigned by USDOE. University of Maine at Machias (UMM) will not have a separate identifier because it will be covered by the University of Maine’s. Maintaining the unique identities of the universities is our goal and is in adherence with our unified accreditation guiding principles. We are currently reviewing the implications of this change with USDOE and internal stakeholders and are contracting with Huron to do an analysis of the requirements within MaineStreet. We are collecting all related issues and any associated data connections into a comprehensive list and encourage you to share items for inclusion and/or questions with Rosa Redonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As addressed in the second Guiding Principle, faculty will retain all rights to academic freedom and shared governance. They will continue to inform academic policy, develop the curriculum, pursue their own research agendas and set faculty appointment, promotion and tenure standards on their campuses. They will similarly govern and support multi-campus programs developed within unified accreditation. At the Chancellor’s invitation, a committee of faculty senate and assembly leaders has already begun meeting to discuss and develop System-wide shared academic governance protocols.
Unified accreditation will allow us to draw on faculty expertise from every university in the System to enhance academic quality, particularly in collaborative programs. Faculty oversight, including System-level faculty leadership, will maintain that quality, while collaboration will expand opportunities and access for students.
Will unified accreditation change how our campuses report their information to external agencies (e.g. IPEDS, guidebooks, compliance reporting)?
The University of Maine System and campus staff are working together to address our IPEDS reporting and related reporting. We are also working directly with NECHE on a plan for our annual accreditation reporting. Information about progress and outcomes in both areas will be shared in a future update.
Changes to branding are not anticipated as a result of unified accreditation.
What will this mean, specifically, for students who want to take courses at or transfer to one of the other University of Maine System campuses?
Efforts to improve transfer processes are underway in multiple areas and will be addressed in detail in future updates.
As noted above, unified accreditation is a tool designed to help us “simplify processes between our universities and make them more transparent, bring greater opportunities, facilitate more timely degree completion and remove key barriers to student success.” In short, the abiding goal is make the day-to-day experience better—readily navigable, more rewarding and as obstacle-free as possible—for all of our students, faculty and staff.
The Law School’s accreditation through the American Bar Association does not change under the University of Maine System’s (UMS) unified institutional accreditation through the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). ABA accreditation is a requirement for Maine Law graduates to be eligible for licensure to practice law in nearly every U.S. jurisdiction, and the Law School’s J.D. programs continue to be accredited by the American Bar Association. UMS’s unified accreditation through NECHE fosters opportunities for the Law School to engage in interdisciplinary academic collaborations with other UMS universities, and in that context NECHE will evaluate the progress of UMS, the Law School and the universities in implementing that accreditation.
If you are unable to access any of the materials on this page, or if you require additional information, use the contact information below to discuss options for obtaining equally effective access to such materials.
Name: Jeffrey St. John
Associate Vice Chancellor for Accreditation and Strategic Initiatives
Documents related to historical questions and feedback regarding Unified Accreditation:
- Updated Unified Accreditation Frequently Asked Questions March 26, 2020 (PDF)
- Response to McClymer KJa (PDF)
- McClymer letter Dec 11 2019a (PDF)
- Unified Accreditation Campus Engagement Survey Responses (PDF)
- University of Maine System Unified Accreditation Survey Responses by Theme – Office of Organizational Effectiveness – November 2019 (PDF)
- Unified Accreditation Frequently Asked Questions – October 30, 2019 (PDF)
- Unified Accreditation Faculty Feedback to Academic and Student Affairs Subcommittee of the Board of Trustees – October, 2019 (PDF)