In a rare display of a college accreditor actually flexing its muscles, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education is warning Elmira College that it may remove accreditation unless the school improves. According to an article by Ray Finger in the Star-Gazette:

Elmira College has been warned by a higher education certifying organization that its accreditation could be in jeopardy because it is not in compliance with two of 14 standards.

This may be due to Elmira College’s practices not matching what Middle States wants to see, insufficient documentation or a combination of the two, said Michael Rogers, assistant to the president and director of public relations for the college.

Elmira apparently failed to provide sufficient evidence that it’s meeting Middle States standards for “planning, resource allocation and institutional renewal,” and “institutional assessment.”

“Typically, when a school falls out of compliance, the goal of the commission is to work with the institution to bring it back into compliance,” a spokesman for the commission told Finger. “Not to punish it and remove its accreditation.”

No kidding. This comes at a time when many have stated to wonder what, exactly, accreditors do to ensure college quality. In June Kevin Carey pointed out here that accreditation failed to ensure that colleges were any good and also didn’t help truly dreadful colleges that needed to improve.

Questions about accreditation were a part of Tom Harkin’s summer hearings on for-profit colleges. Why were all these colleges still accredited if they were so lousy?

Elmira, however, remains accredited. Elmira has been issued a “warning.” The next step is probation. This is followed by a several other stages of chastisement before the Middle States Commission on Higher Education actually removes accreditation.

Colleges must be accredited by agencies recognized by the Department of Education in order to take advantage of federal grants and loans distributed to students.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer