Education Law § 215 gives the Department broad powers to carry out review visits to New York State’s colleges and universities:
§ 215. Visitation and reports
The regents, or the commissioner of education, or their representatives, may visit, examine into and inspect, any institution in the university and any school or institution under the educational supervision of the state, and may require, as often as desired, duly verified reports therefrom giving such information and in such form as the regents or the commissioner of education shall prescribe. For refusal or continued neglect on the part of any institution in the university to make any report required, or for violation of any law or any rule of the university, the regents may suspend the charter or any of the rights and privileges of such institution.
Rather than make regular, periodic peer review visits to New York State colleges and universities to assess compliance with the standards, in recent years the Office of Higher Education has applied a risk analysis approach to identify institutions that may not be in compliance with the regulations, and thus for which peer review visits appear to be warranted.
Risk factors that play into this analysis include the following:
- significant enrollment growth or decline
- proportion of applicants accepted
- return of first-year students in the second year
- associate and baccalaureate degree graduation rates
- complaints received from students and their families
- analysis of the latest audited financial statements of independent and proprietary institutions
- financial aid reviews/disqualifications
- investigations/inquiries from other State or federal agencies, or accrediting agencies
According to long-standing protocols and policies, as well as the Regents Rules governing institutional accreditation by the Board of Regents, the Office of College and University Evaluation also makes visits for other purposes:
- visits to proposed degree-granting institutions
- follow-up visits to institutions newly receiving degree powers, including those institutions with provisional charters that request that their charters be made absolute
- consolidation of institutions (See Education Law § 223 on Consolidation of corporations)
- deregistration/denial of a program (See Part 52.1(l)(2): “findings based on an inspection . . . “)
- to follow up on implementation of recommendations from prior visits
- to follow up on new doctoral programs
- applications by institutions to open branch campuses or extension centers (See: http://www.nysed.gov/college-university-evaluation/campus-instruction : “There is also the expectation that a visit to the prospective center will be a part of the State Education Department’s review.”)
- applications by institutions to move to a new degree level of study (See: http://www.nysed.gov/college-university-evaluation/campus-instruction “The process also includes an institutional self study and review by an external evaluation team.”)
- institutional accreditation visits (See: Regents Rule 4-1.5(a)(4): “Site visit. The department shall conduct a site visit to the institution to assess compliance with the standards for institutional accreditation prescribed in this Subpart.” Also RR 4-1.5(4)(iii); 4-1.5(5)(i)(b).
- as part of reviews of potential purchasers of proprietary colleges to determine whether to recommend that the Board of Regents consent to transfer of degree powers (See Regents Rules §3.58: “The department may cause the institution to undergo site visits and may require the institution to provide additional reports and information [. . .]” )