Pruitt began his two-year tenure on Jan. 1, 2014 after being elected chair at the commission’s meeting on Nov. 21, 2013.
“It is a great honor to be selected by my peers to chair such an esteemed body that is known for its extraordinary work to ensure quality in higher education,” said Pruitt. “I am honored to follow my colleague and friend, Dr. Barbara Gitenstein, president of The University of New Jersey, who did an exceptional job serving as our last chair.”
Pruitt said the re-authorization of the Higher Education Act will be a focus for Middle States and other regional accrediting agencies in 2014, especially its relation to quality assurance and keeping the accreditation process consistent and autonomous.
“It goes beyond just updating standards. We are in the midst of a national discourse that is considering what accreditation is and what it should be,” he said. “It is critical that we maintain voluntary accreditation to keep the process relevant so quality is assured.”
Three new commissioners also joined the commission on Jan. 1, including Dr. F. Javier Cevallos; president of Kutztown University; Dr. Margaret McMenamin, president of Union County College; and Mr. Javier Miyares, president of University of Maryland University College.
Joining Pruitt on the commission’s executive committee are Dr. Gary L. Wirt, vice president of Goldey-Beacom College ( vice-chair); Dr. Robert K. Clark , professor, STEM and Health Division, Cumberland County College; Dr. Karen Kershenstein, president, KWK Enterprises (public member); Mr. David J. Rhodes, president of the School of Visual Arts; and Dr. Karen Stout, president of Montgomery County Community College.
Pruitt has served as president of Thomas Edison State University since 1982. Previously, he served in executive leadership positions at Illinois State University, Towson State University, Morgan State University, Tennessee State University, and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. He has also served on the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), which advises the U.S. secretary of education on the recognition of accrediting agencies. During his tenure on NACIQI, Pruitt served four secretaries of education under three presidents.
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is a voluntary, non-governmental, membership association that is dedicated to quality assurance and improvement through accreditation via peer evaluation. Middle States accreditation instills public confidence in institutional mission, goals, performance, and resources through its rigorous accreditation standards and their enforcement.
The commission is recognized by the U.S. secretary of education to conduct accreditation and pre-accreditation (candidacy status) activities for institutions of higher education in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including distance education and correspondence education programs offered at those institutions. The commission is also recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to accredit degree-granting institutions that offer one or more post-secondary educational programs of at least one academic year in length in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and other geographic areas in which the commission conducts accrediting activities.