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After Death of Football Player, University of Maryland Risks Losing Accreditation

A loss of accreditation would prevent university students from receiving federal financial aid, as well as affect processes for transfer students.

The University of Maryland campus
The University of Maryland campus
By Sameer Rao

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education announced on Friday that it had placed the University of Maryland, College Park on warning amid a review of the university's accreditation.

The accreditation agency's decision, which puts the university's accreditation at risk, is the latest development in the aftermath of football player Jordan McNair's death from heatstroke in June 2018.

A statement that the commission released Friday noted that it put the university on warning during a meeting the previous day. The decision came after the university, in compliance with the commission's instruction, submitted a supplemental report in February and met with commission leaders in late March or early April.

Margaret M. McMenamin, commission chair, wrote in an additional emailed statement that the team "identified concerns regarding the institution's compliance with Standard VII (Governance, Leadership and Administration) and more specifically transparency of its governance structure" that contributed to the warning status.

Brian Kirschner, the commission's communications director, confirmed in a phone call with The Baltimore Sun that the fallout from McNair's death ultimately prompted this decision.

The university must submit a monitoring report by March 1,  after which a commission team will visit to follow up, according to the statement. In the meantime, the commission required the university to meet with one of its representatives this fall to discuss expectations going forth. During this time, the university's accreditation will remain intact.

A loss of accreditation would prevent university students from receiving federal financial aid, as well as affect processes for transfer students. The U.S. Department of Education notes that 33% of UMCP students receive federal loans.

In a joint statement Friday, the University System of Maryland, Board of Regents Chair Linda R. Gooden, Chancellor Robert L. Caret and university President Wallace Loh confirmed the warning status. They affirmed that they are "committed to working together" to provide transparency and accountability in compliance with the commission's rules. "Progress towards full compliance is already underway and will be completed by March 1, 2020," they wrote.

McNair's death led to a leadership shakeup in which football coach DJ Durkin was fired, Gooden was appointed, and both Caret and Loh set their departures for June 2020.

State Senator and former UMCP Board of Regents member Jim Rosapepe, whose 21st District includes the university, told WTOP on Saturday that he thought the commission was "sort of a day late and a dollar short." He cited the board's change in leadership and apology, as well as lawmakers' changes to board governance, as evidence that UMCP has already dealt with the commission's issues.

(c)2019 The Baltimore Sun

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