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Five Towns President: Probation ‘Overstated’ 

Five Towns College administrators say a regional commission’s decision to put the school on probation was aggressive and overstated.

Administrators at Five Towns College, an accredited academic institution in Dix Hills, said the school was the “aggressive target” of a regional higher education review commission.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education on Nov. 21 decided to maintain Five Towns’ status as an accredited institution but put the arts college on probation due to what it said was a lack of sufficient leadership standards.

Five Towns President Stanley Cohen, 85, of Melville, said Monday the probation status was determined after a premature visit by the Philadelphia, Pa.-based Middle States board in July when few students were enrolled and two of the five Five Towns trustees died several weeks prior to the review.

According to Cohen, Trustees Sam Teicher and Milton Hirschfeld died within one month before the review took place, leaving only three active trustees overseeing the institution in the several weeks following the two board members’ passing.

The regional accreditation commission said in the Nov. 21 report the college was put on probation because of the “insufficient evidence that the institution is currently in compliance with Standards 4 (Leadership and Governance) and Standard 5 (Administration);” but that “Five Towns remains fully accredited…while on probation.”

According to the report, schools are placed on probation when, in the commission’s judgment, the institution is not in compliance with one or more of the commission’s accreditation standards. Non-compliance is “sufficiently serious, extensive, or acute” and raises concerns about either the “adequacy of education provided; the school’s capacity to make appropriate improvements in a timely fashion; or its capacity to maintain itself in the long term,” it reads.

Five Towns College, which this year had 1,107 undergraduate and 57 graduate students, offers associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees and is approved by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, a designation which Cohen said is “much more demanding” than designations made by regional councils such as Middle States. Five Towns is also accredited by the New York State Board of Regents, the school’s president added.

“We remain fully accredited without any changes. This was overstated by a very hostile examiner who was not incorrect that the number of trustees was low, so we’ve corrected that… It was a minor glitch,” Cohen said Monday.

To rectify the administrative deficit, Five Towns has named four more trustees, bringing their total to six independent members and Cohen as the board president.

According to the Middle States Commission, every five years after the commission accredits a college, the academic institution is required to submit a Periodic Review Report (PRR) to the commission, which Five Towns submitted in the spring of 2012.

The routine review this year occurred July 17 and July 18, Cohen said.

Following the commission’s physical survey of the Dix Hills campus over the summer, Five Towns has until March 1, 2014 to submit a “Monitoring Report” to the Middle States Commission outlining the steps taken “to develop an active governing body; to assure continuity and stability of institutional leadership…that fosters respect and communication among faculty; and the establishment of “sustainable lines of authority…throughout the organization.”

At that point, the Middle States Commission will assess Five Towns’ compliance with the commission’s standards. Depending on the outcome of the assessment, the commission’s board will determine whether or not Five Towns has made “appropriate progress” and may act to remove the prohibition.

According to the Middle States report, the next review of Five Towns College’s campus is scheduled for 2016-2017.

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