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Accreditation warning given to Penn State on child abuse scandal; officials express confidence

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July 13, 2012: Penn State University President Rodney Erickson speaks at a news conference after a meeting at the school's Worthington Scranton campus, in Dunmore, Pa. (AP)

An accrediting organization has told Penn State that its status is "in jeopardy" based on recent developments in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which accredits universities in the Mid-Atlantic region, cited information in the school's internal investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh and the severe penalties imposed by the NCAA over the school's handling of molestation allegations against the former assistant football coach, who was convicted in June of 45 child sexual abuse counts.

The commission said in an Aug. 8 notice that Penn State remains accredited while "on warning" but it wants a monitoring report submitted by the end of next month detailing steps taken to ensure full compliance with governmental requirements, that the university's mission is being carried out, that the commission will be fully informed and that Penn State is complying with standards on leadership and governance as well as integrity.

The commission also wants the report to address the university's ability to bear financial obligations stemming from "the investigation and related settlements, etc." It said "a small team visit" will be made, a standard practice "to verify institutional status and progress."

Penn State officials on Monday expressed confidence that they would be able to address all concerns expressed by the commission.

"This action has nothing to do with the quality of education our students receive," said Blannie Bowen, vice provost for academic affairs in a statement posted on the university's website. "Middle States is focusing on governance, integrity, and financial issues related to information in the Freeh report and other items related to our current situation."

Bowen said the body doesn't issue a warning unless it believes that an institution can make improvements and remain in compliance, and "this is certainly true for Penn State.

"We're confident that our monitoring report and the site visit will confirm this to the commission," Bowen said.

University president Rodney Erickson said that the commission "wants us to document that steps we have already taken and are planning to take will ensure our full compliance with its requirements." He said he was also confident that officials would be able to "fully demonstrate our financial stability."

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