USMMA's regional accreditation body, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, warned the academy last summer that it risked losing its status if it did not address a long list of concerns. The issues its visiting team identified included problems with institutional planning, budgeting, accounting, leadership, good governance, staff qualifications, and sexual assault and harassment – particularly incidents of misconduct during at-sea training.
In response to the last and most serious issue, USMMA undertook a full-scale overhaul of its sexual assault and harassment prevention policy. The review included a temporary "stand-down" of the academy's Sea Year training program and a new set of company-written guidelines from each merchant vessel operator participating in the program. While this successfully addressed MSCHE's concerns, the number of shipping companies that provide training berths to USMMA students has fallen sharply relative to the period before the suspension, according to Rep. Peter King, the head of the academy's congressional oversight panel.
In June, the MSCHE determined that the academy had successfully resolved issues regarding resources, leadership, administration and student services, but warned that USMMA still had work to do on institutional planning and resources. On November 16, the commission notified USMMA that the academy is fully in compliance and its accreditation is no longer in jeopardy. USMMA will not face its next full reaccreditation review until 2024.
“I thank all of the staff, faculty, and Midshipmen who worked so hard to achieve this milestone," said Rear Admiral James Helis, USMMA superintendent.
Maritime Administrator Mark H. Buzby congratulated the academy's leaders for overcoming the obstacles to reaccreditation. "As I’ve stated since my confirmation hearing, the success of the Academy at every level is one of my highest priorities, and this announcement is confirmation that the US Merchant Marine Academy is getting back on course for providing a world-class educational experience to our future leaders. My thanks to Rear Admiral Helis and his team for working to resolve the issues that were identified by the commission," Buzby said.