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Accreditation FAQs

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For a printable trifold of this FAQ, click here.

In August 2016, Highlands University was placed on probation by our accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission. Highlands University remains 100% committed to student success and to meeting all accreditation criteria.

This FAQ gives information about the HLC probation.

Q: What is the Higher Learning Commission?

A: The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is an independent corporation that was founded in 1895 as one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. HLC accredits degree-granting postsecondary educational institutions in 19 states, including New Mexico. While the HLC is not a government entity, the U.S. Department of Education recognizes the Commission as the verifying agency for federally defined standards.

Q: What is accreditation?

A: The U.S. Department of Education defines accreditation as “the recognition that an institution maintains standards requisite for its graduates to gain admission to other reputable institutions of higher learning or to achieve credentials for professional practice. The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.” See the U.S. Department of Education’s webpage for more information.

Q: Why is Highlands on HLC probation?

A: In September 2016, Highlands received an action Letter from the HLC identifying nine issues Highlands must address to remove ourselves from probation. This letter identifies the following key areas of concern: clearly articulating the mission and strategic plan, evaluating and orienting contingent faculty, assessing co-curricular activities, designing and implementing the retention plan, ensuring funding and student services at the Highlands centers, stabilizing Highlands’ financial reserves, strategic budgeting, and providing training to the Board of Regents.

Highlands is 100 percent committed to addressing each and every one of these issues. Highlands has already taken many policy actions to resolve these concerns, including the approval of a new Mission, Vision, and Strategic Goals in Spring 2016 and the adoption of the Contingent Faculty Handbook.

On the Accreditation section of the Highlands website, we will be regularly posting updates on our progress in each of these nine main areas.

Q: Is Highlands still accredited?

A: Yes. Highlands’ accreditation remains in effect during this probation period while we address and rectify the Commission’s concerns.

Q: Will the HLC probation affect my degree?

A: No. New Mexico Highlands remains fully accredited during the probation period. Students will be considered to have graduated from an accredited institution even though the institution is on probation.

Q: Will my Highlands University credits still transfer? Can I still be admitted to a master’s or doctoral program?

A: While the decision to accept or not accept credits or admissions from another institution remains with the receiving institution, Highlands’ probation should have no impact on the receiving institutions’ decision.

Q: Can I still receive federal financial aid?

A: Yes. Federal financial aid is unaffected by the HLC probation.

Q: What is the timeline for removing Highlands from HLC probation?

A: The University is required to file an assurance filing no later than November 1, 2017 providing evidence that the Highlands has resolved the concerns of the HLC Board identified in the probation action and evidence that it meets the criteria for accreditation.

Highlands will be required to host a comprehensive evaluation no later than December 2017 to determine whether the concerns of the HLC Board identified in its action have been resolved and the Criteria for Accreditation have been met.

At its meeting in June 2018, the HLC Board will review materials related to this evaluation and determine whether the University can be removed from Probation. If the University has not resolved the HLC Board’s concerns that led to Probation, other action may be appropriate.

Q: What is the University’s position on the HLC probation?

A: While being on probation is not ideal, Highlands has accepted the HLC’s action. We see this as an opportunity to strengthen the systems, structures, and operations of Highlands University. Highlands will emerge from this process as a stronger and more efficient school, ready to face the challenges of the 21st century.

Any additional questions may be directed to Brandon Kempner at 505-454-3286, the Office of University Relations at universityrelations@nmhu.edu or 505-454-3387, or via e-mail at HLCinfo@nmhu.edu