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Accrediting Body places Highlands on Probation

By Martin Salazar

The Higher Learning Commission has determined that New Mexico Highlands University is out of compliance with accreditation standards it is required to follow, and it has slapped the university with probation and asked university officials to correct the deficiencies.

Highlands was notified of the probation last week. If it manages to correct the problems soon, it could get off probation as soon as June 2018. The accrediting body notes in its letter that Highlands remains fully accredited despite the probation.

President San Minner told the Optic that he had been anticipating sanctions. Many of the concerns raised by the accrediting body go back 15 years, and Minner said he’s been told that one of the issues is that the university has a history of “starting and stopping” in its efforts to address the longstanding problems.

“I’m totally confident” this can be addressed within a year,” Minner said. “This is my responsibility now. The institution is in my care… This will be done or I will resign…”

Highlands spokesman Sean Weaver said that to the best of his knowledge, this is the first time Highlands has been placed on probation by its accrediting body.

Among the standards that the accrediting body said Highlands isn’t meeting are:

• Having the faculty and staff needed for effective, high-quality programs and student services.

• Providing support for student learning and effective teaching.

• Demonstrating a commitment to educational achievement and improvement through ongoing assessment of student learning.

• Demonstrating a commitment to educational improvement through ongoing attention to retention, persistence and completion rates.

• Having a resource base that supports the university’s current educational programs and its plans for maintaining and strengthening their quality in the future.

• Having governance and administrative structures that promote effective leadership and support collaborative processes that enable Highlands to fulfill its mission.

• Engaging in systematic and integrated planning.

The HLC also states that Highlands is at risk of being out of compliance with other standards: having a mission that is broadly understood within the institution and operating with integrity in its financial, academic, personnel and auxiliary functions as well as establishing and following fair and ethical policies and processes for its regents, administration, faculty and staff.

Minner noted that the university has already made progress in several of the areas that concern the accrediting body.

Highlands has already established a new division that focuses on recruitment and retention of students and on helping them complete their degrees. He said the university has also brought in more support for students and is doing a better job of identifying students who are at risk of dropping out so that it can provide additional services to them.

Highlands is required to present a report to the HLC  by Nov. 1, 2017 and to host an evaluation team by December 2017.

“I’m taking control of this myself,” Minner said. “We’ll be making a few other personnel decisions. Those individuals will be reporting to me. I’m going to take control of the situation.”

© 2016 Las Vegas Optic. Reprinted with permission.