ALAMOSA — Adams State University continues to build on its decades-old legacy of service to the San Luis Valley.
“The university is renewing its commitment to provide access to high-quality, affordable higher education to serve the workforce needs of Valley communities and beyond, to prepare students for professional and personal service, to support the 14 local school districts, and to transform families through building the economic prosperity that flows from higher education,” said Adams State President, Dr. Beverlee J. McClure.
McClure pointed to the new FUTURO Education initiative, Families Uniting To Unleash Rural Opportunities, as one example of a more coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to meeting the needs of current and future Adams State students. FUTURO Education launches with the fall semester and brings together dual university enrollment for high school students and adult education for both new and returning working adults.
Adams State is proactively addressing the findings of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which led to the university being placed on probation in March. The university remains fully accredited by HLC while it works to address the accreditor’s findings. The most challenging HLC findings were localized in the Office of Extended Studies (OES), which oversees the online and other distance learning programs of the university.
Demonstrating its commitment to fully address HLC’s concerns, which centered on high enrollment and insufficient interaction between faculty and students in a small number of distance learning courses, the university has undertaken a voluntary programmatic and fiscal audit of OES. The external evaluation is being conducted by Dr. David Mathieu of Minneapolis, Minnesota, former Associate Vice Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin system, who has decades of experience overseeing distance learning programs and guiding institutions through HLC reaffirmation.
Three employees of the university have been placed on administrative leave with pay for a one-week period while the audit is conducted. Their salaries and benefits are not impacted, and this action does not presuppose any wrongdoing on the part of these employees. The institution is committed to a thorough and independent audit, and must, therefore, remove any possible appearance of influencing the outcome, both for the protection of the university and these employees. They remain in good standing with the university, and their names are not being released by the university to protect their privacy. The university waited to issue this statement until the last of the third employees had been notified.
Additionally, the university has initiated new distance learning course development protocols and course evaluation tools and procedures. A new course overload policy will be implemented in the fall of this year to limit the number of courses and students that can be assigned to each faculty member in distance education. The university’s Academic Council, which consists of all academic department chairs, as well as the staff of OES, will receive training in best practices in online education at the beginning of the fall semester and throughout the academic year.
“As we prepare for our HLC comprehensive visit in April 2017, this university takes seriously the importance of maintaining accreditation and redoubles its commitments to academic excellence, transparency, and inclusion. It is our goal, indeed our most important focus, to work toward meeting and exceeding HLC’s expectations. We recognize the value of the peer evaluation model that drives regional accreditation and understand the primary goal of the process to be continuous improvement. Many universities come out of the reaffirmation process as stronger, more focused institutions, and we plan to be one of those,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Chris Gilmer. “We value our longstanding relationship with HLC and look forward to once again earning the organization’s fullest endorsement.”
According to McClure, both she and the Adams State Board of Trustees remain fully committed to the university’s mission as a teaching and service institution accessible to all qualified students, but especially to those who have been historically underserved, and taking pride in the university’s status as the oldest federally-designated Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) in Colorado.
“This institution remains strong, as does its resolve to work in partnership with HLC, the U.S. Department of Education, the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and all other entities that share our foundational commitment to student success,” she said.