New Mexico State University Alamogordo (NMSU-A) was established in 1958 on the grounds of the local high school, moving into its first campus building on the current hillside site in 1968. It is one of four community colleges within the New Mexico State University (NMSU) system, three of which are accredited independently. NMSU-A was first accredited in 1973 and has been continuously accredited since then. The most recent HLC comprehensive visit was in 2003. (The basic Institutional Snapshot of student demographics, enrollment, financial aid, faculty, technology, and finances is in Appendix A.)
As a comprehensive community college, NMSU‑A serves not only Alamogordo but all of Otero County and surrounding communities, including Holloman Air Force Base (HAFB), Tularosa, La Luz, Cloudcroft, Mayhill, Weed, Sacramento, Mescalero, and others, providing a variety of educational opportunities and services to its diverse communities. The college offers general education and other courses compatible with the first two years of bachelor’s degree programs at NMSU Las Cruces (NMSU‑LC) and other state universities. NMSU-A also offers career-technical courses and degree programs, while recent expansion of distance delivery capacity has made many NMSU-A courses available globally.
In addition to college level academic courses, NMSU-A offers basic skills courses and General Education Diploma (GED) preparation classes through the Adult Basic Education (ABE) program, while non-credit general interest courses are provided by the Community Education program which also facilitates workforce training opportunities.
The campus has continued to expand over the last decade to accommodate the needs of instruction and student support services. Recent building additions have been the Allied Health extension to the Reidlinger science building, and the Advanced Technology Center Phase I addition to the Tays Center complex. Both buildings received Gold Certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system. NMSU-A also added an Academic Support Center (ASC) building in 2007, and remodeled the Learning Technology Center (LTC), both largely funded through Title V—Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) grants.
These additions have expanded facilities already devoted to classroom instruction. Existing buildings include a library, a theater, a student union, a Student Services/Success center, a physical plant warehouse, a faculty office building, and the planetarium building co-owned with the New Mexico Museum of Space History. The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) moved onto campus in 2009 from an off-campus location. NMSU-A also continues to conduct classes regularly at the Education Center on HAFB just outside Alamogordo.
Of the four branch campuses of NMSU, three are accredited independently. NMSU-A’s accreditation follows:
- 1973. First independent accreditation as a branch community college in the NMSU system
- 1978. Accreditation, with no stipulations, reports, nor focused visits
- 1983. Accreditation, with no stipulations, reports, nor focused visits
- 1993. Accreditation, with no stipulations, reports, nor focused visits
- 2003. Accreditation, with follow-up reports on student learning assessment:
- 2004. Progress report on the development of a comprehensive plan for student learning assessment.
- 2006. Monitoring Report on the implementation of the plan for student learning outcomes assessment prepared for the progress report.
- 2008. Progress Report on assessing student learning.
Significant Developments since 2003
- Student Learning Assessment—The college has increased the quantity and quality of student learning assessment activities.
- Title V/HSI grant funding—NMSU-A in 2004 received both an individual institution Title V (Developing HSI) grant, as well as a cooperative Title V grant that was shared with NMSU Carlsbad (NMSU‑C). These two 5-year grants provided millions of dollars for investment in student support efforts. The individual grant was focused on development of student support systems that would help increase student retention and success, including funding for the construction of the NMSU-A ASC. The cooperative grant focused on the development of distance delivery capacity, online program development, and establishment of the NMSU-A LTC.
NMSU-A received an additional Title V grant that began in October 2010 entitled No Time to Lose: A Head Start in STEM Success. This $2.8 million, 5-year grant focuses on curricular redesign to promote student enrollment, degree completion and transfer in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. This grant also provides funds for creating an Information Technology Training and Certification Center.
NMSU-A also received an HSI STEM grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2011. The 5-year, $4.3 million grant is titled Strengthening Science, Engineering, and Energy Career Options (SECO) and includes the development of several new certificates and degrees. Performance measures required in annual reporting include those related to student retention, certificate and degree completion, and transfer to Bachelor’s degree programs in STEM fields. These efforts will include development of a model articulation plan–focusing on New Mexico 4-year institutions–to assure rigor and transferability in revisions of degree plans.
- Distance Delivery—Grant funding from the cooperative Title V grant increased NMSU-A’s distance delivery capacity, both technologically and through professional development training for faculty and staff, just as the NMSU system was going to a new data management platform—BANNER. Admissions and course registration processes were then available to students online, just as the NMSU system also implemented the WebCT Learning Management System (LMS). This combination of technological changes made it possible for any student within the NMSU system to have access to NMSU-A’s increasing online offerings.
- Enrollment Changes—The availability of NMSU-A’s course offerings to the entire NMSU system had significant impacts on student enrollments, with NMSU-A’s Fall 2006 headcount in 1989 increasing each subsequent semester to reach a peak in Fall 2011 at 3946 students. The increased enrollment also brought an increased diversity in students. These shifts in enrollment patterns have challenged the entire university system.
- Financial Stability—Rapid increases in enrollments in Alamogordo’s courses had significant impacts on the levels of funding from the state. Much of the increased enrollment was occurring at the time of the emergence of the national financial crisis, which had increasingly negative impacts on New Mexico’s state revenues as well. The net result for NMSU-A was essentially level funding from the state at the time most higher education institutions in the state were seeing significant decreases. This required the institution to provide for the needs of more students with nearly stable staffing levels.
- Staffing Challenges—Prior to the 2003 comprehensive visit, NMSU-A had been experiencing “considerable turnover in personnel at the highest levels of the administration” (2003 Team Report, p. 7). In subsequent years, greater stability in administrative personnel was achieved, with the exception of the senior position in Student Services/Success, which was impacted by retirements. Staff turnover has created new challenges for the college, especially in Student Services/Success. A new Vice President for Student Success (VPSS) was hired in 2012 to help address these issues. Staff turnover has also presented an opportunity to begin to address staff diversity concerns as well.
Purposes of the Self-Study
Early in the process of preparing the institutional Self-Study, specific goals were established:
- To examine NMSU-A’s effectiveness in carrying out its mission.
- To identify strengths and how to capitalize on them.
- To identify areas of concern and define strategies for improvement.
- To familiarize employees, communities, and constituencies with the roles and functions of the institution.
- To demonstrate that NMSU-A fulfills the five HLC criteria and meets all other continuing accreditation requirements.
- To obtain continued accreditation in 2013.
In April 2010, three Self-Study co-coordinators were appointed, who attended the HLC Annual Meeting in Chicago. Upon their return, the organizational structure was determined and Criterion Subcommittee Co-Chairs were named. A Kick-Off presentation was made in August 2010 informing the campus community about the upcoming Self-Study and the accreditation process. At this time there was an initial meeting of the Self-Study Steering Committee; these meetings continued monthly.
During Academic Year (AY) 2011, the Committee held Spotlight sessions to gather information and locate documentation relevant to the criteria. On March 17, 2011, Dr. John Taylor visited the college and discussed the impact of the changing criteria. At that time, NMSU-A decided to use the new revised criteria that would be finalized in February 2012. The co-coordinators, the technical writers, and top administrators attended the HLC Annual Meeting in Chicago in 2011.
For one year starting in Spring 2011, the Committee worked through multiple versions of the criteria and several Criterion Subcommittee Co-Chair and committee changes. Many of the Steering Committee members attended the HLC Annual Meeting in Chicago in 2012 as well as workshop sessions on the new criteria and the Open Pathways model. At the Annual Meeting in Chicago, it was announced that Dr. Taylor would be retiring in August 2012, and later Jeffrey Rosen was named as NMSU-A’s new liaison.
The Self-Study Report is the result of continuous work by the Steering Committee as well as by the NMSU-A college community as a whole. It contains an introduction, a response to the 2003 Self-Study Report, chapters addressing each of the five new HLC criteria, and concluding summary chapter, as well as requests for Reaffirmation of Accreditation and for Open Pathways. Also included is a substantive change application for distance delivery.
The Self-Study timeline outlines the Co-Coordinators and Steering Committee events and deadlines for the past three years.
Organization and Documentation of the Report
This Self-Study follows HLC’s stated criteria for accreditation. Each criterion and its subcomponents are addressed in the order they appear in HLC documentation. A hyperlinked Table of Contents is provided for easy navigation to specific criterion in the report.
Various hyperlinks have been used throughout the document and are intended to aid readers in finding information quickly. External hyperlinks to cited resources are provided throughout the document, and a comprehensive list of cited resources can be found in Appendix A. When particular sections of the report are referenced, internal links are provided to aid the reader in finding that specific place in the document.