Response to the 2003 Accreditation Report

The 2003 Higher Learning Commission (HLC) Review Team focused on student learning assessment at NMSU-A as needing follow-up attention by the Commission, but the team Report also identified a number of additional opportunities for advancing the institution, and praised several exemplary practices.

The 2003 Team’s recommendations and suggestions have been addressed by NMSU-A over the last ten years. However, these institutional efforts have proceeded in ways that are not easily reduced to the separate categories found in the 2003 Report. NMSU-A embraced much of the report’s advice, but a summary of actions taken by the college necessitates combining topics that were separated in 2003. The following brief response to the 2003 Accreditation Report combines that document’s separate areas of comment under single headings. Each of these areas is discussed in greater detail throughout this report. Combined areas of discussion are presented under the following headings:

  • Student Learning Assessment
  • Human Resources/Personnel
    • * Administrative Turnover
    • * Staff Diversity
    • * Academic Administration Reorganization
    • * Non-exempt Staff Union
  • Planning and Grant Funding
  • Community Needs Survey
  • Technology and Distance Delivery
  • Enrollment Increases and Financial Stability
  • Community Outreach
  • Facilities and Grounds

Student Learning Assessment

NMSU-A had recently implemented several student learning assessment initiatives at the time of the last comprehensive visit. Previous assessment efforts as well as these initiatives lacked a history of continuity, which the 2003 Review Team partly attributed to the lack of administrative stability at key academic leadership positions. In response to these concerns, the Team recommended two follow-up reports on student learning assessment at NMSU-A:

  • 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.

Following the 2006 Monitoring Report, the HLC required an additional follow-up report in 2008 to focus on NMSU-A’s continuing progress in assessing student learning. The 2003 Review Team had identified several concerns with student learning assessment practices at the institution, including:

  • a lack of a systematic process for program review,
  • a lack of assessment of general education, and
  • a lack of systematic feedback of assessment results to faculty and students.

NMSU-A has increased both the quantity and quality of student learning assessment activities over the last 10 years. The fledgling Academic Assessment Committee of 2003 has evolved into three different assessment committees (see 4.B). Each committee is primarily concerned with student learning at the level of the course, program, or institution:

  • Teaching and Learning Committeecourse and classroom learning assessment, and professional development activities in support of student learning and assessment;
  • Program Assessment Committee (PAC)—academic program and area assessments, including student learning assessment;
  • General Education Assessment Committee (GEAC)—implementation of the Institutional Portfolio model of assessment for NMSU-A’s general education learning expectations for graduating students.

Assessment practices at NMSU-A continue to develop by emphasizing the availability of faculty opportunities for assessment training, including bringing experts to the college to provide workshops, and by providing additional funding for faculty and staff to attend regional and national conferences. These professional development opportunities are possible because of increased support through regular college funding, and as a result of grant funding. Faculty members are giving presentations on assessment at regional and national conferences, sometimes by invitation.

In addition to greater faculty involvement and committee oversight, assessment efforts have been more fully integrated into institutional planning and budgeting activities. However, greater student participation in the evaluation of outcomes assessment results is still needed. A full discussion of the ongoing evolution of student learning assessment at NMSU-A, as well as identification of additional opportunities for improvement, can be found in this Report under Criterion 4.

Human Resources/Personnel

Administrative Turnover

The 2003 Review Team concluded that “[f]requent changes in high-level administrative positions, particularly the Chief Academic Officer, in recent years have created a sense of instability among the faculty and classified employees” at NMSU-A (A Report of a Comprehensive Evaluation Visit, April 28-30, 2003, for the HLC, p. 9). 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). During the years since that visit, greater stability in administrative personnel has been achieved. Current occupants of NMSU-A’s senior administrative positions are listed in Table 1, along with the date the individual started in the position:


Table 1: Administrative Officers

Chief Executive Officer NMSU-A President Dr. Cheri Jimeno 2007
Chief Academic Officer Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Debra Teachman 2003
Chief Financial Officer Vice President for Business & Finance Mr. Tony Salinas 2007
Chief Student Services Officer Vice President for Student Success Dr. Juan García 2012


The 2003 Review Team also identified changes in the university’s reporting structures as an important development at that time, “The recently changed organizational relationship of NMSU-A with NMSU‑LC has the potential for partnership in offering additional degree programs to students and may thus facilitate even more effective fulfillment of the institution’s mission.” Previously, the two-year college Chief Executive Officers had reported to the NMSU Dean of the College of Health and Social Services, but in 2000-01 the NMSU-A CEO began reporting to the NMSU Provost.

It was noted in 2003 that the new reporting structure allowed the two-year colleges in the system to maintain more independent positions than they had in the past. Strengthening of the two-year colleges’ independence increased further when the two-year college Presidents began to report directly to the President of NMSU. A period of transition in senior administration of NMSU-LC, beginning in 2007, resulted in one individual serving as both Interim President and Provost of NMSU, leading to some confusion about the formal reporting structure at that time. The NMSU-A President began officially reporting exclusively to the new President of NMSU in 2010.

The 2003 Review Team also identified the pending wave of retirements among faculty and staff as an opportunity to address other long term leadership and staff diversity issues. The Team was very prescient in this case, as staff turnover due to retirements and resignations began to increase, with challenging consequences for Student Services/Success which had been described as an Exemplary Practice in the 2003 Team Report. The VPSS retired in 2006, and the Director of Admissions resigned in 2007. In following years, there was turnover of personnel in all staff positions in Admissions, and nearly all in Advising. This significantly impacted quality of services in these areas. An internally generated report on Advising was produced in 2009 as follow-up to student feedback provided through the Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI) in Fall 2007. NMSU-A subsequently contracted with an outside consultant in 2011 to provide additional perspectives on Student Services/Success concerns. High staff turnover has continued in recent years, including the retirement of another VPSS. A new VPSS was hired in Spring 2012, and is bringing innovative approaches to the issues identified in the reports.

Staff Diversity

An inadequately resolved challenge concerning a lack of diversity among NMSU-A faculty and staff was identified by the visiting Team in 2003, just as it was during the 1993 comprehensive visit. The need for greater faculty and staff diversity continues to be a challenge for the institution, although significant progress has been made with respect to diversity among the college’s senior administrators. Comparison of personnel demographic categories in 2002 with those of 2012 reveal relatively few changes in diversity, with the exception of a significant shift in the percentage of regular faculty who are female, from 45 percent to 64 percent. Shifts in staff demographics, specifically the percentage of minority among service/maintenance workers, seen in Table 2, are not due to real changes but to reclassifications of positions as a result of the 2008 Mercer Study commissioned by NMSU as part of a review of University faculty and staff pay structures.

Table 2: NMSU-A Staff Diversity

2002 2012
Secretarial/Clerical 28 100.0% 42.9% 30 93.30% 33.30%
Service/Maintenance 14 57.1% 64.3% 11 36.40% 18.20%
Professional 23 65.2% 21.7% 23 56.50% 26.10%
Regular Faculty 53 45.3% 17.0% 53 64.20% 18.90%
Temporary Faculty* 71 64.8% 15.5% 97 58.80% 12.40%

*Data for Temporary Faculty prior to 2004 are unreliable; 2004 information is used for this category instead.

The Mercer faculty salary study was completed in 2008 and subsequent adjustments were made to faculty salaries in January 2009. The Mercer Study of staff resulted in a new classification and pay-level structure for staff positions. These changes were implemented effective January 1, 2011, when all regular staff positions were converted to the new classification structure.

Some of the shift in minority status percentages between 2002 and 2012 also may be due to changes in ethnicity/race categories used by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), beginning with the 2010 census.

NMSU-A hired an employee search firm in 2009 to aid in recruitment of staff and faculty, especially for positions that typically have too few qualified applicants. The college has made additional efforts to recruit diverse employees by advertising in select publications. For example, offers a special Affirmative Action (AA) package that NMSU-A routinely uses. Some positions are advertised in specialized journals, such as nursing faculty positions, which are advertised in Minority Nurse.

Academic Administration Reorganization

Increases in the number of temporary faculty in recent years were largely due to the increase in online instruction at NMSU-A. There were 53 regular faculty members in both 2002 and 2012, but temporary faculty of 64 in 2002 had increased to 97 by 2012. (In 2002, several of the NMSU-A regular faculty were actually part-time, with this number decreasing in recent years as many of these positions have been moved to regular full-time status.) The resulting changes in workload for faculty supervisors, specifically NMSU-A’s three Division Heads, emphasized the need to reorganize academic administrative structures to be sure the larger number of temporary faculty were appropriately supervised and mentored. Academic administration reorganization was implemented in August 2011 with Assistant Division Heads (ADHs) now supervising all temporary part-time faculty. This provides much needed support to these instructors, including assistance developing quality assessment methods. The change in the academic administrative structure also provided more time for regular faculty to devote to instruction rather than administrative tasks.

The stable number of regular faculty over the last decade has impacted their non-instructional workload, as the increases in enrollment and opportunities opened up with grant funding have left less time for ongoing committee work. The committee work is necessary for full participation in the shared governance structures at the college (see 2.C.4).

Non-Exempt Staff Union

Non-exempt employees at NMSU-A began to be covered by a union agreement between NMSU and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) in 2007. Additional information on the union agreement can be found on the NMSU website and in the Agreement between NMSU and AFSCME-Local 2393.

Planning and Grant Funding

The 2003 Team expressed concern about the low number of graduates from occupational programs at NMSU-A, and the need to conduct more systematic needs analysis, especially in relation to possible new programs that could lead to local economic development for the district. NMSU-A began almost immediately to address this concern, along with two other HLC Team recommendations:

  • the need to pursue Title V grant funding
  • the need to fully develop distance delivery capabilities.

Two major initiatives were taken to address these recommendations.

First, Title V grants were aggressively pursued. Two grant proposals were developed simultaneously with the help of an outside consulting firm. Grant proposal development included a comprehensive analysis of student needs and detailed five-year plans for addressing those needs with the help of grant funding. Two Title V grant proposals were written in Spring 2004, an individual institution grant, and a cooperative proposal developed with NMSU-A’s sister two-year college, NMSU‑C. The proposals included comprehensive analyses of issues identified in the 2003 Self-Study process, including:

  • Need to better address the diversity of area students
  • Threats to future financial stability, and ongoing budget constraints
  • Recent periods of enrollment declines
  • Need for greatly increasing distance delivery capacity
  • Need to improve technology infrastructure
  • Need for technology fees

The proposals were successful, and in 2004 NMSU-A received both an individual institution Title V (Developing HSI) grant, as well as a cooperative Title V grant shared with NMSU‑C. These two 5-year grants provided $4.3 million for investment in student support efforts. The individual grant focused on development of student support systems to 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. These grants ended in 2009.

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 STEM fields, and provides funds for creating an Information Technology Training and Certification Center.

NMSU-A also received an HIS STEM grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2011. The 5-year, $4.3 million grant is titled SECO and includes the development of several new certificates and degrees. The grant’s annual performance report includes measures related to facilities improvements, student enrollment and 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.

NMSU-A has consistently used strategic planning to guide continuous institutional improvement. The current Strategic Plan (2009-14) has helped maintain momentum developed from the 2003 comprehensive visit and subsequent follow-up reports, along with the major innovations introduced with the two Title V grants (2004-09). Integration of strategic planning with assessment and budget practices clearly has been beneficial to the institution.

Community Needs Survey

NMSU-A worked with the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce, Otero County Economic Development Council (OCEDC), and other community groups in 2007 to develop a survey of local economic development needs. The results were used to identify occupational programs needing development, including facilities and technology support for these programs. Area residents were then asked to approve a General Obligation (GO) Bond to provide funding for the building to house the proposed automotive technologies, and renewable energies programs previously identified by the community. In April 2008, 71 percent of Otero County taxpayers evidenced their support of NMSU-A by passing a GO Bond to create Phase I of the Advanced Technology Center at NMSU-A. Phase I was completed in November 2010 using Green technologies in construction of the building, which received LEED Gold certification. In 2012, OCEDC brought in Foote Consulting Group to complete an economic development strategic plan for the county. NMSU-A participated in the study and in the Strategic Plan.

Technology and Distance Delivery

Grant funding from the cooperative Title V grant helped increase NMSU-A’s distance delivery capacity by 2006-07, both technologically and through professional development training for faculty and staff. In addition, the NMSU system was implementing the student portion of a new data management platform—BANNER—in Fall 2006. NMSU also had recently begun using the WebCT LMS for online course offerings. For the first time, all NMSU students were able to conduct admissions and course registration processes online during the November 2006 period of registration for Spring 2007 classes. This combination of technological changes made it possible for any student within the NMSU system to have access to NMSU-A’s increasing number of online offerings.

In 2009, the NMSU-A President and the head of the Information Technology department spoke to the student government about implementing a $2.00 per credit campus technology fee to help in replacing and purchasing new technology equipment for students. A survey was completed by students in Spring 2009 approving a technology fee, and in Spring 2010 the NMSU Board of Regents approved the fee, which was then implemented in Summer 2010. Students taking distance delivery courses additionally pay a separate online course fee. A Technology Fee Committee, that includes an equal number of faculty/staff and students, was created in 2010 to review and approve applications for hardware and software that will be used for instruction in computer labs and/or other classroom environments. Implementation of a technology fee was strongly recommended by the 2003 Team.

Enrollment Increases and Financial Stability

The availability of Alamogordo’s course offerings to the entire NMSU system had significant impacts on student enrollments, with NMSU-A’s Fall 2006 headcount at 1989 subsequently increasing each semester until reaching a peak in Fall 2011 at 3946 students. The increased enrollment brought with it an increasingly diverse student body. These shifts in enrollment patterns due to the changes in technology and the availability of online courses brought many challenges to the entire university system.

Despite increases in enrollment, state funding has remained almost level due to decreasing state revenues. Many state colleges experienced decreasing state funding. Continuing challenges of the economy, along with growing emphasis on online learning, have prompted NMSU-A to reach out to potential students in new ways while finding more budget-conscious means of providing services. The college is steadily moving toward more electronic processes in all practices, from more electronic library services to changes in marketing strategies. A recently appointed Social Media Task Force is researching new opportunities opened by internet and cell phone technologies. These considerations have also impacted auxiliary services, including a change from in-house bookstore services to contracting with Barnes and Noble.

Long range fiscal health also is being enhanced with further development of the NMSU-A Foundation (formerly the Alamogordo Foundation). The Title V grant received in 2010 includes a component focusing on the Foundation’s endowment by providing matching funds to those raised by the NMSU-A Foundation. To help sustain new programs beyond the grant, financial gifts to the Foundation will be matched with funds specific to this grant project of up to $231,000. NMSU-A will invest the principal and at least 50 percent of interest income for 20 years after the project ends.

Community Outreach

NMSU-A has continued to expand on the community outreach efforts present in 2003, several of which were identified by the 2003 HLC Team as exemplary. These efforts include education opportunities for military at HAFB, the Abitur program for local German students, the SBDC, and Dual Credit opportunities for high school students.

NMSU-A’s recent enrollment initiatives are not confined to increased online course offerings. Staff work with local high schools to encourage their students to attend college early, but the New Mexico Higher Education Department (NMHED), in response to initiatives from the state legislature, began in 2007 to draft new rules for Dual Credit availability. Currently, the NMHED annually approves courses appropriate for Dual Credit. NMSU-A’s advising staff works with counselors from area high schools to help their students identify courses they can take for Dual Credit. The number of Dual Credit students at NMSU-A has steadily increased since the establishment of the state regulations. Students from nearly all of the area high schools now attend regular college courses at NMSU-A for Dual Credit.

The 2003 Team praised NMSU-A’s efforts to re-establish the Community Education program, reintroduced to NMSU-A in 2002, in partnership with the Alamogordo Public Schools (APS) system which provides partial funding for the program. Community Education has continued to broaden the variety of non-credit courses offered for lifelong learning such as art, dance, health and wellness, and languages. Professional Development Training classes, designed to help businesses, agencies, and industries improve employee performance and productivity, are increasingly available through Community Education.

NMSU-A’s educational offerings through the HAFB Learning Center were also praised by the 2003 HLC Team. HAFB continues to be the largest employer in Alamogordo. In 2010, NMSU-A was named a military-friendly school by GI Jobs Magazine. Military veterans are becoming an increasingly important part of the NMSU-A student body; in 2012 the college moved its part-time veteran’s coordinator to full-time status. Another change to better serve the veteran population was the renovation of space in the Student Union Building for a Veterans Lounge, and the formation of a veterans student group in 2011. NMSU-A also continues to conduct classes regularly at the Education Center on HAFB.

NMSU-A continues the Abitur program as a service to the local German population associated with the presence of the German Air Force (GAF), which established the GAF Tactical Center in 1996 at HAFB. In partnership with the GAF, NMSU-A instituted its Abitur program, which is designed to help bridge the differences between the German and the U.S. educational systems. NMSU-A’s agreement with five German states makes it possible for German citizens who complete the Associate of Arts degree at the college to simultaneously meet the admissions requirements for the German university system (see 5.C.5 for details).

The SBDC moved from an off-campus location into the technical education building on campus in 2009. This increases the convenience with which students at NMSU-A can make use of the SBDC’s services, while exposing SBDC clients to the college’s educational possibilities.

Facilities and Grounds

The 2003 HLC Team repeatedly complimented NMSU-A on facilities and grounds during the last comprehensive visit. The college has attempted to improve on that foundation as new programs and student support services are added. The campus continued to expand capacity during the last ten years, adding an ASC in 2007, which now houses tutoring services and a testing center. Grant funding also supported remodeling of another campus building to house the LTC. Foreign language labs have also been upgraded since the last comprehensive visit.

Recent improvements to facilities have been conducted with an awareness of the college’s commitment to sustainability. The Allied Health building, as an extension to the main science building, was completed in 2009 in response to the increasing need for well-trained nurses and nursing assistants and houses the Nursing, Nursing Assistant, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) programs. The building received Gold Certification from the LEED green building rating system.

In relation to NMSU-A’s response to the local community’s call for more career-technical programs, the Advanced Technology Center, Phase I was completed in November 2010. This building, now the home of the automotive and renewable energy programs, also received LEED Gold certification.

In 2009, with the help of the City of Alamogordo, NMSU-A installed the state’s first solar-powered Smart Crosswalk. Increased pedestrian crossing of the main street between Student Services/Success and a convenient parking lot had raised concerns about safety. Traffic on the street was also increasing due to the large number of medical facilities being built north of the college. NMSU-A also is moving increasingly to sustainable landscaping and maintenance practices, in addition to inclusion of sustainability concerns in building construction and pedestrian safety.


[Return to Table of Contents]