Self-Study Report Summary/Conclusion
Based upon the description and evidence presented above, NMSU-A respectfully requests that the Higher Learning Commission:
- Grant continuing accreditation for the college;
- Grant its Substantive Change Application for Distance Delivery initiation and expansion in accordance with recent changes in definition; and
- Move the college’s reaccreditation process from PEAQ to Open Pathways.
Criterion One: Mission
NMSU-A is a comprehensive community college within a land grant university system. It is a public institution providing, according to its mission statement, “quality learning opportunities for individuals in the diverse communities we serve.” The college offers the two-year associate degree to a widely diverse community, including:
- Local students of all ages and ethnicities (from Dual Credit high school students to senior citizens);
- Military members from HAFB and their families;
- GAF members at HAFB and their families;
- Local Hispanic students (NMSU-A is officially designated as a HSI);
- Native American students from the Mescalero Apache Reservation;
- Students from the mountain communities near Alamogordo, and
- The community as a whole with theatrical, artistic, civic, and other college-sponsored events.
Foremost among NMSU-A’s strengths is dedication to the success of its students, with an encouraging approach evidenced by the mission’s undergirding of a yearly updated Strategic Plan which addresses all areas of college operation. The mission is stated publicly and within every course syllabus.
Criterion Two. Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct
Subject to both federal and state statutes and administrative rules, NMSU-A follows strict rules of financial and academic responsibility. Through a variety of sources, including a comprehensive website, a Course Catalog, Student Handbook, and other policy and procedural publications, students (as well as faculty and staff) are exposed to the criteria for ethical and responsible conduct under which the campus operates.
A gubernatorially-appointed NMSU Board of Regents governs major decisions of the entire university system, but leaves academic decisions to the faculty and academic administration. NMSU-A is also answerable to an Advisory Board, which is by statute, the APS Board. The Advisory Board considers financial planning and budgets of the campus. The relationship between NMSU-A, the NMSU Board of Regents, and the NMSU-A Advisory Board is controlled by a MOU. Finally, each community college in the NMSU system is administered by a campus president “under the cognizance of the NMSU president.”
Academic issues are administered by each community college president with oversight by the executive vice president and provost of NMSU. Students receive guidance in the ethical use of information resources, with policies on ethical use enforced by faculty within each course.
Criterion Three: Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support
NMSU-A has processes to assure the quality of educational programs, learning environments, and support services including:
- An emphasis on small classes, most capped at 30 students or less;
- Online course offerings that are comparable in rigor and content with face-to-face classes;
- Internships and clinical studies providing workplace skills and experience;
- Technological support including laboratories and classroom technology facilitating both teaching and learning;
- Sustainable, award-winning facilities that are maintained in a pristine and pleasant condition;
- Constantly evolving and improving curriculum and assessment practices in accordance with an annually-reviewed and updated Strategic Plan;
- An expanding ethnic diversity in top administrators;
- A variety of working committees that involve both administrators and faculty in shared governance
- An expanding ethnic diversity and engagement of students
Criterion Four: Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement
Since the last HLC visit in 2003, the campus has made dramatic strides in evolving and improving its assessment practices. Following are some of the improvements that have been made:
- Three committees particularly tasked to review and improve assessment at (1) the course level (Teaching and Learning Committee) (2) the program level (Program Assessment Committee), and (3) the institutional level (the General Education Assessment Committee) have been created. Results of assessment from each of these levels are used throughout the college for adjustments to educational practices.
- Program assessment has increased its emphasis on student learning outcomes.
- Many faculty members have received extensive training in best practices of assessment, sharing that knowledge with other faculty members as well as faculty and staff from other institutions through regional and national conference presentations.
- An annual timeline for student learning assessment activities and reporting has been developed.
- Dual Credit student numbers are increasing. NMSU-A integrates Dual Credit students into regular college classes; it does not offer sections that are specifically for Dual Credit students.
- Through the CLAM process, the college is assuring that its online and face-to-face offerings are comparable.
Criterion Five: Resources, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness
NMSU-A is a careful steward of its resources, making sure that it operates effectively and in keeping with its mission and values through strategic planning and budgeting:
- Fiscal health of the college is supported by a strong reserve fund for emergency situations and an emphasis on increasing the NMSU-A Foundation endowment to provide appropriate support to the college in the future.
- NMSU-A has a highly credentialed faculty and staff, many holding doctorate degrees, with a constant emphasis on continuing professional development. Funding for professional development is provided by the college.
- A national search is held for each faculty and administrative position, with a search committee assessing qualifications of all applicants and noting strengths and concerns for finalists; hiring decisions are made by NMSU-A administration with HRS and NMSU system Provost approval.
- The process of annual updates and three year program reviews has been revised and streamlined to an annual Program Review for each program, which should meld into the upcoming HLC Pathways process.
- The governing board (the NMSU Board of Regents) has meetings throughout the system, including NMSU-A. Reports from the Presidents of all NMSU system campuses are made at the meetings.
- Institutional effectiveness is constantly monitored through the Strategic Plan process, and an IT Plan keeps the college current with the latest technological advances.
- NMSU-A has developed a transparent, sound fiscal management practice providing funding for academic support as well as special projects and facility maintenance.
Opportunities for Improvement and Other Concerns
Some of the strengths noted above also hold opportunities for continued improvement. Opportunities for improvement and concerns are addressed at the conclusion of the discussion of each criterion throughout the document. Among these are:
- Assessment: Although dramatic progress has been made in assessment practices during the past decade, more remains to be accomplished. For example, the CLAM process needs to be continued and expanded to provide further refinement of learning objectives and assessment in all courses.
- Student Services: Although a solid start towards the level of improved services NMSU-A students need and deserve has been established within Student Services, that start must be built upon, in order to develop a truly exemplary Student Services/Success program.
- NMSU‑LC: The relationship between the NMSU Community Colleges and NMSU‑LC needs to be enhanced in order to better meet the educational needs of our students.