New Mexico State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the largest of the regional accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. NMSU is following the HLC Open Pathway and our next comprehensive evaluation will take place in 2017. As part of this evaluation, a peer review visit will take place November 13 and 14.
Over the course of the next 13 months, I will periodically update you on the progress of our preparations for this comprehensive evaluation, and inform you of some of the criteria we must meet in order to maintain our accreditation.
How important is accreditation to NMSU? Quite simply, it is essential. Accreditation assures the outside world of the quality of our educational programs and makes NMSU eligible for federal financial aid programs, for federal research funds, and for federal grant programs. Very few institutions can survive the loss of accreditation.
One component of the criteria for accreditation that has received special emphasis from HLC in recent years addresses faculty qualifications (3.C.2). “All instructors are appropriately qualified, including those in dual credit, contractual, and consortial programs.”
The actual qualifications expected of faculty are detailed in HLC’s Assumed Practice B.2. In short, faculty members teaching in graduate programs are expected to have the terminal degree in their field. Faculty members teaching general education courses at the undergraduate level must have a master’s degree. If a faculty member is teaching outside his/her degree discipline, the faculty member is expected to have completed 18 graduate credits in the appropriate discipline.
In addition to meeting these requirements with respect to the qualifications of our faculty, NMSU must maintain thorough records documenting these qualifications.
I bring up faculty credentials in this Provost’s Post because Rule 5.14 on faculty credentials is now being considered by the Faculty Senate and other governance bodies in the NMSU system. It is important to understand that the rule was written to bring us into compliance with HLC requirements and that we have little to no flexibility in meeting these requirements.
I encourage everybody to read Rule 5.14 and bring any concerns you have about the rule to your department head, division head, or dean. While failure to comply with HLC requirements is not an option, helping faculty meet these requirements is a priority of NMSU.
With all best wishes,