FAQ: What you need to know about accreditation probation

Adams State University is committed to student success and to meeting accreditation criteria. This FAQ gives information to commonly asked questions regarding the recent placement of Adams State under Accreditation Probation by our accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

All of the issues identified by the HLC have already been addressed or are in the process of being addressed through changes in policy, procedure, and program oversight.

Adams State University remains fully accredited up until the final decision is made in February 2018, when we are confident the probationary status will be removed.

View further documentation.

Any additional questions may be directed to the Vice President of Student Services Ken Marquez via email or phone: 719-587-7221.

Q: What does probation means for a current student's degree?

A: Adams State remains fully accredited during the probation period. Other institutions of higher education will continue to accept ASU credits in transfer or for admission to a program at a higher level. Accreditation probation will have no impact on federal funding, including financial aid available to students.

Q: Would a completed degree be recognized by other institutions? Would a student be able to get into graduate school? Would credits transfer to an accredited institution?

A: The decision to accept or not accept credits from another institution, whether accredited or unaccredited, always remains with the receiving institution. Concerned students should contact institutions they are considering transferring to and determine the answers to these questions. At all times while on sanction, ASU remains fully accredited and students remain eligible for Title IV funds. Students will be considered to have graduated from an accredited institution, even though the institution is on sanction. Institutions remain accredited, unless and until the Commission withdraws accreditation

Q: Who is the HLC and what is accreditation?

A: The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is one of several regional and national organizations that accredit colleges and universities. It is a private educational association, not a government agency. Accreditation is an important indication that a college/university is operating acceptably. According to the U.S. Department of Education, "Accrediting agencies . . . develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to assess whether . . . those criteria are met. Institutions and/or programs that request an agency's evaluation and that meet an agency's criteria are then 'accredited' by that agency."

Q: Why is ASU on probation?

A: At its February 25, 2016, meeting, the Board of Trustees for the Higher Learning Commission placed Adams State University on probation because it found the university is out of compliance with one Core Component of one of several Criteria for Accreditation. This component concerns policies that govern online distance education courses through ASU Extended Studies.

Read the HLC notification of Action letter.

Q: What is Accreditation Probation?

A: Probation is a public status signifying that an accredited institution is no longer in compliance with one or more of HLC's Criteria for Accreditation. Adams State University's accreditation remains in effect during the probation period, during which time we will address HLC's recommendations. Adams State will provide evidence that we have corrected the deficiencies identified as part of the probation decision. Once we document we have corrected the deficiencies and complied with HLC criteria, ASU will return to normal accreditation status with no lapse in accreditation. The HLC's Board of Trustees will review extensive documentation and results of a campus visit to make a determination at its February 2018 meeting.

Q: What prompted the HLC review?

A: This issue had its genesis in a Chronicle of Higher Education article published in late 2014. It recounted "Confessions of a Fixer," an unidentified person who made a business of cheating to help academically ineligible student-athletes at other institutions. He admitted to falsifying information and posing as the athletes to take exams for correspondence course transfer credit through Adams State Extended Studies. No Adams State coaches or student-athletes were involved.

Q: What actions has Adams State taken and what else must it do to ensure uninterrupted accreditation?

A: Adams State has been proactive in identifying and addressing concerns in a manner that demonstrates continuous improvement. We immediately commissioned reports with recommendations from two external entities, including the Colorado Department of Higher Education. That review, submitted in May, found "no evidence of instances of ignoring guidelines or policies . . . or negligence. In some areas, the institution had already identified procedural changes to address issues related to [student] authentication and academic integrity, and had begun to initiate those changes."

The initial issues that prompted the HLC advisory visit last September were resolved over the last year. The advisory visit revealed one additional area of concern in online courses, and we have made significant progress in correcting those findings. We will continue to collect and document evidence for an HLC peer review team in the coming year. We are confident we will have addressed the areas of concern and that Adams State University's accreditation will continue uninterrupted.

Timeline

  • By May 1, 2017, the university must file an Assurance Filing that provides evidence it has ameliorated the findings of non-compliance identified in this action that resulted in the imposition of probation and providing evidence that it meets the Criteria for Accreditation, the Core Components, Federal Compliance Requirements, and the Assumed Practices.
  • By August 2017, the university must host a comprehensive evaluation by HLC.
  • In February 2018, the HLC Board of Trustees will review the team report and related documents to determine whether the institution has demonstrated it is now in compliance with all Criteria for Accreditation and whether Probation can be removed, or if the University has not demonstrated compliance, whether accreditation should be withdrawn.

Q: What if in two years the HLC revokes Adams State's accreditation?

A: In the extremely unlikely event that HLC withdraws accreditation from an institution, the institution is typically required to prepare a teach-out plan and as needed, teach-out agreements with other institutions that will enable students to graduate from an accredited institution, despite the withdrawal of accreditation. Institutions also typically provide transfer assistance to students who do not avail themselves of teach-out arrangements.