Dr. Sunil Ahuja is visiting The University of New Mexico’s main campus on Wednesday and Thursday this week. He is vice president for accreditation relations with the Higher Learning Commission, UNM’s accreditor since 1922. To learn more about UNM’s accreditation process, see this video created by Associate Provost Greg Heileman.
Ahuja’s visit comes as UNM prepares for its next site visit in the 2018-19 academic year. Several committees have been working over the past two years collecting evidence and crafting a report, called an “assurance argument,” which will be completed prior to the site visit. Ahuja will provide guidance to the committees, and also inform the university community about the accreditation process, including recent changes to federal requirements.
The visit is not a formal part of the reaffirmation of accreditation process — when the site visit occurs, it will be conducted by a team of peer reviewers, made up of faculty and staff from other universities in the HLC’s north-central region. As UNM’s staff liaison with the HLC, Ahuja is the first contact whenever accreditation questions or issues arise. His visit next week is in support of the preparations being made for the site visit.
There are two opportunities for anyone in the community to learn more about the accreditation process. Ahuja will be giving a presentation to the Board of Regents’ Academic/Student Affairs and Research (ASAR) subcommittee on Thursday, Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. in the Roberts Room. Then, from 3-4 p.m., he will be in Scholes Hall room 246, for a “coffee hour,” which is open to everyone.
Accreditation is a mark of quality to the public, to other colleges and universities, and to employers. It certifies the quality of the University’s credits, which facilitates the transfer of students between institutions, and it certifies the quality of UNM’s education as a whole, a benefit to students applying for jobs or graduate programs. Finally, accreditation allows UNM to act as a gatekeeper for federal student aid and other funding, which amounts to approximately $180 million each year.
The university’s HLC accreditation, also referred to as “regional” accreditation, covers every aspect of UNM, including main campus, the Health Sciences Center, and the branch campuses. In addition to our HLC accreditation, the university has over 40 specialized accreditations, which similarly serve as a mark of quality to the public, though for individual programs and colleges.
Alongside the quality assurance process described above, the HLC also requires a Quality Improvement project. UNM chose as its quality improvement project the “First Year in High Gear” initiative, which was launched in 2012. The University’s work on the first year has helped reach all-time highs in retention of students the past two years.
The date for UNM’s site visit will be confirmed by the Higher Learning Commission by Oct. 14. The University selected four potential dates for a visit: in Fall 2018, the potential dates are Oct. 8 and 22, and in Spring 2019, March 4 and 25.