Adams State disputes HLC action, requests reconsideration


Adams State University has requested the Board of the Higher Learning Commission, its accrediting agency, reconsider its recent action placing the university on probation.

"I assure you our accreditation remains intact," said Adams State President Beverlee J. McClure. "We are committed to helping our students succeed and to meeting accreditation criteria." She said the university is requesting the HLC action be changed from "probation" to a "notice."

Colorado Lt. Governor Joe Garcia, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education

Colorado Lt. Governor Joe Garcia, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, said, "Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado, has been an important part of our state's public higher education system since 1921. It has served generations of students in the San Luis Valley and beyond and has contributed to the economic vitality of Colorado. The Colorado Commission on Higher Education is optimistic that ASU's leadership will be able to work with its regional accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, to ensure the quality and rigor of its online course offerings and that it will demonstrate that it has acted quickly to meet all of the HLC's quality assurance requirements. The Colorado Department of Higher Education will continue to offer advice and support to ASU as its administration and governing board moves forward to resolve the issue."

The HLC action came more than a year after the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article recounting "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.

McClure said Adams State immediately began addressing this alleged issue and 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."

Last September 14-15, HLC conducted an Advisory Visit on campus to further explore the issue. The university received correspondence regarding the report on January 7. Adams State's response to the report reiterated it had already addressed all of the concerns raised in the initial Chronicle of Higher Education articles, none of which were identified in the advisory team report. The university has also made progress in addressing additional findings from the report.

This week, the HLC notified Adams State it was placed on probation effective February 26, 2016. HLC imposed the sanction immediately, prior to even notifying the institution.

"We are stunned by this action," McClure added. "We have been proactive in identifying and addressing concerns in a manner that demonstrates continuous improvement. It appears the HLC had already determined the outcome of this review and completely disregarded the actions we took to correct the situation. Prior to the HLC action, I made several requests to address the HLC Board directly and to speak with its president. Those requests were ignored. We have requested that HLC review all the information we had submitted, which I believe will lead to a reversal of this onerous decision."

By Julie Waechter