Accreditation team begins evaluation of Colorado Mesa University

A team of five evaluators will visit Colorado Mesa University today through Wednesday as part of a once-a-decade process the school goes through to maintain its accreditation.

Accreditation allows a college or university’s students to qualify for financial aid, makes transferring credits easier, and means a school’s degrees are more likely to count for something on a resume. Colorado Mesa is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, which is sending the five evaluators to campus to interview students, faculty, staff, and community members. The evaluators are executives from universities in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and North Dakota.

Evaluators will compile a report based on what they find during the visit and a second group of people will review that report and make recommendations about whether the school should stay accredited and if certain parts of the report should be revised. The final decision on accreditation for Colorado Mesa likely will be made in April, according to Colorado Mesa Vice President of Academic Affairs Carol Futhey.

The reaffirmation of accreditation process began for Colorado Mesa in the spring of 2011, when a large group of faculty and staff formed a steering committee and a cluster of subcommittees focused on the five criteria by which evaluators judge a school, including quality of instruction, ethics and how well a school sticks to its mission.

Committee members assembled a self-study that was finalized this fall as part of the reaffirmation of the accreditation process. The study points out various strengths and weaknesses committee members found in the college. Strengths included responding to business needs on the Western Slope and having a safe campus.

Some areas the university plans to work on after the self-study include better differentiating the role and operations of Western Colorado Community College, increasing student and faculty diversity, appealing more to potential graduate students and making sure students who take a Colorado Mesa class at a high school through the High School Scholars program experience the same rigor as a student who takes the class on-campus.

Colorado Mesa President Tim Foster said the process has been long but a good chance for the school to self-reflect and for committee members to speak with numerous people at the university about their successes and concerns. During the more than two-year process, said Foster, some requirements of the process have changed and some areas identified as issues have already been resolved, causing re-writes and edits to the self-study.

“It certainly has been thorough,” he said.


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