ASU heading back on academic track

ALAMOSA — Though Adams State University's financials and low enrollment are still an issue, the institution can take a quick breather knowing its efforts are working. The Higher Learning Commission site visiting team recently recommended that the sanction of "Probation" be removed from ASU.

ASU was placed on probation in 2016 due to a lack of oversight in the online learning and written correspondence course in the Extended Studies program. HLC visited this past November to review the state of ASU and the final report was released last week

"I was thrilled, and I think this is echoed by others on the leadership team, to see that we have a positive recommendation," said Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Margaret Doell during a special ASU Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday to discuss the news.

The HLC site visiting team determined that three of the five criteria were met while two were “met with concern.” Work needs to be done with regards to improving general education and financial stability, but nevertheless the report commended ASU for their progress.

"Really neither of them was a surprise," said Doell, "given that we had really not been assessing gen ed and given the financial condition of the university...I think we came off pretty well having it be 'met with concerns' rather than 'not met.'"

A follow up visit will be required in June 2020, giving the university only two years to fix a budgetary shortfall instead of the expected three years. The amount is constantly in flux but ASU needs somewhere between $2.1 million and $3 million—likely $2.7 million with the return visit happening sooner than anticipated —in annual revenue.

Cuts have yet to be implemented, but the board stressed on Wednesday that the in-progress contingency plan is now ASU's regular financial plan.

"This is our financial plan," said ASU Board of Trustees Chair Cleave Simpson. "It is no longer contingent on something. This is what we have to do. We're committed to working with everyone involved to truly make this successful and it's going to be truly difficult."

To set an example and help finances, the trustees unanimously approved cancellation of the board retreat and conference in San Francisco, California. Instead the summer retreat will occur locally in the San Luis Valley.

"It would not speak very well of us if we were to spend money on a retreat when we're asking for the university to cut expenses," said ASU Board of Trustees Vice Chair Kathleen Rogers.

"I completely agree that we ought to be doing this as local as possible and as cheap as possible," added Trustee Reeves Brown.

The board also thanked Doell and her team for their hard work in ensuring a positive recommendation from the HLC.

"Thank you," Rogers said. "I don't think it could be said enough. You guys are amazing to pull this off. You did a very fine job and we so appreciate your hard work."

"To pull that together to get the suggested outcome from the site team is really a tribute to the folks that comprise this institution," Simpson said.

It is important to note that the HLC's report is only a recommendation. By March 23 ASU President Beverlee McClure will submit a response to the HLC containing updated info and supporting documentation on initiatives that happened since the November visit. McClure will then meet before the Institutional Action Council on April 23 and the IAC can change the recommendation if warranted. On June 28 and 29 the HLC board will make their final recommendation.

The entire HLC report can be read online here.