HLC Downgrades SIPI’s Accreditation to Candidate

Nov 15th, 2010 | By | Category: 22-2: Crossing Borders, Winter 2010, Tribal College News

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) Board of Trustees has withdrawn accreditation from the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI, Albuquerque, NM) and simultaneously granted SIPI candidate status. The commission made its decision on June 24 following a comprehensive evaluation site visit in December 2009.

According to the HLC, the regional accreditation agency, SIPI no longer met the criteria for accreditation. But the institution’s plans indicate SIPI is “likely” to meet the criteria within the four-year period allowed by commission policy for candidacy.

Accreditation is crucial to educational institutions since it affects funding and students’ ability to transfer their credits. In the United States, colleges and universities voluntarily seek accreditation from nongovernmental bodies, such as the HLC. The HLC is a commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

By granting candidate status, the HLC board reduced the impact of its decision. SIPI will retain its status as a regular member of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and still receive funds from the American Indian College Fund, according to a spokeswoman for the Fund.

According to the HLC public disclosure notice on its website, the decision to accept students’ transfer credits is up to the receiving institution, and many postsecondary institutions will accept

transfer credits from an institution in candidacy status.

“All of us, from the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs on down, are trying to find and resolve the root causes,” Keith Moore (Sicangu Lakota), director of the Bureau of Indian Education, told TCJ. “We are trying to figure out how to support the president (Dr. Sherry Allison), the staff, and the students.”

“At the end of the day, we have statutory oversight, and we have to answer the tough questions that Congress is asking,” he says. “Most important is that the students get a good education, and their credits are from an accredited institution.”

According to the HLC notice, the team found problems during the December 2009 comprehensive evaluation with SIPI’s self-study process and “insufficient progress in addressing two of the five previously indentified challenges: program review and assessment.” HLC also listed problems with meeting criteria related to mission and integrity, planning for the future, and student learning and effective teaching.

SIPI requested a hearing, and representatives of SIPI, the Bureau of Indian Education, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the U.S. Department of the Interior had the opportunity to participate in the hearing in support of SIPI. A HLC comprehensive evaluation team will return to the school in spring 2011 to make sure it continues to meet eligibility requirements for candidacy and is working toward re-establishing its accreditation status.

SIPI was first envisioned in 1960 by the All Indian Pueblo Council and opened for classes in September 1971. It first received accreditation status in 1975. It is funded through the Bureau of Indian Education in Interior, and advised by a board of regents representing many tribes in the Southwest.

For more information, see www.ncahlc. org/information-for-the-public/public-disclosure-notices.html.

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