UNM Accreditation FAQs

The following are commonly asked questions for the University of New Mexico Accreditation Department. 

What is accreditation?

Accreditation by nationally recognized agencies provides assurance to the public, in particular to prospective students, that an organization has been found to meet the agency’s clearly stated requirements and criteria and that there are reasonable grounds for believing that it will continue to meet them.  

Who are the nationally recognized agencies that accredit school and universities in the United States? And, more specifically, which organization is responsible for accrediting UNM?

There are six regional associations that accredit schools and colleges in the United States:  the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central, Middle States, New England, Northwest, Southern and Western Associations.  All schools and colleges in New Mexico, including UNM, are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association.  Although most of the institutions that the HLC accredits are in the upper Midwest, its geographical range extends from West Virginia to Arizona.  UNM has been continually accredited through the Higher Learning Commission since 1922.  

What is the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)? How is it different from the North Central Association (NCA)?

The Higher Learning Commission is the re-named corporation affiliated with the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools that is responsible for the accreditation of colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning.  The full title used to be North Central Association Commission on Institutions of Higher Education and most people referred to the accreditation process as “NCA accreditation.”  The new name reflects the shift in higher education toward accountability for student learning.  More information about the HLC can be accessed on the Commission’s web site

What is the difference between institutional accreditation and program or specialized accreditation?

Institutional accreditation speaks to the overall quality of the organization without making judgments about specific programs.  Institutional accreditation is accreditation of all programs, sites, and methods of delivery.  The accreditation of individual programs, such as those preparing students to practice a profession, is carried out by specialized or program accrediting bodies that apply specific standards for curriculum and course content.  A current list of UNM’s programmatic accreditations is provided on this website in the UNM Fact Book

What UNM units and departments are covered through the HLC Accreditation?

The institutional accreditation applies to all units, campuses, academic programs, and non-academic programs of the University of New Mexico.  The institutional accreditation covers the Main (Albuquerque) Campus, the Health Sciences Center, the four Branch Campuses locations (Gallup, Los-Alamos, Taos, and Valencia County), continuing education, extended university activities, athletics, and all other educational sites and offerings affiliated with UNM.  

What are the HLC?s Criteria for Evaluation?

New accreditation criteria were adopted by the HLC in 2012 and were fully implemented in January 2013.   The five accreditation criteria include:

  • Criterion One.  Mission -- The institution’s mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution’s operations.
  • Criterion Two.  Integrity:  Ethical and Responsible Conduct – The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible.
  • Criterion Three.  Teaching and Learning:  Quality, Resources, and Support – The institution provides high quality education, wherever and however its offering are delivered. 
  • Criterion Four.  Teaching and Learning:  Evaluation and Improvement – The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs, learning environments, and support services, and it evaluates their effectiveness for student learning through processes designed to promote continuous improvement.
  • Criterion Five.  Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness – The institution’s resources, structures, and processes are sufficient to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its educational offerings, and to respond to future challenges and opportunities.
When was UNM?s last comprehensive review from the HLC and what was the result? When will UNM?s next comprehensive review take place?

UNM’s last comprehensive review took place in April 2009, resulting in a full 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation with two reporting requirements:  a progress report on advising and a monitoring report on governance and administrative structures.  UNM fulfilled these two reporting requirements in 2011.  UNM’s next comprehensive review, now called an “assurance review” will take place during 2018-19 as part of the new “Open Pathway” process for accreditation.

What is the ?Open Pathway? for Accreditation?

The “Open Pathway” is one of two new accreditation processes that replace the former standard decennial process (referred to as the PEAQ process).  It features a ten-year cycle with a focus on both assurance and improvement.  The process includes an Assurance Review without a visit in year 4 of the cycle, an Assurance Review with a site visit in year 10 of the cycle, and a Quality Initiative that is conducted between years 5 and 9 of the cycle.  It also incorporates checking institutional data annually through the Institutional Update.  The Open Pathway is designed for mature and stable institutions that have a positive history of good standing with the HLC.  UNM’s first milestone in the process is to propose and conduct a Quality Initiative starting as early as Fall 2013 and completed by Spring 2018.

What is UNM?s cycle for accreditation on the Open Pathway Process?

UNM’s next cycle on the Open Pathways process is as follows:



Annually, in April

Submit Institutional Update

Beginning 2013-14 and thereafter, anytime as needed

Contribute Documents to Evidence File

Between 2013-14 and 2015-16

Propose Quality Initiative Project

Between 2015-16 and 2017-18

Submit Quality Initiative Report


File Assurance Argument, Evidence File, and Federal Compliance Requirements


Undergo Assurance Review and Comprehensive Evaluation with Site Visit


File Assurance Argument and Evidence File


Undergo Assurance Review with No Site Visit

What is an ?Accreditation Liaison Officer? or ?ALO?? Who is UNM?s designated ALO?

The Commission adopted a policy that created the Accreditation Liaison Officer (ALO) role for each institution.  While the institution’s Chief Executive Officer is still designated as the primary contract with the HLC, this change allows for the ALO to be a second line of communication about Commission policies, practices, and other matters related to accreditation.  The ALO has a number of responsibilities identified by the HLC.  For example, the ALO is responsible for ensuring that the university submits required information and reports on a timely basis, facilitates communications with the HLC, monitors policies related to accreditation, maintains institutional accreditation files, and provides direction for the submission of change requests and reports required by Commission policy.  UNM’s current ALO is Joe Suilmann, University Accreditation Program Manager.