Higher Learning Commission approval moves Henderson closer to ASU System affiliation

Henderson State University is one step closer to becoming a member institution of the Arkansas State University System following approval by the Higher Learning Commission.

On Nov. 5, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) approved a Change of Control application and the continuation of Henderson’s accreditation as a future member of the ASU System. HLC accredits colleges and universities in a 19-state region of the United States, including all public higher education institutions in Arkansas.

Previously approved by the Henderson Board of Trustees on Nov. 21, 2019, and the ASU System Board of Trustees on Dec. 6, 2019, the affiliation agreement is now subject to action by the Arkansas General Assembly. ASU System President Chuck Welch said the target for completing the transition is January 2021.

According to HLC, Henderson “will remain a separately accredited institution as part of the System.” Henderson’s next reaffirmation of Higher Learning Commission accreditation is scheduled for 2021-2022, and a focused visit will occur within six months of the merger date.

“We look forward to continuing Henderson’s rich traditions and mission of service to students as a member of the ASU System," Dr. Jim Borsig, Henderson State University Chancellor, said. “I am confident that this affiliation will continue to strengthen Henderson, and I am grateful to the Higher Learning Commission for confirming this important step in the process.”

“We appreciate the final review and approval of the Higher Learning Commission,” Welch said. “We will ask the General Assembly to dissolve the Henderson board while expanding the ASU System board from five to seven members so we can immediately include Henderson representation. Our hope is that the legislation will be considered early in the session so we can complete the merger in January.”

Henderson would become the second four-year institution in the ASU System and the third higher education institution to join the system in five years. Mid-South Community College in West Memphis became Arkansas State University Mid-South in July 2015, and College of the Ouachitas in Malvern became Arkansas State University Three Rivers in January 2020.

Founded as a private institution in 1890, Henderson has a strong liberal arts heritage with more than 65 undergraduate and graduate programs. It became a public institution in 1929 and is the second oldest university in Arkansas under state control. Henderson, which competes in NCAA Division II sports, would become the third ASU System institution with an intercollegiate athletics program. Arkansas State University has an NCAA FBS Division I program, and ASU Mid-South competes in NJCAA Division II men’s and women’s basketball.

The ASU System, based in Little Rock, currently serves almost 34,000 students annually on campuses in Arkansas and Queretaro, Mexico, and globally online with a total operating budget of $280 million. The ASU System includes Arkansas State University, a four-year Carnegie R2 Doctoral research institution in Jonesboro with degree centers in Beebe, Mountain Home, Blytheville, Forrest City, and West Memphis. Arkansas State University Campus Queretaro opened in September 2017. The system's two-year college institutions include ASU-Beebe, with additional campuses in Heber Springs and Searcy and an instructional site at Little Rock Air Force Base; ASU-Newport, with additional campuses in Jonesboro and Marked Tree; ASU-Mountain Home; ASU Mid-South in West Memphis; and ASU Three Rivers in Malvern.