HLC Reaffirmation of Accreditation
Regional accreditation assures quality by verifying that an institution (1) meets threshold standards and (2) is engaged in continuous improvement. Both the Standard and Open Pathway feature: a ten-year cycle, a focus on assurance and improvement, Assurance Reviews in Years 4 and 10, and the use of the HLC electronic Assurance System. All Commission Pathways require: annual filing of the Institutional Update, annual monitoring of financial and non-financial indicators, and adherence to Commission policies and practices on institutional change.
Assurance and Improvement in the Open Pathway
- Two Assurance Reviews take place in the ten-year cycle; one in Year 4 and one in Year 10. The Year 4 review occurs asynchronously via the Commission’s online Assurance System and without a visit. The Year 10 review also is conducted with the Assurance System but includes a visit to the campus, as noted below. No change requests may be combined with the Year 4 review; all change requests at Year 4 are evaluated separately through the Commission’s change process.
- Between Years 5 and 9 of the ten-year cycle, the institution proposes and completes a Quality Initiative. The Assurance Reviews free the Quality Initiative to focus on institutional innovation and improvement. The institution undertakes a Quality Initiative as something it elects to suit its own purposes. Its timeframe is flexible to accommodate the amount of time necessary to complete or make substantial progress toward completion.
- In Year 10, the institution undergoes a comprehensive evaluation.
As a federally recognized accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is required to assure that all its member institutions are meeting their Title IV program responsibilities as well as complying with the expectations of specific regulations accreditors must enforce as a part of their recognition by the U.S. Department of Education. Compliance with these requirements by both institutions and HLC is necessary to ensure that institutions accredited by the HLC are eligible for federal financial aid.
On-Site Campus Visit
The components of the comprehensive evaluation in the Open Pathway are these:
- An Assurance Review
- A review of Federal Compliance
- An on-site visit
- If applicable, a multi-campus review
In the comprehensive evaluation, peer reviewers determine whether the institution continues to meet the Criteria for Accreditation by analyzing the institution’s Assurance Filing; a preliminary analysis is followed by a campus visit. The purposes of the visit are to validate claims made in the institution’s Assurance Filing and to triangulate those materials with what the team finds during planned activities while on site.