Higher Learning Commission

Policy Title: Eligibility Requirements

Number: CRRT.A.10.010

An institution must meet all Eligibility Requirements before it is granted Candidate status. It must present initial evidence that it meets these requirements before a pre-application interview is scheduled with the Commission. Through submission of the Eligibility Filing it must present full evidence that it meets these requirements before a site visit for Candidacy is scheduled.

1. Jurisdiction of the Commission

The institution falls within the Commission’s jurisdiction as defined in the Commission’s Bylaws (Article III). The Commission extends accreditation and candidacy for accreditation to higher education institutions that are 1) incorporated in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or operating under federal authority within these states, and 2) have substantial presence, as defined in Commission policy, within these states.

2. Legal Status

The institution is appropriately authorized in each of the states, sovereign nations, or jurisdictions in which it operates to award degrees, offer educational programs, or conduct activities as an institution of higher education. At least one of these jurisdictions must be in the HLC region.

3. Governing Board

The institution has an independent governing board that possesses and exercises the necessary legal power to establish and review the basic policies that govern the institution.

4. Stability

The institution demonstrates a history of stable operations and consistent control during the two years preceding the submission of the Eligibility Filing.

5. Mission Statement

The institution has a statement of mission approved by its governing board and appropriate for a degree-granting institution of higher education. The mission defines the nature and purpose of the higher learning provided by the institution and the students for whom it is intended.

6. Educational Programs

The institution has educational programs that are appropriate for an institution of higher education. The Commission may decline to evaluate an institution for status with the Commission if the institution’s mission or educational programs fall outside areas in which the Commission has demonstrated expertise or lacks appropriate standards for meaningful review.

In appropriate proportion, the institution’s programs are degree-granting and involve coursework provided by the institution, establishing the institution’s commitment to degree-granting higher education.

The institution has clearly articulated learning goals for its academic programs and has strategies for assessment in place.

The institution:

  • maintains a minimum requirement for general education for all of its undergraduate programs whether through a traditional practice of distributed curricula (15 semester credits for AAS degrees, 24 for AS or AA degrees, and 30 for bachelor’s degrees) or through integrated, embedded, interdisciplinary, or other accepted models that demonstrate a minimum requirement equivalent to the distributed model. Any exceptions are explained and justified.
  • has a program of general education that is grounded in a philosophy or framework developed by the institution or adopted from an established framework. It imparts common knowledge and intellectual concepts to students and develops skills and attitudes that the institution believes every college-educated person should possess. The institution clearly and publicly articulates the purposes, content and intended learning outcomes of its general education program.
  • conforms to commonly accepted minimum program length: 60 semester credits for associate’s degrees, 120 semester credits for bachelor’s degrees, and 30 semester credits beyond the bachelor’s for master’s degrees. Any exception to these minima must be explained and justified.
  • meets the federal requirements for credit ascription described in the Commission's Federal Compliance Program.

7. Information to the Public

The institution makes public its statements of mission, vision, and values; full descriptions of its program requirements; its requirements for admission both to the institution and to particular programs or majors; its policies on acceptance of transfer credit, including how credit is applied to degree requirements; clear and accurate information on all student costs, including tuition, fees, training and incidentals, and its policy on refunds; its policies regarding good standing, probation, and dismissal; all residency requirements; and grievance and complaint procedures.

The institution portrays clearly and accurately to the public its accreditation status with national, specialized, and professional accreditation agencies as well as with the Higher Learning Commission, including a clear distinction between Candidate or Accredited status and an intention to seek status.

8. Financial Capacity

The institution has the financial base to support its operations and sustain them in the future. It demonstrates a record of responsible fiscal management, including appropriate debt levels.

The institution:

  • has a prepared budget for the current year and the capacity to compare it with budgets and actual results of previous years; and
  • undergoes external financial audit by a certified public accountant or a public audit agency. For private institutions the audit is annual; for public institutions it is at least every two years. (Institutions under federal control are exempted provided that they have other reliable information to document the institution’s fiscal resources and management.)

9. Administration

The institution has a Chief Executive Officer appointed by its governing board.

The institution has governance and administrative structures that enable it to carry out its operations.

10. Faculty and Other Academic Personnel

The institution employs faculty and other academic personnel appropriately qualified and sufficient in number to support its academic programs.

11. Learning Resources

The institution owns or has secured access to the learning resources and support services necessary to support the learning expected of its students (research laboratories, libraries, performance spaces, clinical practice sites, museum collections, etc.).

12. Student Support Services

The institution makes available to its students support services appropriate for its mission, such as advising, academic records, financial aid, and placement.

13. Planning

The institution demonstrates that it engages in planning with regard to its current and future business and academic operations.

14. Policies and Procedures

The institution has appropriate policies and procedures for its students, administrators, faculty, and staff.

15. Current Activity

The institution has students enrolled in its degree programs. (To be granted initial accreditation, an institution must have graduated students from at least one degree program.)

16. Integrity of Business and Academic Operations

The institution has no record of inappropriate, unethical, and untruthful dealings with its students, with the business community, or with agencies of government. The institution complies with all legal requirements (in addition to authorization of academic programs) wherever it does business.

17. Consistency of Description Among Agencies

The institution describes itself consistently to all accrediting and governmental agencies with regard to its mission, programs, governance, and finances.

18. Accreditation Record

The institution has not had its accreditation revoked and has not voluntarily withdrawn under a show-cause order or been under a sanction with another accrediting agency recognized by CHEA or USDE within the five years preceding the initiation of the Eligibility Process.

19. Good Faith and Planning to Achieve Accreditation

The board has authorized the institution to seek affiliation with the Commission and indicated its intention, if affiliated with the Commission, to accept the Obligations of Affiliation.

The institution has a realistic plan for achieving accreditation with the Commission within the period of time set by Commission policy.

  • If the institution offers programs that require specialized accreditation or recognition in order for its students to be certified or sit for licensing examinations, it either has the appropriate accreditation or discloses publicly and clearly the consequences of the lack thereof. The institution always makes clear to students the distinction between regional and specialized or program accreditation and the relationships between licensure and the various types of accreditation.
  • If the institution is predominantly or solely a single-purpose institution in fields that require licensure for practice, it demonstrates that it is also accredited by or is actively in the process of applying to a recognized specialized accrediting agency for each field, if such agency exists.

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Policy History

Last Revised: June 2011
First Adopted: February 2003
Revision History: June 2006, June 2011
Notes: Former policy number 1.1(c), 2013 – 1.1(e)

Policy Number Key

Section CRRT: Criteria and Requirements

Chapter A: Establishing Institutional Eligibility

Part 10: General

Related Procedures


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