Higher Learning Commission

Policy Title: Substantive Requirements for Reaffirmation of Accreditation

Number: INST.C.10.010

Each institution shall have its accreditation reaffirmed by formal action of the Commission according to its decision-making policies. The basis for reaffirmation shall be evidence that the institution meets the Criteria for Accreditation and Federal Compliance Requirements.

Reaffirmation Cycle

Reaffirmation shall occur not more than ten years from the date of the last formal Commission action reaffirming accreditation; for an institution that received initial accreditation after its most recent comprehensive evaluation, reaffirmation shall occur not more than four years after the initial accreditation action. Should the reaffirmation action take place in the spring or fall following the required date for reaffirmation, such action shall be considered to have met the requirements of this policy provided that the evaluation visit takes place no later than ten, or, where applicable, four, years from the date of the last reaffirmation action.

The cycle for reaffirmation may be less than ten years for institutions that participate in or are assigned by the Commission to processes that require more frequent reaffirmation.

An institution may file a formal request for an extension of its reaffirmation process, provided that it has a compelling reason for seeking such extension and it is not under sanction or show-cause with, or pending withdrawal by, the Commission or any other recognized accrediting agency. An institution must file such a request with sufficient time for a decision to be made prior to the expiration of an institution’s current reaffirmation period. Such request will be considered and acted on through the Commission’s decision-making processes. The extension shall be no more than one year beyond the institution’s regular cycle as established by the terms of the reaffirmation process in which it participates. The maximum cycle permitted under this policy is eleven (11) years.

Procedural Requirements for Reaffirmation

Prior to every formal Commission action reaffirming the accreditation of an institution that institution and the Commission shall have participated in a process that includes the following components:

  • self-study activities at the institution that result in submission to the Commission of evidence that the institution meets the Criteria for Accreditation and the Federal Compliance Requirements; and, in the same or different submission as required by the process in which the institution participates, evidence of continuing improvement at the institution;

  • visit to the institution by a team of Commission Peer Reviewers for the purpose of gathering additional information to determine whether the institution meets the Criteria for Accreditation and the Federal Compliance Requirements and to verify where appropriate evidence provided by the institution;

  • analysis by Commission Peer Reviewers of the evidence provided by the institution and the additional information gathered during the visit;

  • written report prepared by Commission Peer Reviewers documenting their conclusions regarding whether the institution meets the Criteria for Accreditation and the Federal Compliance Requirements, including but not limited to, requirements related to assessment of student learning, and, in the same or a different report as required by the process in which the institution participates, conclusions regarding continuous improvement and identifying deficiencies, if any, at the institution;

  • an opportunity for an institution to provide a written response prior to Commission action following procedures outlined by the Commission.

Processes for Reaffirmation

Each accredited institution in good standing with the Commission shall reaffirm and maintain its accredited status by participating in evaluation processes that: 1) document that it meets the Commission’s Criteria for Accreditation and the Federal Compliance Requirements, 2) demonstrate a focus on institutional improvement, and 3) fulfill the Commission’s procedural requirements for reaffirming and maintaining accreditation. These evaluation processes shall be known as accreditation pathways. The pathways are: Standard, Open and the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP). The Commission may approve other pathways. Each pathway shall include a series of evaluative activities that the Commission determines to be appropriate for that pathway provided that each pathway allows an institution to fulfill the procedural requirements necessary to maintain accreditation. In any pathway the Commission staff may seek external assistance from peer reviewers or individuals with appropriate expertise who do not participate as peer reviewers in the evaluation process but provide particularized advice and assistance where appropriate to Commission staff or evaluation team members.

Institutions not yet accredited by the Commission as well as accredited institutions that are on probation, under show-cause, or pending withdrawal action shall participate in evaluation activities specifically outlined in Commission policy applicable to such designation and shall not participate in a pathway.

Entrance Requirements for Each Pathway

The Commission shall determine the entrance requirements for each pathway in relation to the institution’s history with the Commission. These requirements shall include the length of its accreditation with the Commission, as well as such factors as interim monitoring, substantive change and change of control requests, sanctions, show-cause orders, adverse actions, and any other information the Commission deems relevant. In addition, the Commission may exercise discretion in determining an appropriate pathway for an institution.

Assignment to a Pathway

Subsequent to granting of initial accreditation and after removal of probation or show-cause, institutions shall be limited to the Standard Pathway for a minimum of ten years until such time as they shall meet the entrance requirements for a different pathway and make appropriate application to enter such pathway. An institution undergoing approval of a change of control, structure or organization or removal from notice may be subject to limitation to the Standard Pathway. A pathways assignment shall be made by the Board of Trustees in making these accrediting decisions.

A decision renewing an institution’s assignment to a pathway or determining an institution’s eligibility for a different pathway shall always take place at reaffirmation of accreditation and may take place at other times as established by the procedures of the pathway or Commission policy. A pathway determination after initial accreditation, a continuation of eligibility for a pathway, and any change of pathway shall be a formal decision by the Commission and shall be subject to all Commission requirements related to the pathway as well as to the Commission’s decision-making process. Such decision shall also indicate the date of the next Assurance Review or comprehensive evaluation and the institution’s placement in the cycle for that pathway.

An institution shall receive notice of a recommended pathway assignment prior to the formal decision placing it on a pathway. In cases where the Pathway assignment is not based on entrance requirements for the Pathway but on Commission discretion and exempting any pathways assignments made at the discretion of the Board of Trustees related to sanction or other actions assigned to the Board, the institution shall have an opportunity to respond prior to the assignment being made through the Commission’s decision-making process. After a pathways assignment has been made, it is subject to additional review or change only at the discretion of the Commission.

Change of Pathways by the Commission

The Commission may at its discretion move an institution from one Pathway to another if: 1) the institution fails to fulfill the requirements of its Pathway, 2) serious concerns arise about the institution’s capacity to continue to meet the Criteria for Accreditation or the Federal Compliance Requirements, or 3) the institution needs to be monitored more closely through the processes of the Standard Pathway.

All other changes in pathways will occur subsequent to reaffirmation of accreditation. (Note that assignment to a pathway following Commission policy is not a change of a pathway.)

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Policy History

Last Revised: November 2012
First Adopted: June 2012
Revision History: November 2012
Notes: Policies combined November 2012 - 1A.1.1, 1A1.2, IA.1.3, 1A.1.4, 1A.1.5, 1A.1.6, 1A.1.7.

Policy Number Key

Section INST: Institutional Policies

Chapter C: Process for Reaffirmation of Accreditation

Part 10: Substantive Requirements for Reaffirmation of Accreditation


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