Criteria for Accreditation, Assumed Practices & Federal Compliance (Abridged)

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) Open Pathway is one of three options institutions have for maintaining their accreditation with HLC. It follows a 10-year cycle, has multiple checkpoints and, like all pathways, is focused on quality assurance and institutional improvement. The Open Pathway is unique in that its improvement component, the Quality Initiative, affords institutions the opportunity to pursue improvement projects that meet their current needs and aspirations.

The unabridged Policy for Criteria for Accreditation (CRRT.B.10.010) is available for review on the HLC website. 

  • Criterion One: Mission and Integrity: 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 offerings 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 respond to future challenges and opportunities. The institution plans for the future. 

  • Assumed Practices:
    • Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct
    • Teaching and Learning: Quality Resources, and Support
    • Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement
    • Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness

  • Federal Compliance
    The following areas are addressed in the Federal Compliance Process:
    • Assignment of Credits, Program Length and Tuition, Assignment of Credit Hours and Clock Hours
    • Institutional Records of Student Complaints
    • Publication of Transfer Policies
    • Practices for Verification of Student Identity
    • Title IV Program Responsibilities
    • Required Information for Students and the Public
    • Advertising and Recruitment Materials and Other Public Information
    • Review of Student Outcome Data
    • Publication of Student Outcome Data
    • Standing With State and Other Accrediting Agencies
    • Public Notification of Opportunity to Comment (Third-Party Comment)
    • Competency-Based Programs Including Direct Assessment Programs/Faculty-Student Engagement