Higher Learning Commission


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Maintaining Accreditation

Understanding Your Affiliation

Colleges and universities are affiliated with HLC in one of two ways: by gaining and maintaining accredited status or by gaining candidate status. Currently, more than 1,000 institutions are affiliated with HLC.

What is my institution’s accreditation status?

Become an Accredited Institution

Through its Eligibility Process, HLC determines whether an institution considering affiliation with HLC is ready to begin an Assurance Argument in preparation for a comprehensive evaluation by a peer review team.

Criteria for Accreditation

The Criteria for Accreditation are organized under five major headings. Each criterion consists of a Criterion Statement, Core Components, and, in some cases, sub-components.

Staff Liaisons

HLC assigns a staff liaison to each affiliated institution. This staff liaison serves as the primary resource person to that institution. The staff liaison explains HLC policies and procedures and draws on the skills of other staff members to provide effective assistance and service to colleges and universities.


HLC has a number of institutional policies that affect the affiliation of colleges and universities with HLC. The policy book is updated four times a year.

Dues and Fees Schedule

HLC bills affiliated institutions for annual dues; payment is due on receipt of the billing and is not refundable. HLC also bills the institution for all evaluation processes. View the current dues and fees schedule.

HLC Terminology

The Glossary of HLC Terminology offers definitions for words and phrases that are most commonly used in HLC’s policy, procedures and communications.

Maintaining Accredited Status: Pathways for Reaffirmation of Accreditation

HLC offers three pathways for maintaining accredited status: Standard, AQIP and Open. Eligible institutions may choose to change pathways only upon completion of an institution’s current cycle, which is after reaffirmation of accreditation in Year 10 of the Standard and Open Pathway and Year 8 in the AQIP Pathway.

Relationship with HLC

HLC relies on constant contact with affiliated institutions to ensure quality higher education. Accredited institutions are required to submit Interim Reports and an annual Institutional Update as well as to participate in Focused Visits.

  • Institutional Update. This annual report must be submitted by all affiliated members in April. It provides updated information between comprehensive reviews.
  • Multi-location Visits. HLC works with member institutions with multiple locations to conduct multi-location visits as part of the accreditation process.
  • Mark of Affiliation. The Mark of Affiliation is placed on member instututions' websites to identify affiliation status. It is a key component of the HLC's program to strengthen the provision of information to the public about the accreditation relationship between HLC and an institution.

Institutional Change

HLC recognizes that change within affiliated institutions is constant and supports change that improves educational quality. HLC has defined specific conditions under which the institution needs to obtain authorization before implementing changes because they may affect accreditation.