Higher Learning Commission


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Federal Compliance

Criteria Guidelines

Pathways Cycle Master Charts

Quality Assurance 


Substantive Change Information

Substantive Change Applications

Comprehensive Evaluations

Monitoring and Reporting

Off-Campus Activities



C-RAC Documents





HLC Policies include the Criteria for Accreditation and Assumed Practices that all member institutions must adhere to in order to maintain accreditation. 

Assumed Practices

Bylaws of the Higher Learning Commission (June 2010)

Criteria for Accreditation

HLC Policies

Institutional Appeals (April 2011)

Recent Policy Updates

Federal Compliance

HLC’s Federal Compliance Program assures that member institutions are meeting their Title IV program responsibilities and complying with the expectations of specific federal regulations accreditors must enforce as part of their recognition by the U.S. Department of Education. 

Federal Compliance Filing by Institutions

Federal Compliance Packet

Federal Compliance Program

HLC provides samples of the Worksheet for Use by Institutions on Assignment of Credit Hours and on Clock Hours that has been completed by member institutions.

Criteria Guidelines

The following guidelines have been developed to assist institutions and peer reviewers in determining whether an institution is meeting the Criteria for Accreditation:

Dual Credit: Guidelines for Institutions and Peer Reviewers (April 2014)

Qualified Faculty: Guidelines for Institutions and Peer Reviewers (March 2016)

School of Record Guidelines (March 2014)

Two-Year Institutions Seeking to Offer the Baccalaureate Degree: Considerations of Readiness (February 2014)

Pathways Cycle Master Charts

The following charts illustrate institutional activities, peer review activities and HLC decision-making actions throughout each reaffirmation cycle:

AQIP Pathway Eight-Year Cycle Chart 

Open Pathway 10-Year Cycle Chart

Standard Pathway 10-Year Cycle Chart

Quality Assurance

Institutions are expected to have the standards, processes and will for quality assurance. Institutions must produce evidence to HLC that they have the capacity to assure their own quality. 

HLC provides a number Assurance System demonstration sites for institutions that are preparing for an upcoming Assurance Review or Systems Appraisal.

Assurance System Manual (March 2017)

AQIP Pathway Systems Portfolio Overview (October 2016) 


Improvement is a main component in all three Pathways. Institutions address improvement depending upon their current Pathway. 

Action Project Guide (January 2011)

Collection of Papers

HLC has selected a group of Quality Initiative Proposal Examples to offer institutions that are currently planning or working on their Quality Initiative Proposals.

Quality Initiative Proposal:

Quality Initiative Report:

Substantive Change Information

HLC recognizes the need for institutional change and supports change that improves educational quality. HLC has defined conditions under which an institution needs to obtain authorization before implementing changes.

Certificate Program Screenshots are available for the online form. Institutions can submit up to 10 certificates for one flat fee if they are submitted in one batch or within the same month.

Change of Control, Structure or Organization Process (July 2013) 

Definitions of Third-Party Arrangements 

Institutional Circumstances Requiring Commission Approved Teach-Out Arrangements (2017)

Overview of Substantive Change (September 2016) 

Substantive Change Applications

Apply for approval of a substantive change using the appropriate application below.

Branch Campuses and Additional Locations (September 2016)

Certificate Programs

Change of Length of Term Affecting Allocation of Credit Hours (September 2016)

Clock to Credit Conversion or Substantial Increase or Decrease in Clock or Credit Hours Required for One or More Programs (September 2016)

Competency-Based Education Programs (September 2016)

Distance Delivery (September 2016)

Mission and Student Body (September 2016)

New Programs (September 2016)

Notification Program for Additional Locations (September 2016)

Programs Offered through Consortial Arrangements (September 2016)

Programs Offered through Contractual Arrangements (September 2016)

Comprehensive Evaluations

During a comprehensive evaluation, peer reviewers determine if an institution continues to meet the Criteria for Accreditation. Comprehensive evaluations include various components.

Multi-Campus Evaluations: Information for Institutions and Peer Reviewers (October 2015)

Exit Session Protocol for Commission Visits: Commission Procedure (March 2015)

Student Opinion Survey Overview (June 2015)

Third-Party Comment: Policy and Procedures (February 2016) 

Monitoring and Reporting

HLC relies on constant contact with member institutions to ensure quality higher learning. The Institutional Update and monitoring are ways HLC maintains contact.

Institutional Update Guide (January 2017)

Institutional Designations (September 2016)

Interim Reports Procedure (March 2017)

Off-Campus Activities

Once approved and established through HLC’s Institutional Change process, institutions’ new locations are monitored through peer review visits and are subject to a decision-making process depending on the location type.

Additional Location Confirmation Visit: Information for Institutions and Peer Reviewers (March 2017)

Additional Location Confirmation Visit Report Form (March 2017)

Campus Evaluation Visits: Information for Institutions and Reviewers (March 2017)

Report Template for Campus Evaluation Visits (March 2017)

Multi-Location Visits: Information for Institutions and Peer Reviewers (June 2015)

Multi-Location Visit Institutional Report Template (June 2015)


Candidacy is a preaccreditation status that affiliates an institution with HLC but does not offer the institution membership status. HLC determines whether an institution is to be considered for candidacy through its Achieving Accreditation Process.  

Data Form for Candidacy Visits (July 2013) 

Eligibility Filing (July 2012) 

Eligibility Packet (March 2015) 


HLC occasionally releases statements expressing its views on issues important to higher learning.

Evaluation of Distance Education (July 2009)

Public Information Statement: Commission Requirements of Institutions for State Authorization (April 2010)

Statement on Marketing Practices at For-Profit Institutions (August 2010)

Statement on the Accreditation of High Schools (June 2012)

Statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (March 2011)

Student Learning, Assessment, and Accreditation (2007)

C-RAC Documents

As a member of the Council of Regional Accrediting Commmissions (C-RAC), HLC occassionally participates in the issuance of joint statements and guidelines.

Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education (On-line Learning) (2009)

Regional Accreditors Announce Common Framework for Defining and Approving Competency-Based Education Programs (2015)


HLC-sponsored reports focus on higher learning topics that may lead to future resources. 

Exploring Degree Qualifications: A Descriptive Analysis of the Quality Initiative Demonstration Project to Test the Lumina Foundation’s Degree Qualifications Profile (April 2014)

Professional Doctorate: Report to the Board of Trustees from the Task Force (June 2006)


At times, HLC issues letters addressing higher learning issues on its own or in conjunction with other organizations.

HLC Signed ACE Letter Addressing Credit Hour Regulations (February 2011)

HLC Signed ACE Letter Addressing State Authorization (March 2011)

HLC Letter to Members Addressing Credit Hour Regulations from the Department of Education (April 2011)


Resource Guide

The Resource Guide is updated each year to include the newest versions of HLC’s policies, guidelines and other resources.

Dues and Fees

Dues and Fees Schedule