Higher Learning Commission


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Background Information on Contractual Arrangements

HLC Policy INST.F.20.040 requires that an accredited or candidate institution notify HLC and seek prior approval if the institution wishes to initiate a contractual arrangement in which the institution outsources some portion of its educational programs i.e. degrees or certificates offered for academic credit (including instruction, oversight of the curriculum, assurance of the consistency in the level and quality of instruction and in expectations of student performance and/or the establishment of the academic qualifications for instructional personnel) to:

  1. an unaccredited institution,
  2. an institution that is not accredited by an accreditor recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, or
  3. a corporation or other entity.

An institution that intends to enter into such a contract with one of the above types of organizations for any goods or services related to outsourcing academic program(s) or involves a clinical component or that has entered into such an arrangement since July 1, 2010, should complete the online screening form so that HLC can determine whether the contractual arrangement requires approval. In all cases, an automated response will be generated indicating next steps in the process. For purposes of notification, the completion of the screening form will constitute such notification. The institution should not complete the full application for approval unless and until HLC determines that this step is necessary.

The initiation, modification, or renewal of a contract previously reviewed by HLC is considered to be a new contract. The institution must initiate the substantive change process for the contract to determine whether approval is required.

Types of Contractual Arrangements Excluded from Seeking Commission Approval

The institution should not complete the screening form if any of the following apply:

  • All of the contractual partners providing goods or services related to academic programs are institutions accredited by agencies recognized by the U. S. Department of Education. Such arrangements may require prior approval as a consortial rather than a contractual arrangement. Refer to the Consortial Arrangements Background Information (http://www.hlcommission.org/Monitoring/consortial-arrangements.html).
  • The contract is solely for goods and services, such as food services and parking lot management, that support the college but are unrelated to the provision of academic programs (degree programs and certificate programs that carry college credit).
  • The accredited or candidate institution offers the goods or services to another party. Note that if the other party is an accredited or candidate for accreditation with HLC, that party may need to seek approval for the arrangement.
  • The contractual partner provides an internship that does not include a formal instructional component.
  • The contractual partner provides only books or supplies supporting the academic program or only equipment or a platform for Internet-based instruction.
  • The contract between the contractual partner and the institution provides only for the articulation or transfer of courses that are transcribed as transfer credit on the students’ transcripts and not the outsourcing of courses carrying academic credit from the institution.



Application Form

Screening Form

Apply for approval of substantive change in Contractual Arrangements

Related Policy


Institutional Change Policy


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