Higher Learning Commission


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Institutional Change and Accreditation Status

HLC recognizes that change at institutions of higher learning is constant, and it supports change to improve educational quality. HLC has defined specific conditions under which the institution needs to obtain authorization before implementing changes because they may affect accreditation.

Update: Competency-Based Education Change Form  Available

Institutions interested in ensuring that competency-based education programs are eligible for Title IV are required to obtain approval from their regional accreditor and may also need to file an application for approval with the U.S. Department of Education. Institutions should check with their local U.S. Department of Education representative to determine whether the competency-based programs under review by HLC will also require approval by the U.S. Department of Education.

Please contact your HLC staff liaison if you have questions.

HLC Policies on Institutional Change

Institutional Change - INST.F.20.040

Review of Institutional Change - INST.F.20.050

Monitoring of Institutional Change - INST.F.20.060

An institution’s Institutional Status and Requirements (ISR) Report identifies any stipulations that may affect the institutional change process. An ISR Report may be requested by an institution's CEO or Accreditation Liaison Officer.

Procedure Overview

Any affiliated institution may request at any time HLC review of changes it plans to introduce. The only institutions limited in this regard are those appealing an HLC decision. The change process can take anywhere from 90 days to eight months depending on the breadth of the change and the appropriate approval process. Review HLC's Overview of Substantive Change for complete information regarding the change process.

Based on the category of change, the institution may be required to:

  1. Receive prior HLC Approval
  2. Submit a notification to HLC,
  3. Participate in the Notification Program for Additional Locations if the institution has received HLC permission.

Prior HLC approval. Institutions will apply for and obtain prior approval for the following changes:

  • New Program
  • Certificate Program
  • Competency-Based Education Programs
  • Clock or Credit Hour
  • Branch Campuses and Additional Locations
  • Distance and Correspondence education
  • Contractual Arrangements
  • Consortial Arrangements
  • Mission or Student Body
  • Length of Term Affecting Allocation of Credit

Changes requiring HLC notification are detailed in HLC Policy Institutional Change (INST.F.20.040). Institutions will notify HLC of changes requiring HLC notification through the Institutional Update or through scheduled evaluations.

Notification Program for Additional Locations. The following application is for institutions actively managing more than three locations and would like access to HLC's Notification Program. To apply, an institution must have evidence based on at least three active, HLC-approved additional locations.

Application for the Notification Program for Additional Locations

Any institution affiliated with HLC that is in the process of closing an existing location or branch campus is obliged to provide for the welfare of enrolled students who have invested their time, energy, and money in attending the institution. The institution documents its preparations through a Teach-Out Plan. The institution is required to inform HLC of its circumstances and to receive formal HLC approval of the Teach-Out Plan prior to initiating it.

Teach Out of an Existing Location or Branch Campus

HLC does not review or approve the arrangements an institution makes for enrolled students when it is discontinuing a program of study, but it expects that appropriate arrangements will be made.


Most change processes are subject to a fee. Visit the Fee Schedule for questions about the costs attributed to the Institutional Change process.

Document Submission

All initial change requests should be submitted at http://www.hlcommission.org/document_upload/. Submit completed applications as a single PDF file.

Institutions preparing for a scheduled Change Visit should refer to HLC's separate instructions for submitting materials to HLC and the peer review team.



Apply for Approval of a Substantive Change

Curricular Change:
For two-year institutions seeking to offer the baccalaureate degree, please review HLC's related guidelines.

Competency-Based Education Programs

Clock or Credit Hours

Screenshots are available for this online form. Institutions can submit up to 10 certificates for a single Substantive Change Submission Fee if they do it in one batch or within the same month.

Length of Term Affecting Allocation of Credit

Location or Modality:
Branch Campuses and Additional Locations

Distance Delivery
Only offering courses? Fill out this survey.



Definitions of Third-party Arrangements

Other Change:
Mission or Student Body

Location and Campus Update System

This system is to be used by Accreditation Liaison Officers for updating existing additional locations and existing branch campuses. Institutions in the Notification Program for Additional Locations may also use this application to add additional locations. To add an additional location, institutions will apply for and obtain prior HLC approval through the Substantive Change process, unless they are in the Notification Program. At this time, the system is limited for use by Accreditation Liaison Officers.


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