The Higher Learning Commission boasts a history of over a century and was founded in 1895 as a cooperative effort across the United States. This independent corporation was tasked with accrediting degree-granting institutions of higher learning. The HLC accredits schools in 19 different states and is one of six regional institutional accreditation bodies.
Who Runs the HLC?
A board of trustees leads the HLC, and those individuals are elected by the members of the commission. Everyone on the board is accountable to the president of the HLC. The president’s role is to ensure the commission remains cost-effective, and the trustees operate under a set of bylaws that are updated on a routine basis. The last time the bylaws were updated and approved was 2010.
Who Makes the Decisions on Accreditation?
The groups who make decisions on institutional accreditation are comprised of public members, as well as representatives from various institutions. The groups who accredit colleges cover a broad spectrum of different institutions of higher learning, and the commission works diligently to avoid conflicts of interest when creating these groups to maintain high standards of accreditation.
How Does Accreditation Work?
Under a process approved by the HLC, an institution undergoes an eligibility process which helps determine whether a college or university is ready for a visit from an official evaluation team. Eligibility requirements include falling under the jurisdiction of the commission, the appropriate legal status, and the existence of an independent governing board. Once eligibility is confirmed, the Higher Learning Commission will work with that institution to work toward accredited status through visits and inspection.
What are the Criteria for Accreditation?
The criteria required of schools is comprehensive and covers several core components, ethical responsibilities, and teaching goals. In addition, accreditation criteria require the school demonstrates institutional effectiveness and a certain quality of teaching and learning. Within each of the major sections guiding accreditation, there are several indicators to suggest whether a school merits accreditation.
Maintaining Accreditation and the Reaffirmation Process
Accreditation by the HLC isn’t permanent, and a college or university must reaffirm its status as an accredited school at least every ten years. However, schools that have only been accredited once must undergo a second accreditation within four years of initial accreditation. In the event a school must take additional time to prepare for reaffirmation, an extension may be filed with the commission.
Accreditation Information for Students
It’s essential that students consider the accreditation of a chosen school when searching for a college. Accreditation often means that a student’s credits will transfer successfully between schools should the student wish to attend a different school before completing a degree. Additionally, an accredited institution helps a student qualify for various professional certifications.
In addition to institutional accreditation, a student should also investigate whether a specific program or degree is accredited by a specialized agency. The U.S. Department of Education features an extensive list of agencies approved by the D.O.E. to grant national, regional, hybrid, and programmatic accreditation.
The HLC works with state governments and the federal government to maintain institutional standards that ensure all schools accredited under the process provide an education that conforms to the levels agreed upon in the accreditation process. Accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission helps standardize the education a student receives at any college that has successfully undergone the accreditation process.