Higher Learning Commission Decision-Making Bodies and Processes
Actions on affiliated institutions are taken by decision-making bodies comprised of institutional representatives and public members. Unless otherwise specified, the decision-making bodies are broadly representative of the colleges and universities accredited by the Commission, with attention to institutional type, control, size, and geographical distribution. All decision-making bodies abide by the Commission's conflict of interest policies.
Visit the Calendar of Events to see a list of meetings of the Commission's decision-making bodies.
- The Board of Trustees is the governing body of the Commission. The Commission's member institutions elect Trustees in the spring to four-year terms that begin on September 1. The Board is made up of no fewer than fifteen and no more than twenty-one persons. One of every seven Trustees is a representative of the public, and the others are broadly representative of institutions that are members of the Commission.
- The Institutional Actions Council (IAC). The Board of Trustees appoints and authorizes members of the Institutional Actions Council (IAC) to conduct reviews and take actions on the majority of accreditation recommendations. IAC has at least 40 members representing academe and the public. IAC members who represent institutions shall be broadly representative of institutions accredited by the Commission, with attention to institutional type, control, size, and geographical distribution, and shall be current members of the Peer Review Corps. The IAC shall include a sufficient number of public members to allow for one public member to be appointed to each committee.
IAC members serve four-year terms. IAC makes use of committees, known as the First Committee and Second Committee. The First Committee consists of at least four peer review members and one public member drawn from the current Institutional Actions Council. The Second Committee consists of at least four peer review members and one public member, drawn from a body of fifteen members of the Institutional Actions Council whose terms on the Council have been extended by one additional year to complete this responsibility. Both the IAC First and Second Committees hold meetings and conduct hearings at appointed times throughout the year. Biographical information about the Institutional Actions Council members is available upon
- The Appeals Body is selected by the Board of Trustees to be available to serve on Appeals Panels. An institution may appeal an adverse action of the Board of Trustees, prior to the action becoming final, by filing a written request to appeal following the appeals procedures of the Commission. Adverse actions are defined as those that (1) withdraw or deny accreditation, except in denial of accreditation where the Board denies an early application for accreditation and continues candidate for accreditation status or extends it to a fifth year, (2) withdraw or deny candidacy, or (3) moves the institution from accredited to candidate status. Biographical information about the Appeals Body members is available upon request.
The decisions made within the last year are available at Recent Actions.
The Commission also has the following groups:
- The Financial Panel reviews institutions whose Annual Financial Reporting data may cause concern about the institution.
- The Nominating Committee nominates candidates for election to the Board of Trustees.
In June 2011, the Commission Board of Trustees adopted a new decision process effective fall 2011. In brief, the decision process runs as follows (see process overview chart).
- Following each evaluation and at each stage in the decision process, institutions provide an institutional response. This institutional response is considered by the IAC in its decision (or recommendation in cases requiring Commission Board of Trustees action).
- The institutional response and the full record of the evaluation moves directly to an IAC First Committee meeting (held electronically via webinar). In some cases, the institution may request or the evaluation recommendation may require that the institutional response and full record of the evaluation move to an IAC First Committee hearing (in-person with team and institutional representatives present) rather than an IAC meeting.
- IAC First Committee members read the full record of the evaluation, the institutional response, and other relevant Commission documents as appropriate. IAC acts on the evaluation recommendation. The IAC has the authority to affirm or modify evaluation recommendations.
- If the IAC First Committee modifies or changes the evaluation recommendation in its action, the institution or the Commission may in some cases call for a second review. Second reviews are conducted by the IAC Second Committee, either by a meeting (held electronically) or a hearing. If this occurs, the institution may submit another institutional response.
- IAC Second Committee members read the full record of the evaluation, the institutional response, the review by the IAC First Committee, and other relevant Commission documents as appropriate. The decision of the IAC Second Committee is final unless by policy the recommendation requires Commission Board of Trustees action.