Higher Learning Commission

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Frequently Asked Questions

For Students

Are an institution’s online programs accredited?

An institution’s accreditation will generally encompass all methods of delivery, though approval is sometimes needed before an institution can offer distance education.

To view an institution’s Stipulation on Approval of Distance Education degrees to see if it has approval to offer online degrees, visit the Commission's Directory of Institutions.

Will my credits or degree transfer from an HLC accredited institution?

Each institution determines its own policies and procedures for accepting transfer credits. The Commission expects our institutions to have clear policies on transfer of credit. Questions about the transferability of credits should be directed to the institution that the student is interested in attending.

How does the institution that I want to attend rank? What is its reputation?

The Higher Learning Commission does not rank or categorize schools. The Commission evaluates an entire educational institution in terms of its mission and our Criteria for Accreditation. Besides assessing formal educational activities, it evaluates such things as governance and administration, financial stability, admissions and student services, institutional resources, student learning, institutional effectiveness, and relationships with internal and external constituencies.

Is my degree or program accredited?

The Higher Learning Commission is an institutional level accreditation agency. Some programs or degrees at an institution (particularly in professional fields) may have accreditation from a specialized agency or association. Students preparing for careers that require licensure should inquire with their state or licensing agency to determine if specialized accreditation of their program or degree is required.

Will I be able to get my professional license or sit for my certifying board exams?

Questions regarding licensure should be directed to the agency or state that would be granting a professional license.

Can you help me find a college, university, or degree program to enroll in?

The Commission is not able to provide recommendations to students. A directory of the Commission's member institutions is available.

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General

How do I submit a report to the Commission?

Visit the Contact Us page for information on submitting reports to the Commission.

What is the difference between regional accreditation and state licensure?

Many states require an educational institution to be licensed to legally operate. This legal requirement is not accreditation, which determines the educational quality provided by the institution.

How does my institution become accredited?

Through its Eligibility Process, the Commission determines whether an educational institution considering affiliation with The Higher Learning Commission is ready for a comprehensive visit by an evaluation team. The Commission works with the institution to determine the appropriate time for moving toward candidate or accredited status.

What is the difference between HLC and other accrediting agencies?

There are two types of educational accreditation: institutional and specialized. HLC provides institutional accreditation. Specialized accrediting bodies evaluate particular units, schools, or programs within an institution.

What is the Institutional Update?

All affiliated institutions, whether participating in PEAQ or AQIP, are required to complete the Commission’s Institutional Update on Organizational Information and Operational Indicators each year. This report, which is completed online, provides the Commission with up-to-date information on the scope of activities of each affiliated institution and sufficient information to understand and respond to significant shifts in an institution’s capacity and/or scope of educational activities. If you have questions, contact your staff liaison.

What is the Mark of Affiliation, and how do I get it?

The Mark of Affiliation is used on member Web sites identifying affiliation status. It is a key component of the Commission's program to provide information to the public about the accreditation relationship between the Commission and an institution.

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Campus Visits

Do I pay for a visit up front or wait for an invoice?

The Commission will send the institution an invoice for a scheduled peer review visit.

Should I pay for the visiting team's hotel rooms?

No. The team members are responsible for paying for their own expenses at the time of the visit. The Commission will bill the institution for all visit related expenses following the visit. Please see the Dues and Fees Schedule for more information.

When will I know who is on my team?

The Commission begins setting teams for the next academic year in January. In some cases, you may not see information on a proposed team until late April. Please refrain from contacting your team until you receive the official "team set" letter/e-mail from the Commission office.

What do you mean when you say that the team is "set"?

By “team set” we mean that all members have been approved by the institution, have been invited, and have accepted the appointment to the team.

How does the Commission go about setting visiting teams?

When setting teams, we consider a variety of things including your institution's desires for the team, the size of your institution, the high degree level, the carnegie classification, the mission/scope of your institution, and the institution's control.

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For more information, visit Accreditation Processes.

Peer Review

How does reimbursement work?

Once you have completed the visit, send your reimbursement form and all necessary receipts to the Commission. The reimbursement form is available with the Resources for Peer Reviewers.

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For more information, visit Resources for Peer Reviewers.

Self-Study

How many weeks before my visit should I submit my self-study?

We should receive your self-study in the Commission office approximately eight weeks before the visit.

How many copies of my self-study/monitoring report/progress report do I need to send in?

Please send the Commission only ONE copy of your report.

Can I submit my student/faculty handbook(s) electronically? What about the rest of the self-study—can I submit that electronically?

Yes. The self-study should be submitted electronically. Please see Required Materials and Submission Procedures: PEAQ Comprehensive Visit.

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For more information, visit Self-Study Process.

Change

How do I find my institution's Statement of Affiliation Status?

You can see your institution's most current Statement of Affiliation Status (SAS) in our Directory.

My institution started a new program/opened a new location six-months ago, and I realize now that we need approval from the Commission for it—what should I do?

While the Commission cannot approve anything retroactively, it is still important that institutions submit an institutional change request as soon as possible. Depending on the type of change, the lack of approval may result in a delay in Title IV funds being released.

How long will it take to receive approval for a change request?

The Commission asks that change requests be submitted at least ninety days prior to the desired approval. Some changes may require a visit, a process that typically takes six months to complete. Institutions should contact their staff liaisons early in the planning process to determine when to submit a request.

I need to submit an Institutional Change Request (for a new degree, new online program, new degree level, new site, new campus, etc.)-—how do I go about doing that?

Visit the Institutional Change page for an overview of the Commission's Substantive Change policies and the applications needed to gain approval for an institutional change.

Do you have any examples of Institutional Change Requests that I could see?

Not at this time.

Can I submit my Institutional Change Request electronically?

Yes. For more information, visit Institutional Change.

Can I embed a request for change in our self-study?

Yes, but the institution's staff liaison should be notified beforehand.

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For more information, visit Institutional Change.

Decision Making

When does the IAC meet, and when will I find out if my institutional change/visit has had action?

IAC meets ten times a year. IAC Hearings are held three times a year. Official action letters are mailed out about two weeks after the meeting.

How many people and who can come to the Review Committee hearing?

If your institution needs to appear in front of the Review Committee, the CEO and the self-study coordinator should be there. If you feel it would be beneficial to bring others (like your CAO) feel free, but do not bring more than five people.

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For more information, visit About the Commission.