Accreditation

In 2019 the AQIP accreditation pathway was sunsetted by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).  In response Ƶ (Ƶ) elected to transition to the Open Pathway accreditation model that same year.

 

Accreditation

The U.S. Department of Education defines accreditation as the process of being validated as a viable post-secondary instructional institution by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a regional accreditation agency. 

The HLC approved Ƶ (Ƶ) to participate in the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) in 2002. HLC started phasing out institutions in the AQIP Pathway in 2018. On September 16, 2019 HLC transitioned Ƶ into the Open Pathway, as shown in the following transition letter and transition map.

View the Transition Letter

View the Transition Map

Systems Portfolio

Accreditation Process

The Open Pathway follows a 10-year cycle and is focused on quality assurance and institutional improvement. The Open Pathway is unique in that its improvement component, the Quality Initiative, affords institutions the opportunity to pursue improvement projects that meet their current needs and aspirations.

For more information about these activities, click on the corresponding step below.

Regular Monitoring

Ƶ submits annual Institutional Updates, which is reviewed by HLC to monitor organizational health, comply with certain federal requirements, and identify any changes that may require HLC follow up. HLC will also apply change processes as appropriate to planned institutional developments, and will monitor institutions through reports, visits and other means as it deems appropriate.

Year 4: Assurance Review

The Assurance Review ensures institutions are continuing to meet HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation. Ƶ prepares an Assurance Filing, comprised of an Assurance Argument and an Evidence File, providing documentation demonstrating how the college fulfills each of the five Criterion and each of the Core Components within each Criterion. The Assurance Argument consists of an organizational overview that details each of the major systems the organization will use to accomplish its mission and objectives. Ƶ answers questions that deal with analysis, processes, results and improvement. The Assurance Argument gives Ƶ an opportunity to explore and document how its current processes and systems work and helps the peer review team understand the organization’s key strengths and ambitions, as well as the challenges and conflicts it faces. A peer review team evaluates these materials and recommends whether the institution should continue in the cycle or whether additional monitoring is required. HLC’s Institutional Actions Council (IAC) reviews the peer review team’s recommendation and takes official action on it.

Years 5-9: Quality Initiative

Institutions design and undertake a Quality Initiative project between years 5 and 9 of the 10-year Open Pathway Cycle. HLC peer reviewers approve an initial project proposal, as well as a report on the outcomes of the project. A Quality Initiative project may be designed to begin and be completed during this time, or an institution may continue a project that is already in progress or achieve a key milestone in the work of a longer initiative. The Quality Initiative is intended to allow institutions to take risks, aim high and learn from only partial success or even failure.

Year 10: Comprehensive Evaluation for Reaffirmation

The Comprehensive Evaluation is the summary review that ends each 10-year period of participation in the Open Pathway. The comprehensive evaluation is comprised of the submission and review of an Assurance Filing, Federal Compliance Review, Student Opinion Survey, on-site peer review visit, and multi-campus visit. The team of peer reviewers produces a summary report that identifies those areas where Ƶ is meeting the Criteria for Accreditation, pursuing institutional improvement, and complying with certain requirements set by the U.S. Department of Education. The team also provides a recommendation regarding the reaffirmation of the institution’s accreditation. The recommendation is then sent to the Intuitional Actions Council (IAC) for review and action. Ƶ’s last Reaffirmation of Accreditation occurred in August 2016, as shown in the following letter.

View the Reaffirmation of Accreditation letter 

For more information on HLC’s Open Pathway for Accreditation, please go to hlcommission.org.