Commission policies outline when institutions need to notify the Commission about consortial arrangements and when they need to seek approval of these arrangements. (See policy INST.F.20.040.)
Characteristics of Consortial Arrangements
A consortial arrangement is one in which an HLC-accredited institution develops an agreement with an institution or group of institutions, i.e., the consortial party(ies), through which the consortial party(ies) agree to provide some portion of one or more educational programs offered by the HLC-accredited institution. The agreement may be a written contract or letter of agreement or other document, or it may be an oral agreement between the parties.
To be considered a consortium, the party(ies) must be two or more institutions accredited by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. (See Contractual Arrangements for agreements with organizations that do not meet this definition. Foreign institutions are typically not accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, even though such institutions often have arrangements with other institutions that are accredited by such agencies. Therefore, they are considered contractual parties.)
The consortial arrangement may affect one or more Title IV-eligible certificate or degree programs. The consortial party provides some portion of the educational program, which may include developing syllabi or courseware, providing academic resources, developing instructional design, or delivering instruction face-to-face or through a platform provided by the consortial party.
The following arrangements do not require Commission notification or approval:
- Articulation agreements through which the institution agrees to admit students and accept transfer credits previously earned or completed by those students with the other party to the articulation agreement, 2+2, clinical or internship arrangements unless the other party provides instruction.
- Contracts that are solely for a delivery platform and do not include courseware, academic content, etc.
Reporting and Seeking Approval of Consortial Arrangements
Institutions have a responsibility to ensure that the Commission is properly informed about and has approved consortial arrangements. The Commission understands the percentages that determine whether an institution must notify or seek approval from the Commission for a consortial arrangement to mean the following:
- If a student can access 50% or more of the credits in a degree or certificate program from consortia institutions versus the institution that enrolls the student and awards the degree, the consortial arrangement must have prior approval from the Commission.
- If a student can access 25% - 49% of the credits in a degree or certificate program from consortia institutions versus the institution that enrolls the student and awards the degree, the institution must notify the Commission of the consortial arrangement.
Changes identified as requiring Commission notification are included in the institution’s accreditation provided that the institution provides timely notification to the Commission through the Annual Institutional Data Update and other data reporting instruments established by the Commission according to a schedule established by the Commission. (In situations where 24% or less of the credits in a degree or certificate program are coming from consortial partner(s), no Commission notification is required.)
When to Use the Substantive Change Application Form for Consortial Arrangements
Consortial arrangements identified as requiring prior Commission approval before implementation shall be included in the institution’s accreditation only after the Commission has reviewed the change and has formally acted to approve the change. The institution initiates its change request using the Change Application Form for Consortial Arrangements.
If all of the institutions participating in the consortium are accredited by the Commission, the institutions are invited to submit a consolidated application form. Each institution in the arrangement should specify percentage of the credits it offers with respect to each degree program available through the consortial relationship. Those institutions requiring approval will receive formal approval whereas those institutions needing to notify the Commission will have satisfied their obligation.