Higher Learning Commission


Find Accredited Institutions arrow

Maintaining Accreditation

Understanding Your Affiliation

Colleges and universities are affiliated with the Commission in one of two ways: by gaining and maintaining accredited status or by gaining candidate status. Currently, more than 1,000 institutions are affiliated with the Commission.

What is my institution’s accreditation status?

Become an Accredited Institution

Through its Eligibility Process, the Commission determines whether an educational institution considering affiliation with The Higher Learning Commission is ready to begin self-study in preparation for a comprehensive visit by an evaluation team.

Criteria for Accreditation

The Criteria for Accreditation are organized under five major headings. Each criterion has three elements: Criterion Statement, Core Components, and Examples of Evidence.

Staff Liaisons

The Commission assigns a staff liaison to each affiliated institution. This staff liaison serves as the primary resource person to that institution. The staff liaison explains Commission policies and procedures and draws on the skills of other staff members to provide effective assistance and service to colleges and universities.


The Commission has a number of institutional policies that affect the affiliation of colleges and universities with the Commission. The policy book is updated four times a year.

Dues and Fees Schedule

The Commission bills affiliated institutions for annual dues; payment is due on receipt of the billing and is not refundable. The Commission also bills the institution for all evaluation processes. The 2015–2016 Dues and Fees Schedule is now available.

Maintaining Accredited Status

The Commission provides two programs for maintaining accredited status: the Program to Evaluate and Advance Quality (PEAQ) and the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP). The Commission is developing a new model called Pathways.


The Program to Evaluate and Advance Quality (PEAQ) is one avenue for maintaining accreditation. PEAQ employs a comprehensive evaluation process to determine accreditation status. The program consists of an institutional self-study, an evaluation by a team of trained peer reviewers, and final decision-making by the Commission.


The Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) provides an alternative evaluation process for institutions already accredited by the Commission. AQIP is structured around quality improvement principles and processes and involves a structured set of goal-setting, networking, and accountability activities.


The Commission is developing a new model for continued accreditation through a program called Pathways. Pathways proposes to separate the continued accreditation process carried out through PEAQ into two components: the assurance process and the improvement process.

Relationship with the Commission

The Commission relies on constant contact with the institution to ensure quality higher education. Accredited institutions are required to submit progress reports, monitoring reports, contingency reports, and annual reports as well as to participate in focus visits.

  • Institutional Update. This annual report must be submitted by all affiliated members in April. It provides updated information between comprehensive reviews.
  • Multiple Location Visits. The Commission works with member institutions with multiple locations to conduct multiple location visits as part of the accreditation process
  • Mark of Affiliation. The Mark of Affiliation is used on instutution's Web sites to identify affiliation status. It is a key component of the Commission's program to strengthen the provision of information to the public about the accreditation relationship between the Commission and an institution.

Institutional Change

The Commission recognizes that change within affiliated institutions is constant and supports change to improve educational quality. The Commission has defined specific conditions under which the institution needs to obtain authorization before implementing changes because they may affect accreditation.