Higher Learning Commission
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is the largest of the six regional accreditation agencies in the United States. It serves higher educational institutions in nineteen states stretching from Arizona to West Virginia.
To make determinations about accreditation, the Commission has established the Criteria for Accreditation, standards of quality that institutions are expected to address. The Criteria emerge out of a set of guiding values that are grounded in shared tenets of the academic community. Because the standards against which UNC will be evaluated are common expectations at colleges and universities, looking at our policies, practices and outcomes will be more than just an exercise in accountability. It will be an opportunity for us to respond to those things that matter both to us at UNC and to the larger higher education community.
The HLC’s guiding values, listed below, undergird the specific criteria and requirements that UNC will be expected to demonstrate. More complete explanations for each may be found in the New Criteria for Accreditation.
- Focus on student learning
- Education as a public purpose
- Education for a diverse, technological, globally connected world
- A culture of continuous improvement
- Evidence-based institutional learning and self-presentation
- Integrity, transparency, and ethical behavior or practice
- Governance for the well-being of the institution
- Planning and management of resources to ensure institutional sustainability
- Mission-centered evaluation
- Accreditation through peer review
Over the next few years, there will be several activities on campus and beyond centered on preparing our self-study in advance of the HLC team visit in 2014-2015. The self-study will address each of HLC’s five Criteria and its constituent Core Components. Committees composed of staff, faculty and students will be organized around each Criterion. Over the course of the self-study, there will be multiple opportunities for the campus community to contribute to the draft of the self-study and to comment on the results.
To maintain our accreditation, UNC must demonstrate that we are meeting the five Criteria AND all of the Core Components. From the HLC Criteria for Accreditation: “The institution meets the Criterion only if all Core Components are met. The institution must be judged to meet all five Criteria for Accreditation to merit accreditation.”
Simultaneous with the more public work on the self-study will be other accreditation-related activities that will engage smaller numbers of people on campus but that are no less important. One of these is assuring that UNC policy and practice adheres to a set of articulated minimum expectations (called “Assumed Practices”) that all institutions must comply with as a practical matter. These are not mission-driven or open to individual institutional interpretation as the Criteria are; rather, these are expected practices that each institution must demonstrate.
Another undertaking is the Federal Compliance Program. Some of the topics addressed in the Federal Compliance Program include credits and program length, student complaints, transfer policies, Title IV, advertising and recruitment, relationships with state entities, and third party comment. The HLC site visit team will conduct an audit to ensure that UNC meets the requirements outlined in the Federal Compliance Program.