HLC relies on constant contact with affiliated institutions to ensure quality higher education. Accredited institutions are required to submit interim reports and annual reports, as well as to participate in focused visits.
An institution attends to its affiliation status between comprehensive evaluations by honoring the stipulations of its accreditation, notifying HLC of substantive change, filing required reports, and hosting any necessary focused visits. The federal government requires recognized accrediting agencies to make visits in some situations; therefore, institutions also host such visits in attending to their affiliation status.
HLC’s relationship with an institution may come under review in whole or in part as the institution’s circumstances change. All affiliated institutions also attend to affiliation by filing an Institutional Update with HLC.
Submitting Required Reports
HLC may require an interim report when its goal is to receive specific, important information from the institution, track how the institution is progressing in coping with certain changes or challenges, or receive evidence that plans came to fruition. HLC may call for additional reports, require a focused visit, or, following guidance from the peer review team, move forward the date of the next comprehensive evaluation.
The successful filing of a report is considered an official HLC action. HLC's analysis together with the HLC letter of acceptance is part of the institution’s official file and is shared with the next peer review team conducting an evaluation.
HLC may embed monitoring in a comprehensive evaluation. In such cases, the issues subject to embedded monitoring are to be addressed by the institution in the sections on the applicable Core Components in its Assurance Argument. The review team is to ascertain whether the institution has satisfactorily addressed the monitoring issue(s) and will document its findings in the conclusion section of the team report.
Participating in Focused Visits
Focused visits occur between comprehensive evaluations and examine only specific aspects of an institution. A focused visit reviews specific developments and changes or follows up on concerns identified by a previous evaluation process and is not primarily concerned with determining whether an institution fulfills the Criteria for Accreditation.
Note: HLC has created a focused visit cost estimator that can be customized to assist in anticipating costs for the visit.
The Institution Report for a Focused Visit
Institutions must provide the peer review team and HLC with an electronic packet of information eight weeks prior to a focused visit.
Required Materials and Submission Procedures
Team Visit and Decision-Making Processes for Focused Visits
In some respects, the policies and procedures governing the evaluations that occur in focused visits are similar to those governing comprehensive evaluations. However, there are a number of significant differences. The first difference involves the role of the peer review team. The peer review team conducting the focused visit does not evaluate whether the institution fulfills the Criteria for Accreditation, nor does it recommend granting, continuing or denying candidate or accredited status. However, it can recommend sanctions if circumstances warrant and, in very rare situations, withdrawal of status.
Focused visits typically involve two team members for two days. Some unique visits may require several days and several team members. The team’s basic role is to evaluate the areas specified as the focus of the visit and to provide the Commission with a report on developments related to those areas. If matters outside the focus of the visit come to the attention of the team, it notes them, recommending appropriate changes in the institution’s affiliation status with HLC.
Focused visit recommendations go to the Institutional Actions Council for final action.
Filing the Institutional Update
All affiliated institutions are required to complete HLC’s Institutional Update each year. This report, which is completed online, provides HLC 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.
In reviewing the Institutional Update, HLC looks at relationships among a variety of indicators in a given year or over several years. If those relationships suggest that the institution may be experiencing problems or very rapid change, HLC invites the institution to submit an interpretation of the data.