Higher Learning Commission


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AQIP Pathway Overview

The AQIP Pathway is one of three options institutions have for maintaining accreditation with HLC. Like the other pathways, it is focused on quality assurance and institutional improvement, but with an added emphasis on helping institutions achieve continuous quality improvement. The AQIP Pathway follows an eight-year cycle.

All institutions eligible to choose a pathway may participate in the AQIP Pathway.


Substantive Requirements for Reaffirmation of Accreditation: Policy INST.C.10.010

Process Requirements for Each Pathway: Policy INST.C.10.020

Process Requirements Leading to Commission Action for Reaffirmation: Policy INST.C.10.030


The AQIP Pathway’s eight-year cycle includes the following institutional reviews:

Regular Monitoring

Institutions submit an annual Institutional Update, 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.

Annual Action Projects

During each year of the cycle, institutions on the AQIP Pathway will maintain at least three Action Projects, short-term projects that the institution believes will have the most impact on quality improvement. Institutions are required to submit at least three Action Projects for review annually, with at least one project focused on student learning. Institutions receive response comments subsequent to those filings through the Action Project Review.

Years 1–2 and 5–6: Strategy Forums

Institutions participate in two Strategy Forums as part of the eight-year cycle. The first may be completed in either Year 1 or Year 2 (unless it is the institution’s first year on the AQIP Pathway, when the Strategy Forum must be in the spring of Year 1) and the second in Year 5 or Year 6. Strategy Forums bring together teams from institutions on the AQIP Pathway to generate new strategies for institutional improvement. Teams share constructive feedback on their quality systems and Action Projects.

Years 3 and 7: Systems Portfolios and Appraisals

In Years 3 and 7, institutions complete Systems Portfolios to demonstrate that the Criteria for Accreditation are being met. The institution provides evidence on how it plans, implements, reports and utilizes data for the AQIP Pathway Categories and also includes evidence related to the Criteria for Accreditation. A peer review team conducts a Systems Appraisal to evaluate these materials and recommends whether the institution should continue in the cycle and whether any monitoring is required.

Year 8: Comprehensive Quality Review

At the end of the eight-year cycle, institutions undergo a Comprehensive Quality Review as part of a broader comprehensive evaluation to ensure they are meeting the Criteria for Accreditation, pursuing institutional improvement and complying with certain requirements set by the U.S. Department of Education. This review leads to an action regarding the reaffirmation of the institution’s accreditation.

Note: A Comprehensive Quality Review may also occur in Year 4 if significant concerns arise from a prior evaluation or the Systems Portfolio and Appraisal processes in Year 3, or upon institutional request or HLC determination.


Pathways for Reaffirmation of Accreditation

Choosing a Pathway

Standard Pathway

Open Pathway


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