Higher Learning Commission


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Federal Compliance Program

As a federally recognized accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is required to assure that all its member institutions are meeting their Title IV program responsibilities as well as complying with the expectations of specific regulations accreditors must enforce as a part of their recognition by the U.S. Department of Education. Compliance with these requirements by both institutions and HLC is necessary to ensure that institutions accredited by the HLC are eligible for federal financial aid.

Expectations for Institutions and Peer Reviewers

The Federal Compliance Program follows a three-step process:

  1. First, institutions must address the federal requirements in the materials they submit to HLC before a visit. The Federal Compliance Filing by Institutions provides direction to institutions in addressing these requirements. Institutions applying for candidacy or initial accreditation address the Federal Compliance Requirements in their preparations for the comprehensive evaluation visit.

    AQIP Pathway institutions address the requirements in the materials prepared for comprehensive evaluations in Year 8. Institutions participating in the Open Pathway must demonstrate that they meet the Federal Compliance Requirements during the Year 10 comprehensive evaluation. Institutions participating in the Standard Pathway must demonstrate that they meet the Federal Compliance Requirements in the Year 4 and Year 10 comprehensive evaluations.

    Institutions on Probation or Show Cause address the requirements in their preparations for the sanction visit.

  2. Second, HLC expects that institutions make additional supporting information on Federal Compliance available during the visit (or in the Assurance System). While conducting the visit, peer reviewers should verify that the Federal Compliance information they have received is accurate and complete. They should raise any questions they have with institutional representatives.

  3. Third, peer reviewers must document that they have conducted a thorough review of the institution’s compliance with federal requirements using the Federal Compliance Worksheet for Evaluation Teams. A Federal Compliance reviewer evaluates the institution’s Federal Compliance materials in advance of the visit and refers any issues to the on-ground team for further exploration and confirmation. In some cases, HLC does not assign a Federal Compliance reviewer and instead asks that the on-site peer review team conduct the Federal Compliance review as part of its work.


Related Documents

The Federal Compliance Overview provides all the information pertaining to the preparation of institutional and team materials to address the Federal Compliance requirements.

Institutional Forms

Peer Review Forms

For use with institutional filing forms dated September 1, 2014–August 31, 2016:

For use with institutional filing forms dated September 1, 2016–August 31, 2017 (complete and submit both worksheets):

Third-Party Comment

As part of the Federal Compliance process, HLC requires institutions undergoing comprehensive evaluations to publish basic information about the evaluation and on-site visit and to invite the public to provide written comments to HLC.

Third-Party Comment: Policy and Procedures

Third-Party Comment Form

Worksheet Samples

HLC provides sample worksheets of how accredited institutions have completed the Worksheet for Use by Institutions on Assignment of Credit Hours and on Clock Hours.

Colorado Northwestern Community College

United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities

West Virginia Northern Community College

Western State Colorado University