Higher Learning Commission


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Beyond the Horizon: The 2020 Strategic Plan

HLC’s strategic plan, Beyond the Horizon, identifies the guiding framework and action steps that the organization will pursue for the next four years. It is organized around five strategic directions, referred to as VISTA: Value to Members, Innovation, Student Success, Thought Leadership and Advocacy. These directions outline a strong future for HLC, its members and other stakeholders, and they reaffirm HLC’s mission statement:

Serving the common good by assuring and advancing the quality of higher learning.

HLC’s Board of Trustees endorsed the plan at its June 2016 meeting. As HLC moves forward with implementing the plan, it will share regular updates with its members.

VISTA: HLC’s Strategic Directions

The strategic directions identified in the final plan are summarized below. See the full plan for the action steps HLC intends to take to achieve these goals.

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Guiding Framework for Value to Members

  1. In recognition of the fast-changing higher education landscape, HLC will continue to recognize and embrace the diversity of member institutions and will seek to ensure that all will benefit from interactions with HLC, the Peer Corps and one another.
  2. HLC will strive to make accreditation requirements explicit and purposeful for member institutions of all types and missions and similarly significant to the stakeholders whom the institutions serve.
  3. Working within the context of its expectations for accredited institutions along with federal requirements, HLC will streamline processes and procedures for member institutions.
  4. HLC will continue to work aggressively to establish the finest Peer Corps it can, such that peer reviewers are astute in evaluating institutional performance yet able to provide valuable advice and guidance for institutional improvement.
  5. In further recognition of its role in helping institutions advance the quality of their instructional and support offerings, HLC will offer, identify and deliver additional enrichment events and services for institutional and public benefit.


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Guiding Framework for Innovation

  1. In light of the current higher education climate, HLC will create avenues to better understand, articulate and act upon the multiple facets of innovation in the work it does.
  2. Given the constraints that sometimes exist between innovation and quality assurance, HLC will identify and overcome barriers to innovation that it may present as an accreditor, while being sensitive to the limits inherent in its role as a recognized Title IV gatekeeper.
  3. HLC will further enhance its processes and technologies to benefit member institutions and peer reviewers.


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Guiding Framework for Student Success

  1. HLC will collaborate with member institutions to define “student success” in a way that is easily understood, sensitive to institutional mission and attentive to the reasons students seek higher education.
  2. HLC will review the Criteria for Accreditation and related requirements to ensure sensitivity to institutional missions and student needs, whether these are focused on career preparation, pre-professional training, liberal education or a combination of these for the betterment of the individual and society.
  3. HLC will advance the agenda on assessment of student learning.
  4. HLC will collect, organize and publish data on student success to better enable institutional decision making.


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Guiding Framework for Thought Leadership

  1. HLC will serve as a catalyst for thought leadership by encouraging innovative ideas and strategies pertaining to higher education topics and challenges, with a particular commitment to assuring academic quality.
  2. HLC will disseminate information to promote and advance thought leadership in higher education.


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Guiding Framework for Advocacy

  1. HLC will promote widespread understanding of and support for accreditation and the effectiveness of peer review in assuring quality.
  2. HLC will work to revitalize the role and value of the Triad, which includes accreditors, the states and the federal government, in the assurance of quality throughout higher education.


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