Higher Learning Commission


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Background Information on Consortial Arrangements

Commission policies outline when institutions need to notify HLC about consortial arrangements and when they need to seek approval of these arrangements. (See policy INST.F.20.040.)

Characteristics of Consortial Arrangements

A consortial arrangement is one in which an HLC-accredited institution develops an agreement with an institution or group of institutions, i.e., the consortial party(ies), through which the consortial party(ies) agree to provide some portion of one or more educational programs (i.e. degrees or certificates offered for academic credit) offered by the HLC-accredited institution. The agreement may be a written contract or letter of agreement or other document or it may be an oral agreement between the parties.

To be considered a consortium, the party(ies) must be two or more institutions accredited by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. (See the previous section on Contractual Arrangements for agreements with organizations that do not meet this definition. Foreign institutions are typically not accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education even though such institutions often have arrangements with other institutions that are accredited by such agencies. Therefore, they are considered
contractual parties.)

The consortial arrangement may affect one or more Title IV-Eligible certificate or degree programs. The consortial party provides some portion of the educational program, which may include developing syllabi or courseware, providing academic resources, developing instructional design, or delivering instruction face-to-face or through a platform provided by the consortial party.

Arrangements that require HLC notification or approval do not include:

  • Articulation agreements through which the institution agrees to admit students and accept transfer credits previously earned or completed by those students with the other party to the articulation agreement, 2+2, clinical or internship arrangements unless the other party provides instruction.
  • Contracts that are solely for a delivery platform and do not include courseware, academic content, etc.

Reporting and Seeking Approval of Consortial Arrangements

Institutions have a responsibility to ensure that HLC is properly informed about and has approved consortial arrangements. HLC understands the percentages that determine whether an institution must notify or seek approval from the Commission for a consortial arrangement to mean the following:

  • If a student can access 24 percent or less of the credits in a degree or certificate program from the consortia institutions versus the institution that enrolls the student and awards the degree, no Commission notification is required.
  • If a student can access 25 - 50 percent of the credits in a degree or certificate program from consortia institutions versus the institution that enrolls the student and awards the degree, the institution must notify HLC of the consortial arrangement.
  • If a student can access more than 50 percent of the credits in a degree or certificate program from consortia institutions versus the institution that enrolls the student and awards the degree, the consortial arrangement must have prior approval from HLC.

Changes identified as requiring HLC notification are included in the institution’s accreditation provided that the institution provides timely notification to HLC through the Institutional Update and other established data reporting instruments established according to a schedule established by HLC.

The initiation, modification, or renewal of a consortial arrangement previously reviewed by HLC is considered to be a new consortial arrangement. The institution must initiate the substantive change process for the consortial arrangement to determine whether approval is required.

When to Use the Substantive Change Application Form for Consortial Arrangements

Consortial arrangements identified as requiring prior HLC approval prior to implementation shall be included in the institution’s accreditation only after HLC has reviewed the change and has formally acted to approve the change. The institution initiates its change request using the Screening Form for Consortial Arrangements provided on the right.

If all of the institutions participating in the consortium are accredited by HLC, the institutions are invited to submit a consolidated application form. Each institution in the arrangement should specify the percentage of credits it offers with respect to each degree program available through the consortial relationship. Those institutions requiring approval will receive formal approval whereas those institutions needing to notify HLC will have satisfied their obligation.


Application Form

Screening Form

Apply for approval of substantive change in Consortial Arrangements

Related Policy


Institutional Change Policy


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