Higher Learning Commission


Find Accredited Institutions arrow

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 during 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 Evaluation

At the end of the eight-year cycle, institutions undergo a 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. The evaluation includes a Comprehensive Quality Review, a review of Federal Compliance Requirements, a student opinion survey and an on-site visit by a team of HLC peer reviewers. 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.


Transition to the Assurance System

Starting in fall 2017, institutions on the AQIP Pathway will submit their Systems Portfolios using HLC's online Assurance System. Peer reviewers will also use the system to conduct Systems Appraisals. The system is designed to streamline the process of creating, submitting and reviewing institutional materials.

Log In

Training and System Details

Assurance System Manual

Sample Systems Portfolio

Frequently Asked Questions

Pathways for Reaffirmation of Accreditation

Choosing a Pathway

Standard Pathway

Open Pathway


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.