Higher Learning Commission


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Assurance Review

HLC conducts an Assurance Review to determine whether an institution on the Standard or Open Pathway continues to meet the Criteria for Accreditation. On the Standard Pathway, Assurance Reviews are conducted in Years 4 and 10 as part of broader comprehensive evaluations. On the Open Pathway, the Assurance Review is conducted by itself in Year 4 and is a part of the comprehensive evaluation that occurs in Year 10.

The following steps make up the Assurance Review:

  1. The institution demonstrates that it meets the Criteria for Accreditation by preparing an Assurance Filing, comprised of an Assurance Argument and an Evidence File, using HLC’s Assurance System.

  2. A team of peer reviewers evaluates the institution’s Assurance Filing. The outcome of this review is a recommendation as to whether the institution meets the Criteria for Accreditation.

    If the Assurance Review is part of a comprehensive evaluation, this review will also include an on-site visit by the peer review team. The Assurance Review conducted in Year 4 of the Open Pathway does not include an on-site visit unless the team determines one is necessary to explore uncertainties in evidence that cannot be resolved at a distance or if a sanction is being considered.

  3. A decision-making body reviews the institution’s documentation and the recommendation from the peer review team and takes an official action.

Assurance Filing: The Assurance Argument and Evidence File

The institution prepares an Assurance Argument and Evidence File as part of its Assurance Filing. Both of these pieces must be completed in the online Assurance System before the review is scheduled to begin.

In the Assurance Argument, the institution demonstrates how it meets each Criterion and Core Component. For each Criterion, the institution offers:

  • An articulation of how each Core Component within the Criterion is met.
  • A summary statement regarding any additional ways in which the institution fulfills the Criterion that are not otherwise covered in the statements on the Core Components.
  • Links to materials in the institution’s Evidence File for each claim or argument made.

The Assurance Argument will link to materials the institution uploads to its Evidence File to further support its narrative for each Criterion and Core Component. Examples of such evidence include:

  • Existing mission statements.
  • Budget documents.
  • Assessment and curriculum reports.
  • Minutes from meetings of governing boards and other prominent committees.
  • Materials submitted to and received from specialized accreditation organizations and state agencies.

Most materials in the Evidence File must be uploaded directly into the system as PDF files. HLC allows institutions to provide URLs for the following specific resources:

  • Course catalog
  • Class schedules.
  • Faculty roster.
  • Faculty, staff and student handbooks.

Every item uploaded to the Evidence File must be specifically linked to at least one Core Component in the Assurance Argument.

HLC automatically includes materials related to the institution’s accreditation history in its Evidence File. These may include:

  • Comprehensive evaluation and interim reports.
  • A trend summary from the institution’s most recent Institutional Update submissions.
  • Copies of official actions and correspondence.
  • Public comments.

Peer Review

A team of peer reviewers evaluates the institution’s Assurance Filing and writes its report in the Assurance System. If the review is being conducted as part of a comprehensive evaluation, the peer review team will write its report after completing its site visit and will take into account all of the additional materials involved in a comprehensive evaluation, such as Federal Compliance Requirements.

The peer review team’s report includes its findings as to whether the institution meets HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation, as well as possible recommendations for further action or monitoring. The team uses the following guidelines to determine if a Criterion is met:

The institution meets the Criterion if:

  1. The Criterion is met without concerns, meaning that the institution meets or exceeds the expectations embodied in the Criterion (stated as Criterion is met); or

  2. The institution demonstrates the characteristics expected by the Criterion, but performance in relation to some Core Components of the Criterion must be improved (stated as Criterion is met with concerns).

The institution meets the Criterion only if all Core Components are met. The institution does not meet the Criterion if the institution fails to meet all the Core Components or is so deficient in one or more Core Components of the Criterion that the Criterion is judged not to be met. The institution must be judged to meet all five Criteria for Accreditation to merit reaffirmation of accreditation.

The peer review team may recommend interim monitoring or recommend that any concerns be addressed in the institution’s next Assurance Filing. When conducting a Year 10 comprehensive evaluation, the team includes a recommendation regarding the institution’s reaffirmation of accreditation and pathway eligibility.

Decision Making

The team drafts its report four to six weeks following the start of the review or on-site visit. The institution will be asked to review the report and the team’s recommendations for errors of fact before the team submits its final report to HLC. The institution will be asked to submit a response to the final team report. The report and institutional response are then sent to the Institutional Actions Council for review and action. This may involve accepting the team’s recommendation regarding reaffirmation of accreditation or assigning additional institutional monitoring, if necessary.


Assurance System

HLC’s Assurance System is a web-based technology that institutions use to prepare their Assurance Filing and peer reviewers use to conduct the review and write their analysis and recommendation.

Log In

Training and System Details

Assurance System Manual

Frequently Asked Questions

Sample Assurance Arguments

HLC provides sample Assurance Arguments for institutions that are preparing for their Assurance Review.


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