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HLC Vocabulary

The Higher Learning Commission publishes several different kinds of standards. Understanding each of them reduces what can be a significant amount of confusion that occurs when we first start learning about accreditation. It is difficult to say one of these standards is more important than another, our Assurance Argument will focus on showing compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation. Here’s a primer on the Criteria and other sets of standards:

Criteria for Accreditation: The Criteria for Accreditation are the standards of quality by which the Commission determines whether an institution merits accreditation or reaffirmation of accreditation. There are five Criteria. Each Criteria has Core Components and Subcomponents that provide additional insight. Read the Criteria here: http://hlcommission.org/Criteria-Eligibility-and-Candidacy/criteria-and-core-components.html  

Guiding Values: The Criteria for Accreditation reflect a set of guiding values. HLC articulates these guiding values to offer a better understanding of the Criteria and the intentions that underlie them. The responsibility for assuring the quality of an institution rests first with the institution itself. Institutional accreditation assesses the capacity of an institution to assure its own quality and expects it to produce evidence that it does so. Read the Guiding Values here: http://hlcommission.org/Criteria-Eligibility-and-Candidacy/guiding-values.html

Assumed Practices: Foundational to the Criteria and their Core Components is a set of practices shared by institutions of higher education in the United States. Unlike the Criteria and Core Components, these Assumed Practices are (1) generally matters to be determined as facts, rather than matters requiring professional judgment and (2) unlikely to vary by institutional mission or context. HLC does not investigate compliance with the Assumed Practices unless evaluation of the Criteria calls for a need to do so. Read the Assumed Practices here: http://policy.hlcommission.org/Policies/assumed-practices.html


Obligations of Affiliation: While seeking and holding affiliation with the Commission, a college voluntarily agrees to meet the Obligations of Affiliation set forth by the Commission. Institutions must remain in compliance with the Obligations of Affiliation at all times. The Commission shall determine when an institution is in violation of the Obligations of Affiliation. Commission staff, may, at its discretion, make use of any means to determine whether the institution has violated an Obligation of Affiliation including, but not limited to, seeking written information from the institution or scheduling a peer reviewer or staff member to meet with one or more institutional representatives either on-campus or through other appropriate method. Read the Obligations of Affiliation here: http://policy.hlcommission.org/Requirements-for-Affiliation/obligations-of-affiliation.html 


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