The Criteria for Accreditation

The Criteria for Accreditation are the standards by which HLC determines whether an institution merits accreditation or reaffirmation of accreditation. The Criteria have been designed to seek evidence of continual improvement on the part of member institutions rather than to define minimum qualifications.

Foundational to the Criteria and Core Components is a set of practices shared by institutions of higher education. Unlike the Criteria and Core Components, the 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. Assumed Practices may be in the Higher Learning Commission 2017 Resource Guide, available at

Board of Trustees considers modifications to the Criteria for Accreditation and the Assumed Practices annually, usually with first reading in February and second reading in June. The current version of the Criteria for Accreditation and the Assumed Practices can be found at

The Criteria for Accreditation are as follows:

Criterion One. Mission. The institution’s mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution’s operations.

Core Components

  1. The institution’s mission is broadly understood within the institution and guides its operations.
  2. The mission is articulated publicly.
  3. The institution understands the relationship between its mission and the diversity of society.
  4. The institution’s mission demonstrates commitment to the public good.

Criterion Two. Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct. The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible.

Core Components

  1. The institution operates with integrity in its financial, academic, personnel, and auxiliary functions; it establishes and follows policies and processes for fair and ethical behavior on the part of its governing board, administration, faculty, and staff.
  2. The institution presents itself clearly and completely to its students and to the public with regard to its programs, requirements, faculty and staff, costs to students, control, and accreditation relationships.
  3. The governing board of the institution is sufficiently autonomous to make decisions in the best interest of the institution and to assure its integrity.
  4. The institution is committed to freedom of expression and the pursuit of truth in teaching and learning.
  5. The institution’s policies and procedures call for responsible acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge by its faculty, students, and staff.

Criterion Three. Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support. The institution provides high quality education, wherever and however its offerings are delivered.

Core Components

  1. The institution’s degree programs are appropriate to higher education.
  2. The institution demonstrates that the exercise of intellectual inquiry and the acquisition, application, and integration of broad learning and skills are integral to its educational programs.
  3. The institution has the faculty and staff needed for effective, high-quality programs and student services.
  4. The institution provides support for student learning and effective teaching.
  5. The institution fulfills the claims it makes for an enriched educational environment.

Criterion Four. Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement. The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs, learning environments, and support services, and it evaluates their effectiveness for student learning through processes designed to promote continuous improvement.

Core Components

  1. The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs.
  2. The institution demonstrates a commitment to educational achievement and improvement through ongoing assessment of student learning.
  3. The institution demonstrates a commitment to educational improvement through ongoing attention to retention, persistence, and completion rates in its degree and certificate programs.

Criterion Five. Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness. The institution’s resources, structures, and processes are sufficient to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its educational offerings, and respond to future challenges and opportunities. The institution plans for the future.

Core Components

  1. The institution’s resource base supports its current educational programs and its plans for maintaining and strengthening their quality in the future.
  2. The institution’s governance and administrative structures promote effective leadership and support collaborative processes that enable the institution to fulfill its mission.
  3. The institution engages in systematic and integrated planning.
  4. The institution works systematically to improve its performance.

Source: Higher Learning Commission 2017 Resource Guide