The Standard Pathway seeks to achieve the following goals:
• To reduce the reporting burden on institutions by utilizing as much information and data as possible from existing institutional processes and collecting them in electronic form as they naturally occur over time
• To enhance rigor by checking institutional data annually (Institutional Update) and conducting comprehensive evaluations twice in the ten-year cycle
• To integrate as much as possible all HLC processes and requests for data into the reaffirmation of accreditation cycle
Factors in Determining Placement on the Standard Pathway
The Standard Pathway is available to all accredited institutions at any time, unless the institution is on Probation or under a Show-Cause order, when it follows a separate process. Some institutions are limited to the Standard Pathway. The Commission determines such limitation based upon the institution’s present condition and past relationship with the Commission.
An institution may be limited to the Standard Pathway if it meets one or more of the following conditions at the time of determination:
• It has been accredited for fewer than ten years.
• It has undergone a change of control, structure, or organization within the last two years.
• It has been under Commission sanction or related action within the last five years.
• It has a history of extensive Commission monitoring, including accreditation cycles shortened to seven or fewer years, multiple monitoring reports, and multiple focused visits extending across more than one accrediting cycle.
• It has been undergoing dynamic change (e.g., significant changes in enrollment or student body, opening or closing of multiple locations or campuses) or requiring frequent substantive change approvals since the last comprehensive evaluation.
• It has raised significant Commission concerns about circumstances or developments at the institution (e.g., ongoing leadership turnover, extensive review by a governmental agency, patterns identified in financial and non-financial indicators).
• It has failed to make a serious effort to conduct its Quality Initiative in the Open Pathway.
To participate in the Open or AQIP Pathways, an institution must be declared eligible by the Commission.
Assurance and Improvement in the Standard Pathway
Two comprehensive evaluations take place in the ten-year Standard Pathway accreditation cycle—one in Year 4 and one in Year 10. Both quality assurance and quality improvement are integrated into these comprehensive evaluations. In addition, the institution addresses quality assurance and improvement through interim monitoring, as required. In the Standard Pathway, both assurance and improvement are directly related to the Criteria for Accreditation.
The components of the comprehensive evaluation in the Standard Pathway are these:
1. An Assurance Review
2. An Improvement Review
3. A review of Federal Compliance
4. An on-site visit
5. If applicable, a multi-campus review
The institution addresses both assurance and improvement requirements in the Assurance Argument and Evidence File. Institutions without previously identified improvement requirements will be allowed to identify and work on projects of their choosing. For the Assurance Review, peer reviewers determine whether the institution continues to meet the Criteria for Accreditation by analyzing the institution’s Assurance Filing (Assurance Argument and Evidence File). In conjunction with this Assurance Review, the peer reviewers evaluate the progress the institution has made in addressing issues identified in previous evaluations as needing improvement. The review begins with a preliminary analysis of both assurance and improvement and is followed by a campus visit. The purposes of the campus visit are to validate claims made in the institution’s Assurance Filing, to evaluate the required improvements made by the institution, and to compare those materials with what the team finds during planned activities while on site.
All comprehensive evaluations include a review of whether the institution meets the Federal Compliance Requirements. In addition, comprehensive evaluations include visits to branch campuses as applicable.
Commission Decision-Making Process
In Year 4 and Year 10, the Commission takes action on the comprehensive evaluation. In Year 4, the decision process reviews the findings and acts to accept the report or call for monitoring or another accreditation action. Most Year 4 reviews do not includes an action regarding reaffirmation of accreditation. In Year 10 the decision process does include action regarding reaffirmation of accreditation with or without monitoring, as well as action on eligibility for the Open Pathway or application to AQIP.
Institutions with PEAQ comprehensive evaluations in years 2012-13 through 2014-15 will continue in the current PEAQ process. Pathway eligibility will be determined following Commission action at the conclusion of those reviews. All other institutions that had previously participated in PEAQ completed the transition to the pathways model—Standard, Open, or AQIP—in fall 2012. See Moving Between Pathways for further information.