HLC Regional Accreditation

Higher Learning Commission

Saint Xavier University/Standard Pathways

Overview and Timeline

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is an independent corporation that was founded in 1895 as one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. HLC accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in the North Central region, which includes the following 19 states:

A peer review process is utilized and based upon the assumption that quality in higher education is best served through a process that enables peers of the organization, informed by standards best understood and applied by professionals in higher education, to make the comparative judgments essential to quality assurance.

At the heart of the accreditation process is the search for the answers to three essential questions:

  1. Does the institution adhere to the core values expressed in its mission statement?
  2. Is the university successful in addressing the learning needs of its students?
  3. Does the institution have the appropriate resources (financial, human, and physical) to meet future challenges?

In tying accreditation to an institution's self-proclaimed mission and purpose, the Higher Learning Commission requires an organization to document that it is actually doing what it claims that it is committed to doing.

The University was recommended by the Higher Learning Commission staff for the Standard Pathways to reaccreditation. This recommendation acknowledges that the University meets certain threshold standards. Saint Xavier University has been placed on transition map with the site visit scheduled for April 6-7, 2020.

The responsibility for ensuring that any institution receiving Title IV funds is in compliance with the HEOA of 2008 has been delegated by the Federal Government to regional accrediting agencies like HLC.

In short, reaccreditation is now two-pronged with (a) Assurance Arguments/meeting core criteria; (b) ; and  Compliance/meeting all federal regulations for Title IV and IX. Below is the list of documents required for SXU's 2020 HLC focused visit decennial review, the target date for submission of those documents.

Higher Learning Commission Focused Visit Timeline

  Document Target Date Submission Deadline
A. Assurance Argument November 2019 February 2020
B. Final Review January 2020 February 2020
C. Compliance (Federal) Ongoing HLC Review 2021

Standard Pathways Reaccreditation Process

The Assurance Argument

The Assurance Argument is organized by the Higher Learning Commission's five Criteria and their Core Components (see below). The HLC has set up an Assurance system (web-based technology) to host evidentiary material and the Assurance Argument. The latter, unlike former Self-Study narratives, is limited to 35,000 words, is to be organized by Criteria and their Core Components, and must detail how each Criterion and Core Component has been met. For each Criterion, the institution being reviewed offers:

The first step in addressing the Assurance Review is development of the Assurance Argument. Assurance Arguments must be crafted for each Criterion. (The full description of the criterion are found on the Higher Learning Commission website) Here are brief descriptions of the specific Criterion:

Criterion One. Mission

The institution's mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution's operations.

Criterion Two. Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct

The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible.

Criterion Three. Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources and Support

The institution provides high quality education, wherever and however its offerings are delivered.

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.

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.

The crafting of an Assurance Argument has been the work of individual study teams comprised of faculty appointed by school deans and staff members assigned ex officio per relevant expertise by the administration. Drafts of Assurance Arguments were submitted in March 2016 and will be submitted to the Open Pathways Steering Committee this fall.


Federal Compliance Program

As a federally recognized accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is required to assure that all its member institutions are meeting their Title IV program responsibilities as well as complying with the expectations of specific regulations accreditors must enforce as a part of their recognition by the U.S. Department of Education. Compliance with these requirements by both institutions and the HLC is necessary to ensure that institutions accredited by the HLC are eligible for federal financial aid. Verification of compliance with the following federal regulations set forth in the HEOA (2008) is the responsibility of regional accrediting agencies like the HLC:

  1. Assignment of Credits, Program Length, and Tuition
  2. Institutional Records of Student Complaints
  3. Publication of Transfer Policies
  4. Practices for Verification of Student Identity
  5. Title IV Program Responsibilities
  6. Public Information: Required Information for Students and the Public
  7. Public Information: Advertising and Recruiting Materials and Other Public Information
  8. Review of Student Outcome Data
  9. Standing with State and Other Accrediting Agencies
  10. Public Information: Public Notification of Opportunity to Comment

Student Right-to-Know

The Higher Learning Commission also has the obligation to insure that student achievement data is available to the general public. This federal law, known as the "Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act" (P.L. 101-542), was passed by Congress on November 9, 1990. Title I, Section 103 of that act requires institutions eligible for Title IV funding to calculate completion or graduation rates of certificate or degree-seeking, full-time students entering that institution and to disclose those rates to all students and prospective students.

Saint Xavier University has for years published a Student Profile Report that contains such information but, as of September 1, 2014, a separate, high-level web page was launched and will be maintained by the Office of Institutional Research and Planning.

State Authorization

Saint Xavier University has been approved by Illinois to participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. NC-SARA is a voluntary, regional approach to state oversight of postsecondary distance education.

NC-SARA logo