Higher Learning Commission

Policy Title: Official Records

Number: INST.G.10.020

The Commission will transmit all documents and communications to an affiliated or applying institution or to other parties through electronic means whenever possible. The Commission will expect that all affiliated and applying institutions receive Commission communications transmitted electronically and that such institutions submit all documents, including self-studies, and communications electronically whenever possible. When the Commission withdraws the accreditation of an institution or imposes a sanction, the Commission will ensure that the institution receives the letter conveying the action by also sending a certified copy.

When an institution submits correspondence or other documents in a non-electronic form, the Commission reserves the right to digitize the document, to archive the electronic representation thereof and treat that representation as the original, and to destroy the non-electronic submission. The Commission record will then consist of the electronic version.

Official Records of Commission Processes and Actions

While the various review processes allow for frequent, clear and open communication between the institution and the Commission, the record of official action will be the action letter signed by the President and accompanied by a newly-adopted Statement of Affiliation Status.

Official Action of the Commission

The official relationship between an affiliated institution and the Commission will be recorded in the action letter, which is accompanied by appropriate documents that summarize the accrediting relationship or identify relevant aspects of that relationship. Such documents typically include at minimum the Statement of Affiliation Status (SAS) and the Organization Profile (OP) or any other comparable document developed by the Commission to summarize officially the key components of the relationship and other information about the institution.

Statement of Affiliation Status

The Statement of Affiliation Status (SAS) provides official information regarding the conditions of the institution’s accreditation with the Commission. Such information will include, but is not restricted to, the type of affiliation the institution has with the Commission; sanctions, if any, attendant to that status; the date of the institution’s next comprehensive evaluation; and any monitoring the institution must undergo prior to that evaluation. Other information relevant to the facts of the institution’s relationship with the Commission may be added.

The SAS is accompanied by the Organizational Profile (OP), a summary of data provided to the Commission by each affiliated institution. It is updated annually after the Commission receives the institution’s annual data report and may be updated at the time of action by any Commission decision-making body or by Commission staff. The SAS and OP are public documents and are posted on the Commission’s website.

Changes to the SAS. Staff may act on its own initiative or at the request of an institution to approve the following changes to the SAS: editing with non-substantive amendments; and changing the date of upcoming evaluations or filing of reports by no more than one year and not to exceed the maximum timeframe for evaluation visits provided in Commission policy.

Staff may recommend to the Institutional Actions Council for review and action on the staff’s own initiative or at the request of an institution the following changes to the SAS: substantive amendments including modifications to the Stipulations section; and changing the date of upcoming evaluations or filing of reports by more than one year or beyond the maximum ten years required for a comprehensive evaluation.

Communication With the Institution

Through all accrediting processes, the Commission office will transmit its formal and official communications to an institution through the chief executive officer (CEO). A copy of the official action letter will also be provided to the chair of the institution’s governing board. The Commission will also communicate with the individual identified by the institution as the Accreditation Liaison Officer. The responsibilities of the Accreditation Liaison Officer will be specified in Commission procedure.

Exit Session

An evaluation visit will normally conclude with a meeting between the evaluation team and the CEO of the institution. With the agreement of the team chair, the institution’s CEO may invite other persons to attend the meeting. At this meeting the chairperson of the team will explain the next steps in the evaluation process, including identifying any additional information the team may need, and may orally summarize the team’s preliminary findings. The team’s oral summary of its preliminary findings may differ from the findings and recommendations provided in the draft or final written report. The oral summary is not a part of the official record of the evaluation and should not be relied on by the institution to make any public announcement regarding the outcome of the evaluation or to take other action.

Distribution of the Team Report

The final team report will be part of the official record of the evaluation. The staff will be responsible for submitting copies of it to the CEO of the institution who will be expected to distribute the report internally and to determine whether wider distribution of it is warranted. The staff will also forward copies of the report to persons designated by the Commission to participate in the various review processes.

Institutional Responses Within the Processes

The CEO of the institution is expected to file written responses to any of the following:

  1. an evaluation team’s report and recommendations;
  2. a decision of a First Committee (Level 1) of the Institutional Actions Council calling for substantial modifications in the action;
  3. a recommendation of a First Committee (Level 1) or Second Committee (Level 2) regarding initial status, sanction, denial or withdrawal of status;
  4. desk review or panel recommendations;
  5. staff recommendations or reports regarding Change of Control, Structure or Organization or changes in the institution’s accredited relationship with the Commission as reflected in the Statement of Affiliation Status; or
  6. a recommendation of the Commission President for sanction, denial or withdrawal of status.

The CEO shall submit the written response within two weeks of receipt of the final evaluation team report. The response shall be considered in the review processes prior to the final action, including adverse action, and becomes a part of the official record of the process.

The documents identified in this section constitute the official record of the Commission’s interaction with an institution. These documents are: team reports, institutional responses, recommendations from a First Committee (Level 1) or Second Committee (Level 2) of the Institutional Actions Council, analyses of required reports and change requests, specific documents identified within the AQIP processes, and all official letters from the Commission detailing actions taken regarding the institution’s relationship with the Commission. The participants in those processes will be identified in the documents.

Other documents, including those documents developed by the staff to assist in specific processes and information regarding oral interactions, will not, except for good and sufficient cause, be included in materials provided in future review processes and will not be considered to be part of the official record of the interaction.

Definition of Official Records of a Process

The documents identified in this section constitute the official record of the Commission’s interaction with an institution. These documents are: institutional self-studies and other materials submitted in preparation for Commission review; other reports and change applications submitted by the institution; team or panel reports; institutional responses; recommendations from an Institutional Actions Council Hearing Committee; analyses of required reports and change requests; specific documents identified within the AQIP processes; and action letters and all other official letters from the Commission regarding the institution’s relationship with the Commission. The participants in those processes will be identified in the documents. For institutions applying for accreditation or accredited within the past ten years official records will also include documents arising from the current or any previous Eligibility Process or candidacy involving the institution.

Other documents, including those documents developed by the staff to assist in specific processes and information regarding oral interactions, will not, except for good and sufficient cause, be included in materials provided in future review processes and will not be considered to be part of the official record of the interaction.

Retention of Official Records

Through its record retention program, the Commission will maintain the official records of accredited institutions for at least the last full ten-year accreditation cycle, and, of applying institutions, for the institutions’ Eligibility Process and candidacy reviews.


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Related Policies

INST.B.30.040
Public Disclosure

INST.G.10.010
Management of Commission Information

INST.F.10.010
Routine Monitoring

Policy History

Last Revised: November 2012
First Adopted: February 2012, November 1998, February 2001, February 2007, November 1998, February 1996
Revision History: revised February 2002, February 2009, June 2011, November 2010, November 2012
Notes: Policies combined November 2012 - 2.4, 2.4(a), 2.4(b), 2.4(b)1, 2.4(c), 2.4(d), 2.4(e), 2.4(f), 2.4(g), 2.4(h), 2.4(i)

Policy Number Key

Section INST: Institutional Policies

Chapter G: Commission Information

Part 10: General

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