Higher Learning Commission

Policy Title: Show-Cause (Procedural Order)

Number: INST.E.30.010

The Board of Trustees may require an accredited institution to show cause, within a limited period of time not to exceed one (1) year, as to why its accreditation should not be removed. The basis for the issuance of a Show-Cause Order will be the Board’s determination that there is probable cause that the institution does not meet the Criteria for Accreditation or the Federal Compliance Requirements or is out of conformity with the Assumed Practices. The Show-Cause Order is public. The institution remains accredited while it is on Show-Cause. An order to show cause is a final action not subject to appeal.

The Board of Trustees will explain the reasons for its decision and areas of probable non-compliance in the Show-Cause Order and in the letter provided to the institution after the action to impose Show-Cause. The Show-Cause Order will require that an institution (1) present its case for continued accreditation by means of a report, known as a Show-Cause Report, that provides substantive evidence that the institution continues to meet each of the Criteria for Accreditation including the Assumed Practices, and Federal Compliance Requirements and has resolved the issues that led to the findings of probable non-compliance identified in the Show-Cause Order, and (2) host an on-site evaluation team to validate the report. The President of the Commission shall determine whether the institutional liaison or other Commission staff member will accompany the Show-Cause Evaluation Visit. The on-site team will produce a report that includes its findings regarding the institution’s compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation and the Federal Compliance Requirements and conformity with the Assumed Practices for consideration by the Board of Trustees. Only the Board of Trustees may issue a Show-Cause Order, and only the Board of Trustees may find that the Show-Cause Order has been addressed, and that the institution has demonstrated compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation and the Federal Compliance Requirements and conformity with the Assumed Practices.

Process for Imposing or Removing a Show-Cause Order

The Board of Trustees shall take action at the end of the Show-Cause period. If the institution has demonstrated to the sole satisfaction of the Board that it has ameliorated each finding of probable non-compliance identified by the Board detailed in the Show-Cause Order and that it meets each of the Criteria for Accreditation, including but not limited to the Assumed Practices and Federal Compliance Requirements, the Board may remove the institution from Show-Cause and cancel the Order; the Board may also reaffirm accreditation as required by the institution’s reaffirmation cycle with the Commission. The Board may remove the institution from Show-Cause subject to a period of Notice if the institution has demonstrated compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation, including but not limited to the Assumed Practices and Federal Compliance Requirements, but remains at risk related to those areas of non-compliance or other deficiencies. No language in other Commission policies including but not limited to the policy on Probation shall be interpreted to create a right by an institution to additional time after a period of Show-Cause concludes to demonstrate compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation or Federal Compliance Requirements.

If the institution has not demonstrated to the sole satisfaction of the Board 1) that it has ameliorated each area of non-compliance identified by the Board detailed in the Show-Cause Order and 2) that it meets each of the Criteria for Accreditation and Federal Compliance Requirements, the Board shall withdraw accreditation or take any other action provided for in Commission policy including Probation or Reconsideration, as appropriate, subject to the requirements of those policies provided that in no case shall the period of time provided to an institution determined to be non-compliant be more than two (2) years including the Show-Cause period.

In all cases, the Board of Trustees will act at the conclusion of a Show-Cause process only if the institution’s chief executive officer has been given opportunity to place before the Board of Trustees a written response to the Show-Cause Report and any other information arising in the Show-Cause process. An institution shall have at least two (2) weeks to prepare and submit an institutional response to the team report prior to review and action by the Board of Trustees.

Board Committee Hearing in Show-Cause

At the time it establishes the order, or within a reasonable period of time thereafter, the Board of Trustees will name individuals to conduct a Board Committee Hearing in keeping with INST.E.70.010 Special Protocols Related to Adverse Actions. The hearing will occur after the on-site visit but prior to the Board of Trustees meeting at which the Board of Trustees will take final action on the Show-Cause Order.

Pathways Assignment

An institution placed on Show-Cause is removed from any reaffirmation pathway until it is removed from Show-Cause.

If, at the conclusion of the Show-Cause period, the Board of Trustees removes the institution from Show-Cause and does not withdraw accreditation or place the institution on Probation or take other action related to a finding of non-compliance, the Board shall assign the institution to the Standard Pathway. The institution will have an evaluation to reaffirm accreditation no later than four (4) years after the Board acts to remove Show-Cause and depending on the previous date of reaffirmation although the Board may set the reaffirmation date earlier, and the institution will be set in the Standard Pathway accordingly. The Board may also require interim monitoring as a part of its action. The institution will remain on the Standard Pathway until it completes a full ten (10)-year cycle and is then reaffirmed without further sanction at which time it may be considered for the Open or AQIP Pathways.

Substantive Change During the Show-Cause Period

The Commission will not consider for approval any substantive change during the Show-Cause period unless the institution can demonstrate that the change is required by law or by the requirements of a specialized accreditor or is essential for the institution to demonstrate compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation or Federal Compliance Requirements or to remain fiscally viable. Even if the Commission accepts the application after this showing of necessity, the application will be subject to strict scrutiny by the Commission and may be denied or deferred by staff or by the Institutional Actions Council Committee for consideration by the Commission after the Board has removed Show-Cause. An approval of a substantive change for an institution on Show-Cause is not indicative of a determination by the Commission that an institution has corrected identified areas of probable non-compliance.

An institution on Show-Cause is not eligible for the Notification Program for Additional Locations and shall be removed from that program by staff after being placed on Show-Cause. The institution may not reapply until it has completed ten (10) years in good standing as required for access to the Notification Program for Additional Locations.

Public Disclosure of Show-Cause

A Public Disclosure Notice for an institution on Show-Cause will be available on the Commission’s website after, but not more than twenty-four (24) hours after, the Commission notifies the institution of the action issuing the Show-Cause Order. An institution on Show-Cause must notify its Board members, administrators, faculty, staff, students, prospective students, and any other constituencies about the action in a timely manner not more than fourteen (14) days after receiving the action letter from the Commission; the notification must include information on how to contact the Commission for further information; the institution must also disclose this status whenever it refers to its Commission accreditation.

Show-Cause Evaluation Visit

An institution under a Show-Cause Order shall undergo a Show-Cause Evaluation Visit by the Commission according to a schedule set by the Commission’s Board of Trustees in placing the institution on Show-Cause. The evaluation will review the institution’s compliance with all the Criteria for Accreditation and Federal Compliance Requirements and conformity with the Assumed Practices. The visit will be narrowly tailored at the Commission’s discretion to make this key determination.

A team of peer reviewers appointed by Commission staff in accordance with Commission procedures shall conduct a visit to the institution’s main campus and other institutional locations as determined by the Commission based on its policies and procedures; for institutions that offer only distance or correspondence education, the team shall conduct its on-site visit to the institution’s administrative offices but may include other institutional locations.

The length of the visit shall be three (3) days, but the Commission shall retain discretion to lengthen or shorten the visit or require that team members conduct additional on-site visits to the institution’s facilities to examine specific issues.

The President of the Commission shall determine whether the institutional liaison or other Commission staff member will accompany evaluation visits related to Show-Cause.

Institutional Responses to the Show-Cause Evaluation Visit Report

An institution shall have the opportunity to provide a written response to the written report of a Show-Cause evaluation following Commission policies for the provision of institutional responses. An institution shall have at least two (2) weeks to prepare and submit an institutional response to the team report prior to review and action through the Commission’s decision-making processes.


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Related Policies

INST.E.70.010
Special Protocols Related to Adverse Actions

INST.B.30.040
Public Disclosure

COMM.B.10.010
Staff Role and Responsibility

Policy History

Last Revised: February 2015
First Adopted: June 2000
Revision History: June 2006, November 2012, February 2014, February 2015
Notes: Policies combined November 2012 – 2.5(c), 2.5(c)1, 2.5(c)2, 2.5(c)3

Policy Number Key

Section INST: Institutional Policies

Chapter E: Sanctions, Adverse Actions, and Appeals

Part 30: Show Cause

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