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 HLC is necessary to ensure that institutions accredited by HLC are eligible for federal financial aid.

When Federal Compliance Is Reviewed

HLC reviews an institution’s compliance with federal requirements at multiple points in the accreditation relationship. Federal Compliance Reviews are conducted as part of the following evaluations:

  • Comprehensive evaluations for Reaffirmation of Accreditation, regardless of when they occur (including the first comprehensive evaluation that occurs after a grant of initial accreditation, or after the removal of Probation or Show Cause).
  • Comprehensive evaluations for institutions applying for candidacy or initial accreditation.
  • Sanction visits for institutions on Probation (except if Probation is extended) and Show Cause.
  • Advisory visits arising from questions of compliance with one or more federal requirements or as part of any other appropriate evaluation as warranted by HLC to verify such compliance.

HLC may also require an institution to submit documentation related to one or more federal requirements, without an on-site evaluation necessarily occurring, under HLC’s policy on Special Monitoring.

Review Process

The Federal Compliance Overview provides all the information pertaining to the preparation of institutional and team materials to address the Federal Compliance requirements. Institutions must submit the Federal Compliance Filing by Institutions form and other supporting documentation before their on-site visit by a team of HLC peer reviewers. These materials should be uploaded to the Assurance System prior to the institution’s lock date.

Note: HLC will make the Federal Compliance documents available in the Assurance System six months before the institution’s lock date. HLC recommends that institutions begin compiling the necessary documentation at that point.

When the institution’s Assurance Filing is locked and released to the peer review team, a Federal Compliance reviewer evaluates the materials in advance of the visit and refers any issues to the on-ground team for further exploration and confirmation.

While conducting the visit, the peer review team determines whether the preliminary findings made by the Federal Compliance reviewer accurately represent the institution’s compliance with all applicable requirements and requests additional documentation from the institution, if needed. If the team has concerns about the institution’s compliance with federal requirements, they may recommend follow-up monitoring or other action in accordance with HLC policy. This recommendation would go to an HLC decision-making body for review and final action.