- The Higher Learning Commission, the nation’s largest historically regional accreditor, plans to test out differential accreditation based on institutional sector and mission by selecting research institutions and community colleges.
- The differential accreditation model lets accreditors adjust their oversight based on an institutions’ needs, and it reflects a growing emphasis on student outcomes in the accreditation process.
- HLC is aiming to begin its pilot in the fall of 2022. It is also weighing whether to recruit outside its longtime service area in the wake of new federal rules giving accreditors more flexibility over how they do business.
HLC is still working out the details of the pilot. However, enabling students to transfer between its member institutions more efficiently will be a focus, Barbara Gellman-Danley, the agency’s president, said in an emailed statement. The agency expects to meet with leaders of member schools as part of a preliminary research phase.
It already offers accreditation pathways that vary “by the amount of ‘touch'” an institution may need, and HLC spokesperson said in an email. Other historically regional accreditors offer similar options or plans.
For example, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities intends to develop a policy that would entail spending more time with at-risk institutions while using “a lighter touch” with those already performing well on student success and closing equity gaps. Its president, Sonny Ramaswamy, said in an email.