About Higher Learning Commission Accreditation

The Higher Learning Commission is one of six regional associations that provide accreditation for institutions of higher learning in the United States.  HLC accreditation provides assurance to the public that an institution has been found to meet stated requirements and criteria.  The accreditation process provides public certification of acceptable institutional quality and an opportunity for critical self-analysis, quality improvement, evaluation, and consultation from other higher education professionals.  Regional accreditation is required for institutions to receive Title IV funding (financial aid for students) and to ensure that our coursework and degrees are accepted by other institutions of higher learning and employers.

HLC Open Pathway for Reaffirmation of Accreditation

In 2012 the HLC rolled out a significant revision to the accreditation process. The new process, called “Pathways,” is based on a ten-year cycle.  As part of the roll-out of the new process, UNM was placed in the Open Pathway, the model that is for mature institutions that are in good standing with the HLC.  The Open Pathway includes two components:

  1. The assurance process, which ensures that the institution meets all of the accreditation criteria, and
  2. The quality process, which encourages continuous improvement.

The assurance process includes standard annual reporting, and two assurance reviews: an asynchronous review without a site visit in Year 4 and a comprehensive review that includes a site visit Year 10. The Quality Initiative process occurs between Years 5 and 9 of the ten-year cycle in which the institution proposes, implements, and reports on the quality initiative.

HLC Criteria for Accreditation

New accreditation criteria were adopted by the HLC in 2012 and were fully implemented in January 2013.   The five accreditation criteria include:

Criterion One


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 offering 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 to respond to future challenges and opportunities