Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Quality Assurance Initiative

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) open pathway requires that institutions undertake a major quality initiative (QI) designed to suit its present concerns or aspirations. The quality initiative takes place between years five (5) and nine (9) of the 10-year open pathway cycle.

The HLC expects that institutions be always engaged in quality improvement. 

Northern Illinois University’s HLC quality initiative is "Success in Gateway Courses for All Students (PDF)."

The principal purpose of the proposed QI is to support all of our students to achieve their academic goals by assessing, improving and modifying approaches in gateway courses to support higher levels of student success. Of particular importance is ensuring success for students from underrepresented populations. The QI will have the following goals:

  • Identify and redesign gateway courses with low success rates or high equity gaps.
  • Assess and deploy support for course transformation or other improvements in the identified courses to enhance student success.
  • Monitor data from and engage in continuous quality improvement of identified courses to enhance student success in courses and beyond (e.g., retention and graduation).

This initiative also aligns with the university’s presidential goals, the NIU Strategic Action Planning Framework, the NIU Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) Plan and SEM Accountability Plan, and NIU’s Illinois Equity in Attainment (ILEA) Equity Plan.  

Assurance Review 2018

The university was reaccredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) for 10 years (until 2024), the maximum period possible. Following that process in 2014, NIU transitioned into the least restrictive HLC pathway, called the open pathway, for maintaining accreditation.

NIU was required to complete an assurance review on June 25, 2018, which was to include documentation demonstrating how NIU fulfills each of the below five accreditation criteria and the associated 21 core components. 

  1. Mission
  2. Ethical and Responsible Conduct
  3. Teaching and Learning–Quality, Resources and Support
  4. Teaching and Learning–Evaluation and Improvement
  5. Resources, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness

The NIU criteria groups collected evidence and developed the assurance narrative that covers the period from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2017. The project was supported by the resource group and facilitated by the oversight group.

The 2018 HLC assurance argument (PDF) was submitted on June 15, 2018.

NIU has successfully completed its 2018 mid-cycle assurance review, meeting all five of the above HLC criteria for accreditation. The HLC peer review team's final report (PDF) describing their findings is available to all campus constituents.

These findings were also presented to the NIU Board of Trustees on September 13, 2018.