AQIP Pathway History

Launched in July 1999 with a generous grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Commission's Academic Quality Improvement Program infuses the principles and benefits of continuous improvement into the culture of colleges and universities by providing an alternative process through which an already-accredited institution can maintain its accreditation.  An institution in AQIP demonstrates how it meets accreditation standards and expectations through a sequence of events that align with the ongoing activities of an institution striving to improve its performance.

Blackhawk Technical College was accepted into the Academic Quality Improvement Program on December 15, 2005.

The AQIP Pathway

The Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) is one of several pathways leading to reaffirmation of accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission.  AQIP differs from the other pathways in that it is premised on principles of continuous quality improvement, and its various processes and requirements are designed to assist institutions in achieving quality improvement, along with reaffirming the institution’s accredited status with the Commission once every AQIP cycle.  Many institutions have reported transforming their quality cultures since embarking on the AQIP Pathway.

AQIP Categories

The Revised AQIP Pathway Categories (now six in number) provide a framework that institutions can use to examine their key processes and allow institutions to analyze, understand, and explore opportunities for improvement.

Category One:  Helping Students Learn

Focuses on the design, deployment, and effectiveness of teaching-learning processes (and on the processes required to support them) that underlie the institution’s credit and non-credit programs and courses.

Category Two:  Meeting Student and Other Key Stakeholder Needs

Addresses the key processes (separate from instructional programs and internal support services) through which the institution serves its external stakeholders in support of its mission.


Category Three:  Valuing Employees

Explores the institution’s commitment to the hiring, development, and evaluation of faculty, staff, and administrators.

Category Four:  Planning and Leading

Focuses on how the institution achieves its mission and lives its vision through direction setting, goal development, strategic actions, threat mitigation, and capitalizing on opportunities.

Category Five:  Knowledge Management and Resource Stewardship

Addresses management of the fiscal, physical, technological, and information infrastructures designed to provide an environment in which learning can thrive.

Category Six:  Quality Overview

Focuses on the Continuous Quality Improvement culture and infrastructure of the institution.  This category gives the institution a chance to reflect on all its quality improvement initiatives, how they are integrated, and how they contribute to improvement of the institution.

The Criteria for Accreditation

The Criteria for Accreditation are the standards of quality by which the Commission determines whether an institution merits accreditation or reaffirmation of accreditation. They are as follows:

Criterion One:  Mission
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 offerings 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 respond to future challenges and opportunities. The institution plans for the future.

The Criteria for Accreditation:  Guiding Values

The Higher Learning Commission’s Criteria for Accreditation reflect a set of guiding values. The Commission articulates these guiding values so as to offer a better understanding of the Criteria and the intentions that underlie them.

  1. Focus on student learning
  2. Education as a public purpose
  3. Education for a diverse, technological, globally connected world
  4. A culture of continuous improvement
  5. Evidence-based institutional learning and self-presentation
  6. Integrity, transparency, and ethical behavior or practice
  7. Governance for the well-being of the institution
  8. Planning and management of resources to ensure institutional sustainability
  9. Mission-centered evaluation
  10. Accreditation through peer review