Open Pathway Model

Open Pathway Model


  • To enhance institutional value by opening the improvement aspect of accreditation so that institutions may choose Quality Initiatives to suit their current circumstances
  • To reduce the reporting burden on institutions by utilizing as much information and data as possible from existing institutional processes and collecting them in electronic form as they naturally occur over time
  • To enhance rigor by checking institutional data annually (Institutional Update) and conducting Assurance Reviews twice in the ten-year cycle
  • To integrate as much as possible all HLC processes and HLC requests for data into the reaffirmation of accreditation cycle.

The Open Pathways model separates the continued accreditation process into two major components: (1) the Assurance Review and (2) the Quality Initiative.

  1. Assurance: The assurance review process requires the college to provide evidence and write an Assurance report that addresses the Higher Learning Commission’s criteria for accreditation. Two Assurance Reviews take place in the ten-year cycle; one in Year 4 and one in Year 10. The Year 4 review occurs through the Commission’s online Assurance System and without  a visit. The Year 10 review includes a visit to the campus.
  2. Quality Initiative: Between Years 5 and 9 of the ten-year cycle, the institution proposes and completes a Quality Initiative as an institutional improvement project. Phoenix College has chosen the Student Learning Assessment Academy as the Quality Initiative Project.

In Year 10, the institution undergoes a comprehensive evaluation.

Comprehensive Evaluation

A comprehensive evaluation takes place in Year 10 of the Open Pathway accreditation cycle in which peer reviewers analyze the institution's Assurance Filing to determine whether the institution continues to meet the Criteria for Accreditation.

There are four components of the comprehensive evaluation:

  • An Assurance Review
  • A review of Federal Compliance
  • An on-site visit
  • If applicable, a multi-campus review 

All comprehensive evaluations include a review of whether the institution meets the Federal Compliance Requirements

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is one of two commission members of the North Central Association. The North Central Association is one of six regional institutional accreditors in North America. HLC accredits post-secondary, degree-granting institutions. On February 24, 2012, the HLC Commission Board of Trustees adopted new Criteria for Accreditation, Assumed Practices, and Obligations of Affiliation. These new criteria became effective for all institutions as of January 1, 2013.

The criteria for accreditation, in the past, has been reviewed every five years, with this new process, the criteria will be reviewed annually. For 2013, the criteria were reviewed, updated, and shared with member institutions for comment and finalized in June of 2013. These new changes are in effect now and are highlighted in this site. It is important to note that these criteria are the standards of quality the commission uses to determine accreditation or affirmation of accreditation.

Phoenix College

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