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Open Pathway

Current Action Projects

Action Projects (2019-2020)

  • Student Communication
  • Employee Communication
  • Community Service

Strategic Plan

The strategic plan will be used to set CLC's priorities and allocate resources. Read the plan.

About the Open Pathway

The College of Lake County transitioned into the Open Pathway for accreditation in fall 2018 at the direction of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Prior to fall 2018, the college participated in the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) pathway. The HLC phased out the AQIP pathway from all of its accredited institutions between 2018 and 2020 due to a decrease in overall participation.

The Open Pathway, similar to the AQIP Pathway, focuses on quality assurance and institutional improvement. To remain eligible for accreditation under the Open pathway, the college must meet several obligations during its 10-year accreditation cycle. Those requirements compel the college to provide the HLC with periodic assessments and reports and to undertake one Quality Initiative during each accreditation cycle.

Regular Monitoring

The college is required to submit an annual Institutional Update to the Higher Learning Commission, which allows the HLC to monitor the health of the organization and ensure the college complies with federal requirements. In addition to this regular report, the college is required to notify the HLC of any substantial changes or institutional developments as they occur.

Assurance Filing

In year 4 of the accreditation cycle, the college submits an Assurance Filing that consists of an Assurance Argument (narrative) and Evidence File as part of an Assurance Review by the HLC. The Assurance Review is a desk review (i.e. no visit) conducted by HLC reviewers to ensure the college continues to meet HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation. These Criteria are the indicators of quality of teaching and learning, integrity, financial stability, planning, continuous improvement, and governance that each college or university must meet in order to remain accredited.

The college has a formal process for the preparation of the HLC Assurance Filing that outlines the timeline for preparing the Assurance Argument and Evidence File and specifies the roles and expectations for faculty and staff participation across the college. The college works to prepare the Assurance Filing in years 1-3 of the Open Pathway accreditation cycle though much of the work related to the Criteria for Accreditation is ongoing as part of the college’s standard processes and operations.

Quality Initiative

During years 5 through 9, the college must develop and complete a major quality initiative related to its goals, needs, and aspirations. The Quality Initiative serves as a means for institutions to be innovative and try new things so long as they demonstrate learning from their successes and failures. The college is required to submit a Quality Initiative Report to the HLC in year 9. The Quality Initiative Report is a reflection on the projects accomplishments and challenges. HLC peer reviewers assess the report for evidence of “genuine effort” on the part of the institution. Typical topics for the Quality Initiative include assessment of student learning, organizational planning, cultural competency, civic engagement, and student success initiatives.

The Open Pathway Quality Initiative takes the place of the annual improvement projects the college completed under the AQIP Pathway. Despite the transition to the Open Pathway, HLC and the College of Lake County remain committed to continuous quality improvement efforts. As such, the college sees value in continuing to conduct smaller-scale improvement projects on a more frequent basis. As such, the college plans to continue conducting annual improvement projects internally in the spirit of AQIP in addition to the required Quality Initiative.

Comprehensive Evaluation

The HLC conducts a Comprehensive Evaluation in year 10 of the accreditation cycle (the next visit will take place in 2027-28) to ensure the college meets the Criteria for Accreditation and complies with U.S. Department of Education requirements. The Evaluation consists of an Assurance Filing, Federal Compliance Review, Student Opinion Survey, and on-site peer-review visit (to all campuses). The college’s last site-visit was in March 2017 under the AQIP Pathway. These visits are a normal part of the accreditation process. Through these visits, trained reviewers ensure that each accredited institution is meeting standards set out in the Criteria for Accreditation.

Reaffirmation of Accreditation

Upon completion of the Evaluation, the reviewers summarize and share their findings with the college and make a recommendation to the HLC’s governing body (i.e. the Institutional Actions Council) regarding the college’s accreditation status. After reviewing the recommendations of the reviewing committee, the HLC’s governing board decides whether the institution will be reaccredited, will be reaccredited with some stipulations, or whether monitoring should be required.

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