Accreditation Criteria

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) requires Washburn University to meet established criteria and follow the ten-year Open Pathways accreditation cycle. To be fully accredited, Washburn University provided evidence that we meet the five HLC criteria and each criteria's subcomponents.

The institution’s mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution’s operations.  The Core Components are:

  • 1.A. The institution’s mission is broadly understood within the institution and guides its operations.
  • 1.B. The mission is articulated publicly.
  • 1.C. The institution understands the relationship between its mission and the diversity of society.
  • 1.D.  The institution’s mission demonstrates commitment to the public good.

The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible. The Core Components are:

  • 2.A. The institution operates with integrity in its financial, academic, personnel, and auxiliary functions; it establishes and follows policies and processes for fair and ethical behavior on the part of its governing board, administration, faculty, and staff.
  • 2.B. The institution presents itself clearly and completely to its students and to the public with regard to its programs, requirements, faculty and staff, costs to students, control, and accreditation relationships.
  • 2.C. The governing board of the institution is sufficiently autonomous to make decisions in the best interest of the institution and to assure its integrity.
  • 2.D. The institution is committed to freedom of expression and the pursuit of truth in teaching and learning.
  • 2.E. The institution’s policies and procedures call for responsible acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge by its faculty, students, and staff.

The institution provides high quality education, wherever and however its offerings are delivered. The Core Components are:

  • 3.A. The institution’s degree programs are appropriate to higher education.
  • 3.B. The institution demonstrates that the exercise of intellectual inquiry and the acquisition, application, and integration of broad learning and skills are integral to its educational programs.
  • 3.C. The institution has the faculty and staff needed for effective, high-quality programs and student services.
  • 3.D. The institution provides support for student learning and effective teaching.
  • 3.E. The institution fulfills the claims it makes for an enriched educational environment.

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. The Core Components are:

  • 4.A. The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs.
  • 4.B. The institution demonstrates a commitment to educational achievement and improvement through ongoing assessment of student learning.
  • 4.C. The institution demonstrates a commitment to educational improvement through ongoing attention to retention, persistence, and completion rates in its degree and certificate programs.

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 Core Components are:

  • 5.A. The institution’s resource base supports its current educational programs and its plans for maintaining and strengthening their quality in the future.
  • 5.B. The institution’s governance and administrative structures promote effective leadership and support collaborative processes that enable the institution to fulfill its mission.
  • 5.C. The institution engages in systematic and integrated planning.
  • 5.D. The institution works systematically to improve its performance.

Ten-Year Open Pathway Accreditation Timeline

The Open Pathway is one of three options institutions have for maintaining their accreditation with the HLC. It follows a 10-year cycle and, like all pathways, is focused on quality assurance and institutional improvement.

Years 1 Through 3

  • Institution may contribute documents to Evidence File

Year 4

  • Institution submits Assurance Filing (Assurance and Evidence File) - WAIVED - CONVERSION TO OPEN PATHWAY MODEL
  • Assurance Review conducted by peer evaluators -- no site visit
  • HLC accepts or requests additional action on Assurance Review

Years 5 Through 7

  • Institution may contribute documents to Evidence File; Submits Quality Initiative Proposal (Submitted October 2013)
  • Quality Initiative Proposal reviewed and accepted by peer evaluators and implemented (November 2013)

Years 7 Through 9

  • Institution may contribute documents to Evidence File; Submits 3-Year Quality Initiative Report

Year 10

  • Institution submits comprehensive evaluation materials
  • Comprehensive evaluation conducted by peer evaluators -- with site visit
  • HLC acts on comprehensive evaluation and reaffirms accreditation

Washburn University Accreditation Timeline

Washburn University designed a schedule that encouraged the entire university community to be actively engaged in the reaffirmation process. We provided several opportunities for all members of the community to contribute to the self study and to offer comments on the developing Assurance Argument.

  • Quality Assurance Working Groups (QAWGs) were established for each of the five criteria.  Members of the QAWGs identified potential evidence to support the criterion and gathered information/evidence from units. They then organized, prioritized, and summarized the accumulated evidence.
  • Federal Compliance Working Groups were established to complete the relevant section of the Federal Compliance Report.
  • Writing Team converted the QAWG summaries into the narrative for the Assurance Argument, updated evidence files, and uploaded the draft Assurance Argument into the Higher Learning Commission Assurance Review system.
  • Writing Team began assembling the Federal Compliance Report.
  • The draft Assurance Argument was provided to QAWG members to review for completeness and accuracy. Suggestions for modifications within the draft were incorporated.
  • The draft Assurance Argument was then provided to administration (both academic and administrative) to review for completeness and accuracy.  Suggestions for modifications within the draft were incorporated.
  • Finally, the draft Assurance Argument was provided to faculty and staff to review for completeness and accuracy. Suggestions for modifications within the draft were incorporated.
  • The reaccreditation “roll out” committee was formed to identify and implement strategies for increasing both on- and off-campus awareness of the upcoming reaccreditation site visit.
  • A web site was created to ensure transparency of the reaccreditation process and to prepare for general access/public comment by faculty, staff, students, and community stakeholders.
  • Final modifications to the draft Assurance Argument and Federal Compliance Report were completed.
  • Roll out committee implemented initial awareness campaign strategies (governing board, administration, staff, faculty, students, community).
  • The Roll-out Committee implemented the final awareness campaign strategies (governing board, administration, staff, faculty, students, community).
  • February, 2019 – Assurance Argument and associated Evidence Files were locked. No additional additions/deletions/modifications were allowed (per HLC guidelines). The Federal Compliance Report was submitted.
  • March 25-26, 2019 – The HLC peer consultant/evaluators visited the campus. Monday, all day; Tuesday, morning only
  • Washburn University received the Higher Learning Commission’s decision and advice.
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