Q&A about the assurance review

Introduction: Why are we undertaking an “Assurance Review” for the HLC?

The simple answer is “to maintain our Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accreditation.”

The more complex answer is that an Assurance Review is now required in the fourth and tenth years of the 10 year continuing accreditation cycle.  HLC instituted this change in 2012-13, and Wooster is one of the first institutions to complete the (almost) mid-cycle review.

What is an “Assurance Review”?

An “Assurance Review” is intended to demonstrate to the HLC that an accredited institution continues to meet HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation. The institution provides documentation (a narrative, analytics, and evidence) demonstrating how it fulfills each HLC Criterion and Core Component. A peer review team evaluates these materials and recommends whether the institution is eligible to continue on the Open Pathway or if monitoring is required. HLC’s Institutional Actions Council (IAC) reviews and takes official action on the recommendation.

The “Assurance Review” Process Timeline

When What we did
Spring 2015- Spring 2017


  • Based on our 2012-13 self-study and team report, update our self-study to reflect how Wooster meets HLC’s criteria in 2016-17 [this we understand is the “recommended” practice]
  • We affirm our “lock” date and review team members.
  • Our process: as this was a mid-cycle update, we opted to rely on committees, departments, divisions, organizations, and individuals to provide updated information.  Providing them with the literal text of the 2012-13 document and our insight into changes since 2012-13, we asked “What would this passage say today?” and “What evidence would accompany your assertion?”
  • We review updated information and fact and evidence check.
  • We write in Microsoft Word and then transfer our documents to the HLC’s online system.  In writing we are mindful that in the online system, illustrations we may have included in a self-study document do not appear in the text, but rather is linked.  We spend much time getting formatting and linking correct.
June 12, 2017
  • We “lock” our assurance argument and evidence in HLC’s online system
June 12 – August 7, 2017
  • The peer reviewers review our documents and evidence; if necessary, they contact us with questions or requests for additional information.
  • By July 10, the team provides us with a draft report to review for factual accuracy
  • By August 7, the team submits its final report and recommendation to HLC.  We prepare a response to the final report and submit it to HLC.
  • August+:   Anne, Gary & Ellen convert the online document back to Microsoft Word, incorporate tables and illustrations, create a “resource room” and make the assurance argument available to the College community.
Fall 2017
  • The HLC’s Institutional Actions Council (IAC) reviews the team report, Wooster’s response, and takes official action on the team’s recommendation.
  • HLC notifies us of the IAC’s action