Higher Learning Commission Accreditation

Mount Mercy is currently working on components of the comprehensive evaluation process for re-accreditation. The process will culminate in May of 2023 with a visit from the peer HLC evaluation team.


Mount Mercy University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), an institutional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Each accredited institution in good standing with HLC reaffirms and maintains its accredited status by participating in evaluation processes that:

  1. Document that it meets HLC's Criteria for Accreditation and the Federal Compliance Requirements
  2. Demonstrate a focus on institutional improvement 
  3. Fulfill HLC's procedural requirements for reaffirming and maintaining accreditation

Accreditation Criteria

Reaffirmation of Accreditation

The Higher Learning Commission's reaccreditation process (Reaffirmation of Accreditation), holistically examines the quality of an institution. Mount Mercy University is currently working on the components of the comprehensive evaluation process which culminates in May, 2023 with an on-site peer-review visit conducted by a team of peers selected by the Higher Learning Commission.

View the Reaffirmation of Accreditation timeline.

Mount Mercy participates in the Open Pathway model of accreditation, one of two options institutions have for maintaining their accreditation with HLC. It follows a 10-year cycle and is focused on quality assurance and institutional improvements appropriate to the University's mission. The 10-year cycle consists of annual institutional updates; a Year Four Review report submitted to an HLC reader panel; a Quality Initiative; an Assurance Argument (a comprehensive evaluation by the institution); and an on-site visit by an HLC evaluation team.

Institutions participating in the Open Pathway conduct a Quality Initative project between year four and prior to year 10 of the reaffirmation cycle. The institution selects a topic for the initiative that is reviewed and approved by HLC. The institution implements the project and follows up with a final report explaining the results of the initiative and submits it to HLC. Mount Mercy's Quality Initiative project was Pathways to Retention. The project focused on first- to second-year retention for incoming freshmen students.

For reaffirmation of accreditation status, institutions participating in the Open Pathway complete the Assurance Argument. The Assurance Argument is a 35,000-word narrative stating how the institution meets each of the five HLC Criteria for Accreditation. The Assurance Argument provides a critical and transparent self-analysis which addresses each criterion, links clear evidence supporting each claim, and affirms expectations have been met.

In addition to the Assurance Argument, the comprehensive evaluation process includes a Federal Compliance Review, a review of Assumed Practices, and a Student Opinion Survey. The Federal Compliance Review requires the institution to submit a Federal Compliance Filing demonstrating the institution is meeting their Title IV program responsibilities. The Review of Assumed Practices requires institutions be able to demonstrate compliance with HLC's Assumed Practices. The Student Opinion Survey is conducted by HLC. The institution's student body is surveyed two months prior to the on-site peer review visit. The survey is intended to give students an opportunity to participate in the evaluation process.

An on-site visit to the institution occurs after the peer review team has reviewed the Assurance Argument and student survey results. The team works with the institution to create an agenda for the visit, which typically includes meetings with the institution's leadership and board, as well as forums with students, faculty and staff. The visit typically lasts for one-and-a-half days and is scheduled for May of 2023 for Mount Mercy University.

Steering Committee and Criteria Teams

The primary responsibility of the Steering Committee is to help guide the evaluation and development of the Assurance Argument in preparation for the HLC Peer Review Team's visit in May 2023.

There are five Criteria Teams, one for each criterion of accreditation. The Criteria Teams have members from faculty and staff and are tasked with crafting draft responses for each criterion. Additionally, the teams will gather supporting data and evidence for the Assurance Argument.

HLC Committee Members

How Can I Help Prepare for the Visit?

A team of reviewers will visit campus in May of 2023. During that time, they will ask to formally meet with a number of campus leaders and constituencies. They’ll also take opportunities to informally interact with people they meet on campus.

These lists provide examples of questions that the review team may ask. We should expect additional Mount Mercy-specific questions. Interactions with the team can reinforce claims we have made in our Assurance Argument and provide additional evidence that we meet the Criteria for Accreditation.

Preparing for a Visit

HLC Complaint Process

Students, faculty, staff, and members of the public are able to submit complaints against HLC-accredited or candidate institutions.

This process is designed to identify substantive problems with an institution's ability to meet the Criteria for Accreditation or other HLC requirements. Complaints against HLC-affiliated institutions must be submitted with an official form.

Visit the Higher Learning Commission's Complaints page to learn more about the complaint process and what types of complaints are reviewed, find additional resources, or submit a complaint form.