Columbia College Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), one of the accrediting organizations recognized by the US Department of Education. Columbia has been accredited by HLC since 1974.  

What is Accreditation?

Accreditation is a process in which a college or university is approved by an accrediting body that affirms that the institution is meeting a set of criteria, including such areas as mission, support for student learning, finance, planning, and other crucial elements for institutions of higher education. Accreditation is an affirmation that an institution maintains high academic standards and helps to inform students, parents, faculty, and government bodies.

What is the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)?

Founded in 1895, the Higher Learning Commission is an independent corporation that accredits degree-granting, post-secondary educational institutions, primarily in the North Central region of the US.  HLC’s stated mission is to “Advance the common good through quality assurance of higher education as the leader in equitable, transformative and trusted accreditation in the service of students and member institutions.”

What is the Process for Accreditation?

Columbia maintains its accreditation through HLC’s Open Pathway review process (one of three possible pathways available for member institutions). The Open Pathway's 10-year cycle of review includes the following process:

Columbia’s last Comprehensive Evaluation was in November 2018.  The college had its Mid-Cycle Year 4 Assurance Review in August 2023. During this review, the HLC Team concluded that Columbia met all five Criteria for Accreditation.

The next Comprehensive Evaluation will occur in the 2028-29 Academic Year.

When is the Site Visit?

Columbia’s HLC site visit occurred on November 5-6, 2018. A team of peer reviewers received and reviewed the Assurance Argument and all other necessary documents prior to the visit. While on campus, the team met with faculty, staff, students, administrators, and trustees to gather evidence that Columbia met the standards within each of the five criteria for accreditation. The team will write a summary report that addresses Columbia's fulfillment of the criteria.  

Where Can I Access Our Assurance Argument?

Below is a draft of the Assurance Argument, formerly known as a self-study, that Columbia must submit to the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), its accrediting agency, prior to its upcoming ten-year accreditation review on November 5 and 6, 2018. We have uploaded it so that members of the Columbia community can provide feedback on its contents at the seven campus forums that will be held during the week of September 17. The deadline for submitting the final document to the HLC is October 7.

Please keep the following in mind as you review the document: 

  1. To reiterate, this document is in draft format. It will have to be shortened to meet the HLC’s 35,000-word limit (the current version stands at over 42,000 words). In addition, we are continuing to collect supporting evidence and data.
  2. The document’s primary purpose is to demonstrate that Columbia meets the HLC’s Five Criteria for Accreditation. This is its focus. Thus, it does not discuss everything that happens on campus, only those elements of the college’s operations that are relevant to our argument that we meet the Criteria.
  3. The Assurance Argument will include links to supporting evidence or documentation. These are not live in the uploaded PDF draft, although the document sources should be self-evident in most cases. If you would like more information on the evidence files, you can contact Neil Pagano, Associate Provost for Accreditation and Assessment.
  4. With the exception of five published online documents (College Catalog, Schedule, Faculty Handbook, Student Handbook, Faculty Roster), we are not allowed to link to websites in the Assurance Argument. We have, however, used PDF screenshots of web pages as evidence where appropriate.

The draft is separated below into the 5 Criteria for Accreditation.

Criteria 1:  Mission

Criteria 2:  Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct

Criteria 3:  Teaching and Learning:  Quality, Resources, and Support

Criteria 4:  Teaching and Learning:  Evaluation and Improvement

Criteria 5:  Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness

Slides from the Open Forums 

PowerPoint from Open Forum for Criteria 3 and 4. May 16 and 17, 2018

PowerPoint from Open Forums for Criteria 1 and 2, September 2018

PowerPoint from Open Forums for Criteria 3 and 4, September 2018

PowerPoint from Open Forum on Criterion 5

Where can I Find More Information?

If you have any questions about Columbia’s accreditation and/or the past HLC site visit as part of our reaccreditation process, please contact Neil Pagano, Ph.D., Associate Provost for Accreditation and Assessment at

Past Open Forums 

Criterion 1 - Mission and Criterion 2 – Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct
Monday, September 17, 10-11:30 a.m.
(Repeated) Thursday, September 20, 2-3:30 p.m.
Criterion 3 – Teaching and Learning:  Quality, Resources, and Support and Criterion 4 – Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement
Monday, September 17, 2-3:30 p.m.
(Repeated) Tuesday, September 18, 10-11:30 a.m.
Criterion 5 – Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness
Tuesday, September 18, 2-3:30 p.m.
(Repeated) Thursday, September 20, 10-11:30 a.m.
Open Forum – All Criteria
Friday, September 21, 10-11:30 a.m.
All forums were held at Stage Two (2nd Floor), 618 S. Michigan Ave.