The Open Pathway requires the institution to undertake a major Quality Initiative designed to suit its present concerns or aspirations. The Quality Initiative takes place between Years 5 and 9 of the 10-year Open Pathway Cycle.

A Quality Initiative may be designed to begin and be completed during this time, continue an initiative already in progress, or achieve a key milestone in the work of a longer initiative. The Quality Initiative is intended to allow institutions to take risks, aim high, and learn from the process, even if they experience only partial success or even failure. To learn more about the Quality Initiative, visit the Higher Learning Commission

The Quality Initiative can take one of three forms:

  1. The institution designs and proposes its own Quality Initiative to suit its present concerns or aspirations.
  2. The institution chooses an initiative from a menu of topics, such as the following examples:
    • The institution undertakes a broad-based self-evaluation and reflection leading to revision or restatement of its mission, vision, and goals.
    • The institution joins with a group of peer institutions, which it identifies, to develop a benchmarking process for broad institutional self-evaluation.
    • The institution undertakes a multi-year process to create systemic, comprehensive assessment and improvement of student learning.
    • A four-year institution joins with community colleges to create a program of dual admission, joint recruitment, and coordinated curriculum and student support.
    • The institution pursues a strategic initiative to improve its financial position.
    • The institution engages in a Commission-endorsed program or process offered by another agency, such as the Foundations of Excellence program offered by the Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education or the LEAP Initiative offered by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
  3. The institution chooses to participate in a Commission-facilitated program. Currently, the Commission has two programs: The Academy for Assessment of Student Learning and the Academy for Student Persistence and Retention.