After years of insisting that nursing colleges separately incorporate from related hospitals and hospital systems, causing some schools to relinquish Medicare “pass-through” funding,  the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) has changed course. Today, HLC issued a Separate Incorporation Policy Change.

Removing language interpreted by prior HLC leadership as requiring separate incorporation, the revised policy substitutes a requirement that HLC-accredited institutions have a “primary purpose” of providing higher education. More specifically, the revised policy (HLC’s “Jurisdiction” policy, INST.B.10.010):

  • Removes language requiring an HLC-affiliated institution to be incorporated “as an institution of higher education”; and
  • Adds language requiring  an HLC-affiliated institution to “demonstrate that its primary purpose is higher education.”

The revised policy also addresses the affiliation status of institutions incorporated outside HLC’s region through revised “Substantial Presence” language. HLC has promised to issue a “framework” for institutions outlining how they can meet HLC requirements for institutional independence without separate incorporation.

HLC is the regional accreditor for degree-granting institutions of higher education, including many nursing schools, in 19 states. Accreditation by a regional or national accreditor recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, like HLC, is a condition of participating in ubiquitous Federal Student Aid programs.

Husch Blackwell’s Education team continues to monitor developments on these issues. We welcome the opportunity to discuss questions or concerns as we await further HLC action.