Since February 2017, Upper Iowa University has been working with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) to address a concern related to one of our distance learning centers. The University notified the campus community about this development and our accreditation status with HLC on March 10, 2017 during a President’s Communication Forum; this is an update to that communication.

During the fall of 2013, UIU became aware of potential instances of improper conduct at one of our Distance Education Centers in Louisiana. We initiated an extensive investigation. It revealed that a small number of employees improperly handled financial aid funds and manipulated the academic records for students at that particular Education Center. The employees involved in these activities were dismissed. 

In March 2014, UIU obtained external counsel to conduct an independent investigation on the improper conduct at one of its locations. UIU self-reported the investigation to both the Department of Education (DoE) on April 17, 2014, and HLC on July 28, 2015. UIU worked very closely with the DoE Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to provide updates and guidance throughout the investigation period.  

On December 14, 2015, four months after UIU self-reported the investigation to HLC, UIU was placed “On Hold” by the HLC.  On March 8, 2017, UIU was notified that the HLC Board (at their February 23, 2017 meeting) formally placed UIU “On Notice” for a two-year period.  The “On Notice” designation means that Upper Iowa University has met the HLC Criteria for Accreditation, but is “at risk” of not meeting accreditation criteria in specific areas. In response, the University immediately began work to address areas of concern, including improving its policies, procedures, training and oversight of employees, especially those that handle financial aid and are located at the distance learning center at issue. HLC also scheduled a focused visit (to review progress) for no later than September 2018.   


  • 2014: UIU took immediate actions to enhance policies and procedures to ensure compliance throughout the university.
  • 2017 (February 23): HLC Board designates UIU as “Accredited – On Notice”
  • 2017 (June 22-23): HLC conducted Advisory Visit. The visit, in conjunction with an Advisory Visit Report submitted earlier the same month, was scheduled to assess the University’s compliance with accreditation criteria and assumed practices, the outcome of which was reported at the February 2018 HLC Board Of Trustees meeting. 
  • 2017 (December 21): DoE OIG statement on the investigation, “We are indexing the information and closing our inquiry…we are recommending the school (UIU) work with the Federal Student Aid to determine and resolve the status of any federal student aid funds potentially affected by the issues you investigated.”  The investigation confirmed that the UIU was the victim of a crime isolated to one location (Official OIG Letter to Upper Iowa University)
  • 2018 (February 22): HLC maintained the timeline set forth in the February 23, 2017 Notice, and posted a Public Disclosure Notice which includes additional criteria identified during a June 22, 2017 Advisory Visit. These areas of focus pertain to the University’s governing board, oversight of curriculum, evaluation of academic programs, institutional planning, and systematic improvement processes. 

As previously stated, UIU has already undertaken a wide array of actions focused on improvement in the areas referenced in the public disclosure. The University remains fully committed to working with the HLC over the next year to address any concerns and to remove the "Accredited - On Notice" designation. In the meantime, it is important to note that:

  • UIU remains fully accredited by the HLC
  • UIU students continue to be eligible for financial aid
  • UIU’s mission and dedication to its students remain unchanged

Additional information is available in the timeline and Q&A below. Students or prospective students with additional questions can contact: 

Dr. P. Joan Poor
Upper Iowa University
or High Learning Commission
230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
Chicago, IL 60604-1411


Next Steps

  • September 2018 (or earlier): HLC will conduct the Focus Visit to UIU. The Focus Visit will determine if UIU has met specific criteria as outlined by HLC. HLC President will make designation recommendation to HLC Board for action.
  • February 2019: HLC Board will meet to review designation of UIU.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is UIU still accredited?  

Upper Iowa University is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Upper Iowa University continues to offer students an exceptional education.

Q. How does this impact students’ UIU education and financial aid?

This status does not change UIU students' eligibility for federal financial aid nor does it affect UIU's quality of instruction. UIU degrees - even when granted during the "On Notice" status - are recognized as being awarded from a fully-accredited university.

Q. Will UIU credits still transfer? Will this affect my admission into a graduate program?

Each higher education institution makes its own determination about which credits they will or will not accept for transfers or admission into graduate programs. UIU remains a fully accredited institution. Students desiring to advance their education at another institution are encouraged to speak directly with that institution regarding admissions criteria.

Q. What is the timeline for HLC's review of removing the "On Notice" status?

We are fully committed to working with the HLC to remove the “On Notice” designation. UIU will host an HLC Focus Visit no later than September 2018.  The HLC Board will then convene at its regularly scheduled February 2019 meeting to review UIU’s status and determine applicable actions.