Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP)

What is AQIP?

The AQIP (Academic Quality Improvement Program) Pathway is one of three options institutions have for maintaining accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Like the other pathways, it is focused on quality assurance and institutional improvement, but with an added emphasis on helping institutions achieve continuous quality improvement. The AQIP Pathway follows an eight-year cycle for institutional assessment activities. Cincinnati State was one of the original 39 institutions to become part of AQIP, in 2008.

AQIP institutions must demonstrate they meet accreditation standards by completing a sequence of events that follow a continuous quality improvement framework:

  • Implementing Action Projects
  • Participating in Strategy Forums
  • Submitting System Portfolios
  • Receiving Systems Appraisals
  • Hosting a Quality Check-up Visit

Benefits to participating in AQIP include:

  • Focused quality efforts on Action Projects
  • Documentation and external evaluation of our processes
  • Increased collaboration
  • Use of data and quality tools
The AQIP Pathway Categories provide a framework institutions can use to examine key processes and allow institutions to analyze, understand, and explore opportunities for improvement. The use of the Categories is fundamental to the development of the institution’s Systems Portfolio which is submitted every four years.


The AQIP process uses six categories to evaluate institutional performance:

  • Category One: Helping Students Learn focuses on the design, deployment, and effectiveness of teaching and learning processes (and on the processes required to support them) that underlie the institution’s credit and non-credit programs and courses.
  • Category Two: Meeting Student and Other Key Stakeholder Needs addresses the key processes (separate from instructional programs and internal support services) through which the institution serves its external stakeholders in support of its mission.
  • Category Three: Valuing Employees explores the institution’s commitment to the hiring, development, and evaluation of faculty, staff, and administrators.
  • Category Four: Planning and Leading focuses on how the institution achieves its mission and lives its vision through direction setting, goal development, strategic actions, threat mitigation, and capitalizing on opportunities.
  • Category Five: Knowledge Management and Resource Stewardship addresses management of the fiscal, physical, technological, and information infrastructures designed to provide an environment in which learning can thrive.
  • Category Six: Quality Overview focuses on the Continuous Quality Improvement culture and infrastructure of the institution. This category gives the institution a chance to reflect on all its quality improvement initiatives, how they are integrated, and how they contribute to improvement of the institution.

What is a systems portfolio and systems appraisal?

Systems Portfolios and Systems Appraisals

AQIP calls upon institutions to conduct an institutional assessment in the form of a published Systems Portfolio and undergo a Systems Appraisal every four years. This is an opportunity for an institution to get expert, objective, third-party feedback on its strengths and opportunities for improvement. In turn, institutions gain insight in determining the next targets for advancing quality in the institution through Action Projects and other plans.

The Systems Appraisal is based on the Systems Portfolio prepared and assembled by the institution every four years of its participation in AQIP. The Portfolio is a comprehensive self-study and presents an overview of the institution, and answers explicitly all of the questions under each of the six AQIP Categories.

In combination with the Strategy Forum and Action Projects, which drive concrete improvement activities within the institution, the Systems Portfolio and Systems Appraisal are a means of taking stock of the continuous improvement.

What are AQIP action projects?

As an AQIP institution, Cincinnati State completes an ongoing cycle of Action Projects that over time constitute its record for quality improvement activities. AQIP Strategy Forums assist in this process as do other core AQIP processes such as the institution’s Systems Portfolio. The Higher Learning Commission requires AQIP institutions to always have in-progress at least three Action Projects.
The Action Project requirement is central to Cincinnati State’s success in continuous improvement initiatives because it compels the institution to develop the structures necessary to organize and oversee quality initiatives. This process requires broad engagement of faculty and staff in the selection of projects and also through participation on project teams. 

Current Action Projects

Enhancing Student Connection and Integration to the College
Prior Learning Assessment Implementation
College Credit Plus Implementation

Retired Action Projects

  • Surge Green Challenge: a commitment to an environmentally-friendly campus
  • Improve communications pathways
  • Improve IT infrastructure
  • Develop assessment methods and outcome measures for graduates' general education.
  • Build an Answer Bank to efficiently provide accurate stakeholder information.
  • Develop a reliable and consistent process for advising all students.
  • Engage faculty and staff in student retention

Related links

Questions about AQIP?

Contact Timothy Mott, HLC Accreditation Liaison Officer, at (513) 569-1747 or

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