Substantive Change Policy

Type of Policy: 
Administrative
Effective Date: 
August 2014
Last Revised: 
August 2014
Review Date: 
August 2017
Policy Owner: 
Library Learning Excellence
Contact Name: 
Catherine Murray-Rust
Contact Title: 
Vice Provost Learning Excellence and Dean of Libraries, SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison
Contact Email: 
catherine.murray-rust@library.gatech.edu
Reason for Policy: 

Georgia Tech is required to have policies and procedures to ensure that all substantive changes are reported to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) in a timely fashion.

This policy outlines the procedures Georgia Tech must follow to comply with the SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy, in adherence with U.S. Department of Education regulations. Adherence to the policy will ensure Georgia Tech avoids sanctions and penalties associated with non-compliance.

Policy Statement: 

As a member of the SACSCOC, Georgia Tech is required to notify SACSCOC of changes in accordance with the substantive change policy and when required seek approval prior to the initiation of changes.

Substantive change is a significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution. The reporting and review of substantive change ensures that the scope of programs offered by Georgia Tech have undergone appropriate review by SACSCOC.

Required substantive change materials will be submitted by Georgia Tech’s SACSCOC Liaison to SACSCOC for approval only after required Institute and University System of Georgia approvals have been obtained.

Scope: 

Substantive change is defined by SACSCOC as a significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution. Under federal regulations, substantive change includes:

  • Any change in the established mission or objectives of the institution
  • Any change in legal status, form of control, or ownership of the institution
  • The addition of courses or programs that represent a significant departure, either in content or method of delivery, from those that were offered when the institution was last evaluated
  • The addition of courses or programs of study at a degree or credential level different from that which is included in the institution’s current accreditation or reaffirmation
  • A change from clock hours to credit hours
  • A substantial increase in the number of clock or credit hours awarded for successful completion of a program
  • The establishment of an additional location geographically apart from the main campus at which the institution offers at least 50% of an educational program
  • The establishment of a branch campus
  • Closing a program, off-campus site, branch campus or institution
  • Entering into a collaborative academic arrangement that includes only the initiation of a dual or joint academic program with another institution
  • Acquiring another institution or a program or location of another institution
  • Adding a permanent location at a site where the institution is conducting a teach-out program for a closed institution
  • Entering into a contract by which an entity not eligible for Title IV funding offers 25% or more of one or more of the accredited institution’s programs

Policy Terms: 

Substantive Change
A significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution.

Branch Campus
A location of an institution that is geographically apart and independent of the main campus of the institution. A location is independent of the main campus if the location is: permanent in nature; offers courses in educational programs leading to a degree, certificate or other recognized educational credential; has its own faculty and administrative or supervisory organization and has its own budgetary and hiring authority.

Contractual Agreement
Typically is one in which an institution enters an agreement for receipt of courses / programs or portions of courses or programs (i.e. clinical training internships, etc.) delivered by another institution or service provider.

Consortial Relationship
A consortial relationship typically is one in which two or more institutions share in the responsibility of developing and delivering courses and programs that meet mutually agreed upon standards of academic quality.

Correspondence Education
A formal educational process under which the institution provides instructional materials, by mail or electronic transmission, including examinations on the materials, to students who are separated from the instructor. Interaction between the instructor and the student is limited, is not regular and substantive, and is primarily initiated by the student; courses are typically self-paced.

Degree completion program
A program typically designed for a non-traditional undergraduate population such as working adults who have completed some college-level course work but have not achieved a baccalaureate degree. Students in such programs may transfer in credit from courses taken previously and may receive credit for experiential learning. Courses in degree completion programs are often offered in an accelerated format or meet during evening and weekend hours, or may be offered via distance learning technologies.

Distance Education
A formal education process in which the majority of the instruction (interaction between students and instructors and among students) in a course occurs when students and instructors are not in the same place. Instruction may be synchronous or asynchronous. A distance education course may use the internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices; audio conferencing; or video cassettes, DVD’s and CD-ROMS if used as part of the distance learning course or program.

Dual Degree
Separate program completion credentials each of which bears only the name, seal, and signature of the institution awarding the degree to the student.

Educational program
A coherent course of study leading to the awarding of a credential (i.e. a degree, diploma or certificate).

Geographically separate
An instructional site or branch campus that is located physically apart from the main campus of the institution.

Joint degree
A single program completion credential bearing the names, seals, and signatures of each of the two or more institutions awarding the degree to the student.

Modified prospectus
A prospectus submitted in lieu of a full prospectus for certain designated substantive changes. When a modified prospectus is acceptable, SACSCOC specifies requested information from the institution.

Notification
A letter from an institution’s chief executive officer, or his/her designated representative, to SACSCOC President summarizing a proposed change, providing the intended implementation date, and listing the complete physical address if the change involves the initiation of an off-campus site or branch campus. The policy and procedures for reporting and review of institutional substantive change are outlined in the document “Substantive Change for SACSCOC Accredited Institutions.”

Significant departure
A program that is not closely related to previously approved programs at the institution or site or for the mode of delivery in question. To determine whether a new program is a “significant departure,” it is helpful to consider the following questions: What previously approved programs does the institution offers that are closely related to the new program and how are they related? Will significant additional equipment or facilities be needed? Will significant additional financial resources be needed? Will a significant number of new courses be required? Will a significant number of new faculty members be required? Will significant additional library/learning resources be needed?

Teach-out agreement
A written agreement between institutions that provides for the equitable treatment of students and a reasonable opportunity for students to complete their program of study if an institution, or an institutional location that provides 50% or more of at least one program offered, ceases to operate before all enrolled students have completed their program of study. This applies to the closure of an institution, a site, or a program. Such a teach-out agreement requires SACSCOC approval in advance of implementation.

Teach-out plan
A written plan developed by an institution that provides for the equitable treatment of students if an institution, or an institutional location that provides 50% or more of at least one program, ceases to operate before all students have completed their program of study and may include, if required by the institution’s accrediting agency, a tech-out agreement between institutions. This applies to the closure of an institution, a site, or a program. Teach-out plans must be approved by SACSCOC in advance of implementation.

Procedures: 

5.1 Internal Reporting to SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison

Notification to SACSCOC Liaison of Proposed Changes
If a change is substantive, SACSCOC must be notified as long as 12 months in advance of implementing the change. Upon becoming aware of a proposed change that may be substantive, Vice Provosts, Vice Presidents, Deans and Directors of the unit proposing the change should notify the SACSCOC Liaison as early as possible so that the information required by SACSCOC is prepared appropriately by the College and submitted by the SACSCOC Liaison to SACSCOC according to the SACSCOC specified timeline with the appropriate internal review and approvals.

Late Notification – After Program Implementation – to SACSCOC Liaison of Proposed Changes
If it is discovered that a program that may be considered a substantive change has been implemented without notification to the SACSCOC Liaison, the appropriate Vice Provost, Vice President, Dean or Director has the responsibility to notify the SACSCOC Liaison immediately. It is then the responsibility of the SACSCOC Liaison to notify SACSCOC as provided in the SACSCOC Policy. To minimize the possibility that proposals that may be considered substantive changes do not go unreported, it is expected that Vice Provosts, Vice Presidents, Deans and Directors participate or send a designee to the quarterly Substantive Change Standing Committee meetings.

5.2 External Reporting to SACSCOC

Procedure 1 -Requiring Approval Prior to Implementation
Required for: Initiating coursework, certificates, or programs of study at a different level than those previously approved by SACSCOC; Initiating certificate programs for workforce development; Initiating other certificate programs; Initiating an off-campus site at which students can earn at least 50% of the credits toward an educational program; Initiating degree completion programs; Initiating a branch campus; Initiating distance learning or correspondence courses and programs by which students can earn at least 50% of a program’s credits through delivery in a format other than face-to-face; Expanding at the institution’s current degree level; Initiating a significant change in the established mission of the institution; Changing from clock hours to credit hours; Changing significantly the length of a program, substantially increasing the number of clock or credit hours awarded for successful completion of a program; Relocating a main or branch campus; Initiating a collaborative academic program with another institution not accredited by SACSCOC; Entering into a contract with an entity not certified to participate in USDOE Title IV Programs.

See Substantive Change Policy - http://www.sacscoc.org/pdf/081705/SubstantiveChange.pdf pages 14-18 for specific approval procedures.

Procedure 2 – Requiring Only Notification Prior to Implementation
Required for: Site-based/classroom group instruction – a: Initiating an off-campus site at which a student may earn at least 25% but less than 50% or credits toward a program or b: Moving an approved off-campus instructional site within the same geographic area to serve essentially the same pool of students; offering for the first time credit courses via distance learning/technology-based instruction by which students can obtain at least 25% but less than 50% of their credits toward an educational program; Initiating program/courses delivered through contractual agreement or a consortium; Entering into a contract with an entity not certified to participate in USDOE Title IV programs if the entity provides less than 25% of an education program offered by the accredited institution; Repackaging of an existing approved curriculum

See Substantive Change Policy - http://www.sacscoc.org/pdf/081705/SubstantiveChange.pdf pages 19-20 for specific approval procedures.

Procedure 3 – Closing a Program, Instructional Site, Branch Campus or an Institution
Teach-out Plans and Teach-out Agreements

See Substantive Change Policy -http://www.sacscoc.org/pdf/081705/SubstantiveChange.pdf pages 21-22 for specific approval procedures.

Responsibilities: 

8.1. Responsible Party

Responsibilities of Vice Provosts, Vice Presidents, Deans, Directors, Curricular Committee Chairs, Registrar and the Substantive Change Standing Committee

Vice Provosts, Vice Presidents, Deans, Directors, Curricular Committee Chairs, Registrar and the Substantive Change Standing Committee have the responsibility to be aware of the substantive change policy, inform the Institute’s SACSCOC Liaison at the earliest point possible of proposals that may be considered a substantive change for the Institute and provide the SACSCOC Liaison with any data or information necessary to comply with SACSCOC policy when requested.

Additionally, the Substantive Change Standing Committee shall meet quarterly to discuss proposed or upcoming academic changes consulting with the SACSCOC Liaison on what, if any, communication is required to SACSCOC and when. This standing committee shall consist of the Registrar; Undergraduate and Graduate Curriculum Committee Chairs; Vice President of Legal Affairs & Risk Management; Vice Provosts of Undergraduate and Graduate Education; All College Deans or their designee; Associate Vice Provost of Learning Excellence; Director Office of Assessment; the SACSCOC Liaison and a Secretary appointed by the SACSCOC Liaison. Members of this committee shall ensure that academic changes are presented and discussed to provide sufficient advance time for internal approval and notification and / or approval by SACSCOC in advance of program changes in accordance with SACSCOC policy and procedures.

Colleges are responsible for completing and providing to the Substantive Change Standing Committee and the SACSCOC Liaison all required SACSCOC documentation necessary for approval of any substantive change (i.e. a completed prospectus)

The SACSCOC Liaison is the chair of the Substantive Change Standing Committee.

8.2 Responsible Party

Responsibilities of the SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison

Every SACSCOC member institution has an Accreditation Liaison whose charge is to ensure compliance with SACSCOC accreditation requirements. The current SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison for Georgia Tech is:

Catherine Murray-Rust
Vice Provost Learning Excellence and Dean of Libraries
catherine.murray-rust@library.gatech.edu / 404-894-8914

The Accreditation Liaison will:

  • Provide the Vice Provosts, Vice Presidents, Deans, Directors, Curricular Committee Chairs, Registrar and members of the Substantive Change Standing Committee with information about the SACSCOC substantive change policy.
  • Chair the Substantive Change Committee and work with its members to determine whether proposed academic changes are substantive requiring approval and / or notification by SACSCOC.
  • Review the Institute Curriculum Committees agendas prior to each meeting to determine if any items could be considered a substantive change. Attend the Curriculum Committees meetings as appropriate.
  • Obtain and review all Curriculum Committee minutes for any items that could be considered a substantive change. Follow up with the Dean and Registrar as appropriate.
  • Make the final determination on what action with respect to SACSCOC is needed and when a change is substantive.
  • Receive from the Colleges the appropriate notice and / or prospectus. Review and timely file such notice and / or prospectus with SACSCOC. Coordinate with SACSCOC and the Vice Provosts, Vice Presidents, Deans, Directors and members of the Substantive Change Committee any required follow up action items / information needed.

Enforcement: 

Failure to comply with SACSCOC’s substantive change procedures, could result in the Institute’s loss of Title IV funding, the Institute’s reimbursement to the U.S. Department of Education money received for programs related to unreported substantive change, sanction or removal from membership with SACSCOC.

Optional: To report suspected instances of noncompliance with this policy, please visit Georgia Tech’s EthicsPoint, a secure and confidential reporting system, at: https://secure.ethicspoint.com/domain/en/report_custom.asp?clientid=7508

Policy History: 
Revision DateAuthorDescription
08-2014Library Learning ExcellenceNew Policy