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Notifying the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) of Substantive Change

Policy #1800

Responsible Oversight Executive: Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Date of Current Revision or Creation: April 26, 2011

    The purpose of this policy is to outline the requirements, procedures, and processes as necessary to maintain compliance with the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement with specific focus on coordinating timely and complete notification of substantive changes to the University's regional accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).


    Virginia Code Section 23-9.2:3, as amended, grants authority to the Board of Visitors to establish rules and regulations for the institution. Section 6.01(a)(6) of the Board of Visitors Bylaws grants authority to the President to implement the policies and procedures of the Board relating to University operations.

    Board of Visitors Policy 1002, Major Goals of the University, outlines the major goals of the University including quality of academic programs (Goal 3) and indentifies the University's commitment to a continual improvement process, allowing for "rigorous and regular evaluation of the quality, pertinence and effectiveness of academic and other University programs."


    Substantive Change - A significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution. (See Table 1, below.) Source: SACSCOC.

    Procedure One - SACSCOC procedure associated with a substantive change that requires SACSCOC notification and approval prior to implementation. Changes under Procedure One require notification, a prospectus or application, and may involve an on-site visit. Source: SACSCOC.

    Procedure Two - SACSCOC procedure associated with a substantive change that requires SACSCOC notification prior to implementation. Source: SACSCOC.

    Procedure Three - SACSCOC procedure associated with Approval of a Consolidation/Merger. Source: SACSCOC.

    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 (1) permanent in nature; (2) offers courses in educational programs leading to a degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential; (3) has its own faculty and administrative or supervisory organization; and (4) has its own budgetary and hiring authority. Source: SACSCOC.

    Degree Completion Program - A program for which the institution accepts or requires a substantial amount of transfer credit prior to entry and only the program major portion is offered.

    Distance Learning - A formal educational 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 employ correspondence study or audio, video, or computer technologies. Source: SACSCOC.

    Level - SACSCOC's Level taxonomy categorizes institutions by the highest degree offered. Old Dominion University is designated as a Level VI institution: Offers four or more doctorate degrees.

    Merger/Consolidation - The Commission on Colleges defines a consolidation as the combination or transfer of the assets of at least two distinct institutions (corporations) to that of a newly-formed institution (corporation), and defines a merger as the acquisition by one institution of another institution's assets. For the purposes of accreditation, consolidations and mergers are considered substantive changes requiring review by the Commission on Colleges. (Examples include: a senior college acquiring a junior college, a degree-granting institution acquiring a non-degree-granting institution, two junior or senior colleges consolidating to form a new institution, or an institution accredited by the Commission on Colleges merging with a non-accredited institution.) Source: SACSCOC

    Off-Campus Site - Campus location providing educational course and/or program offerings that is at a different address than the main campus location. Source: SACSCOC.

    Program or Program of Study - A course of study leading to a formal award, e.g., degree, certificate.

    SACS Accreditation Liaison - The individual at the institution who is responsible for ensuring the timely submission of annual institutional profiles and other reports as requested by the Commission in the years between accreditation reviews. With the Chief Executive Officer, the Accreditation Liaison is responsible for the accuracy of all information submitted to the Commission and for ensuring ongoing compliance with Commission standards, policies, and procedures beyond reaffirmation. During the Reaffirmation Cycle, the Liaison serves on the SACSCOC Reaffirmation Leadership Team and oversees all staffing aspects of the Reaffirmation process. Source: SACSCOC.

    Teach-Out - The process by which the University provides instructional and academic support services to students enrolled at a site that has been closed and/or in a program that has been discontinued. The teach-out process often extends well beyond the closing of a site or program to allow time for enrolled students to complete their programs in a reasonable amount of time.

    Teach-Out Agreement - A written agreement between accredited institutions that provides for the equitable treatment of students if one of those institutions stops offering an educational program before all students enrolled in that program complete the program. Source: SACSCOC.

  4. SCOPE

    This policy applies to all University officers who can initiate, review, approve, and allocate resources to any changes, including those to academic and non-academic programs and activities, that may be considered a substantive change according to SACSCOC Policy for Substantive Changes for Accredited Institutions . Within academic areas, such changes can originate with individual or groups of faculty members, department committees, Department Chairs, Deans and Associate Deans, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Faculty Senate, or any other area reporting to the Provost.

    In those areas outside the Academic Affairs Division, potential substantive changes may arise in individual units, among supervisors in each area, executive management teams within Vice Presidential or Executive Director areas, or with the Vice Presidents/Executive Directors themselves. Further, the need for a potential substantive change may come to the attention of the President or those in his direct reporting line.

    Each individual hereby designated is required to be familiar and comply with this policy.


    In order to maintain the commitment undertaken by virtue of its membership in SACSCOC and its reaffirmation of accreditation, the University is required to demonstrate continuing compliance with the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement by adhering to all standards, requirements, policies and procedures associated with the definition and scope of a substantive change and found in SACSCOC Policy for Substantive Changes for Accredited Institutions .

    At the earliest stage of conceptualization, any potential change that could be deemed substantive (as defined herein) must be submitted in writing via the applicable reporting line to the appropriate Provost/Vice President/Executive Director to the President as documented in section D. SCOPE, above, and section F. PROCEDURES, below. The Provost, Vice Presidents, Dean of Students or President will bring forward each potential substantive change to be discussed at by the President's Cabinet. The Provost will subsequently notify the SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison as to the nature, scope, and proposed date of the potential change.

    In order to ensure timely notification to SACSCOC, members of the President's Cabinet will keep the Provost apprised of the continuing viability and progress toward implementation of the potential change. The Provost and the SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison will oversee the process of preparing appropriate notification, in conjunction with those involved with the change, according to the requirements in SACSCOC Policy Substantive Changes for Accredited Institutions and other related policy and accreditation documents maintained by SACSCOC.

    All responsible University officers and faculty (as identified in D. SCOPE) will be notified of this policy and reminded annually regarding their responsibility for compliance. The President, Provost, Vice Presidents and Dean of Students are responsible for bringing forward any potential Substantive Changes from their areas under this policy. The Provost and SACS Accreditation Liaison will ensure that information regarding this policy, associated resources available from SACSCOC, and answers to frequently asked questions are made available on the Provost's website.


    1. At the earliest stage of conceptualization, any proposed change that could be deemed substantive according to SACSCOC policy must be submitted in writing to the Provost, appropriate Vice President, or Dean of Students, as outlined above in Section E. These notifications must include: (a) title of the proposed change; (b) a brief description of the change including its scope; (c) responsible individual to act as contact; (d) tentative timeline for approval; and (e) earliest date possible for implementation. These preliminary notifications will be reviewed by the President's Cabinet.

      The definition of Substantive Change and the applicable institutional notifications are codified in SACSCOC Policy for Substantive Changes for Accredited Institutions. Table 1 below lists the types of institutional changes that are considered to be substantive under this policy.

      Table 1: Types of Substantive Changes and Applicable SACSCOC Procedures
      (Source: SACSCOC Policy Substantive Changes for Accredited Institutions, October, 2010)

      Types of Change Procedure Prior Notification Required Time Frame for Contacting COC Prior Approval Required Documentation
      Initiating coursework or programs at a more advanced level than currently approved1Yes12 monthsYesApplication for Level Change
      Due dates: April 15 or October 1
      Expanding at current degree level (significant departure from current programs)[1]  1Yes6 monthsYesProspectus
      Initiating a branch campus (see definition of "branch campus" on p. 2 of this document)1Yes6 monthsYesProspectus
      Initiating joint degrees with another institution (see Commission policy "Collaborative Academic Arrangements: Policy and Procedures")1Yes6 monthsYesProspectus
      Initiating a certificate program... (typically for workforce development)     
      ...using existing approved coursesNANANANANone
      ...at a new off-campus site (previously approved program)1YesApproval required prior to implementationYesModified Prospectus
      ...that is a significant departure from previously approved programs[1] 1YesApproval required prior to implementation YesModified Prospectus
      Initiating off-campus sites (including Early College High School programs offered at the high school) ...     
      ...Student can obtain 50 percent or more credits toward program1Yes6 monthsYesProspectus
      ...Student can obtain 25-49 percent of credit2YesPrior to implementationNoLetter of notification
      ...Student can obtain 24 percent or less NANANANANone
      Expanding program offerings at previously approved off-campus sites     
      ...Adding programs that are significantly different from current programs2YesPrior to implementationNoLetter of notification
      ...Adding programs that are NOT significantly different from current programsNANANANANA
      Altering significantly the educational mission of the institution[2] 1Yes6 monthsYesProspectus
      Initiating distance learning...     
      ...Offering 50 percent or more of a program (Once approved, institutions may add programs that are significant departures from the originally approved programs by submitting notification in advance)[1] 1Yes6 monthsYesProspectus
      ...Offering 25-49 percent2YesPrior to implementationNoLetter of notification
      ...Offering 24 percent or lessNANANANANone
      Initiating programs/courses offered through contractual agreement or consortium2YesPrior to implementationNoLetter of notification and copy of signed agreement
      Initiating a merger / consolidation with another institution3Yes6 monthsYesProspectus
      Due dates: April 15 or October 1
      Relocating a main or branch campus1Yes6 monthsYesProspectus
      Relocating an off-campus instructional site2YesPrior to ImplementationNoLetter of notification
      Changing governance, ownership, control, or legal status of an institution1Yes6 monthsYesProspectus
      Changing from clock hours to credit hours1Yes6 monthsYesProspectus
      Altering significantly the length of a program[3] 1Yes6 monthsYesProspectus
      Initiating degree completion Programs1Yes6 monthsYesProspectus
      Closing an institution or program: (see Commission policy "Closing a Program or Institution")     
      ...closing a program with internal teach-out protocol2YesPrior to implementation Description of plan
      ...closing a program with a teach-out agreement with another institution2YesPrior to implementation Copy of teach out agreement
      ...closing an institution2YesPrior to implementation Description of plan

      [1] a significant departure in program is one in which the proposed new program has no closely related counterpart among the previously approved programs in the curriculum. To determine if a new program is a "significant departure", it is helpful to ask if the new program requires * Numbers of new faculty? * Many new courses? * New library or other learning resources? * New equipment or facilities? * A new resource base?

      [2] significant changes in mission are those that lead to a fundamental shift in the nature of the institution, such as an institution that had offered only professional programs deciding to add general education offerings, or a technical college transforming itself into a comprehensive community college.

      [3] significant changes in program length are those with noticeable impact on the program's completion time (e.g., increasing a baccalaureate degree from 124 hours to 150 hours).

    2. If the proposed change is considered appropriate for internal development by the President's Cabinet, the Provost will instruct the SACS Accreditation Liaison to record in Old Dominion University's SACSCOC Change Tracking Database the title, description, date of approval for internal development, the name of the individual responsible for its development, anticipated approval date, and earliest possible implementation date. Individuals responsible for the proposed changes will be instructed to notify the Provost and the SACS Accreditation Liaison as well as their appropriate Vice President/Executive Director regarding the progress of the proposed change.

      The anticipated earliest date of implementation will be recorded to ensure that adequate time exists for SACS notification, including the development of a Substantive Change Prospectus. Should the planned implementation date not allow for timely SACS notification, the implementation date will be adjusted to allow for timely notification to SACS.

    3. The SACS Accreditation Liasion will regularly monitor and record the progress and outcomes of the proposed change in Old Dominion University's SACSCOC Change Tracking Database, including events associated with the University's established policies and procedures for internal and external review and approval for various changes at the University. Working with the Provost and other senior University officers, the SACS Accreditation Liasion will regularly contact the designated individuals responsible for each potential change to ensure that progress toward approval and implementation is carefully tracked.

      When all internal reviews and approvals have been obtained, the President will send SACSCOC a written notification of the proposed change. Depending on the type of change and subsequent instructions from SACSCOC, the University may be required to submit a Substantive Change Prospectus and/or an Application for approval, within a minimum of three months and up to as many as 12 months prior to implementation of the change (per Table 1, above). From this point forward, for many types of changes, a minimum of six months is required to obtain formal approval by the University's Board of Visitors and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), if required.

    4. When the University's Board of Visitors and the State Council of Higher Education (SCHEV) or the Virginia Governor's office have given final approval, as appropriate, the Provost will notify the SACS Accreditation Liaison to prepare SACSCOC a Prospectus or Application as appropriate. Implementation of the approved substantive change will occur no sooner than three months following submission of the prospectus or application to SACSCOC, where applicable. If SACSCOC approval is required, the program cannot commence until such approval is attained.

    Vice Provost for Planning and Institutional Effectiveness


    Old Dominion University Organization Chart

    Substantive Change - Frequently Asked Questions

    What is a Substantive Change and How Should It Be Handled


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