The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) defines substantive change as a significant modification or expansion in the nature and scope of an accredited institution.
SACSCOC is responsible for reviewing all substantive changes that occur between an institution's decennial reviews to determine whether the change has affected the quality of the institution, and to ensure that the institution continues to meet defined standards. Certain types of substantive changes, such as adding branch campuses, mergers/consolidations, and changes in governance, require a visit by a substantive change committee to determine continued compliance.
Developments that are considered to represent a substantive change and the procedures for reporting them can be found in the commission's Policy on Substantive Change.
Substantive Change FAQs
What is a substantive change and how should it be handled?
Substantive change is a significant modification or expansion in the nature and scope of an accredited institution. The types of substantive change and the procedures for addressing them appropriately may be found in Substantive Change for SACSCOC Accredited Institutions.
- Some changes, such as offering courses on-line that amount to less than 25% of the coursework needed to complete a degree, certificate or diploma, do not need to be reported to the Commission.
- Others, such as offering (for the first time) 25% to 49% of the coursework required for a program on-line, simply require that the Commission be notified in advance of the implementation of the change. The letter of notification should include the name of the actual change, implementation date, street address if it involves a new site, and the credential being offered.
- Larger scale changes, such as adding significantly different programs to the academic curriculum or offering a majority of the coursework needed to complete a degree, certificate or diploma on-line, may require written notification as well as advance approval of a prospectus; see the Substantive Change policy for details on due dates and on the content of the prospectus.
- Institutions seeking to offer coursework at a more advanced level than that for which they are currently approved must submit an application for level change. See the Substantive Change policy for due dates
Prospectuses and applications for level change should include a Faculty Roster (Faculty Roster Instructions), presenting the qualifications of each faculty member in the program to teach the courses they are assigned.
It is expected that the CEO or a designated representative of an institution will notify the Commission President of substantive changes at that institution. Every institution has an Accreditation Liaison whose charge is to ensure compliance with accreditation requirements. The Accreditation Liaison should take the time to become familiar with the Commissions policies and procedures, ensure that substantive changes are recognized and reported in a timely fashion, and consult with the institution’s COC staff member about any questions.
Certain types of substantive changes, such as adding branch campuses, level changes, mergers/consolidations, and changes in governance require a visit by a substantive change committee to determine continued compliance with the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement. When a committee visit has been authorized by the President of the Commission, the institution will be asked to provide documentation of the impact of the change on selected requirements in the Principles of Accreditation.
If a substantive change committee has been authorized to visit your institution, please click here for the appropriate documents.
Click here for additional information that may be useful when reporting substantive changes.
Source: SACSCOC Substantive Change, Copyright 2017.
When should the ACC Office of Accreditation and Compliance be notified?
The ACC Office of Accreditation and Compliance must be notified PRIOR to
- 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; and/or
- 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.
Who should be notified once a substantive change is approved by SACSCOC?
Once a new program location has been approved by SACSCOC, the ACC Office of Accreditation and Compliance notifies the Financial Aid office to update its report of program locations to the Department of Education. Additionally, the Office notifies the Clery Compliance Officer.