Substantive Change at VSU

Institutional Obligation

"Member institutions are required to notify the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) of changes in accordance with the substantive change policy and, when required, seek approval prior to the initiation of changes."

Policy Statement

Valdosta State University timely reports all substantive changes to the Commission on Colleges by accurately applying the guidelines provided in Substantive Change for SACSCOC Accredited Institutions.

Examples of Substantive Changes

According to SACSCOC, “substantive change is a significant modification or expansion in the nature and scope of an accredited institution.” VSU’s Academic Committee, Academic Deans, and Provost/VPAA are the principal initiators or approvers of items which may be considered a substantive change. To discuss whether or not actions under consideration may be a substantive change, VSU personnel may contact Dr. Michael Black, Director of Institutional Effectiveness and SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison, Office of Academic Affairs, West Hall Suite 1004, 229-333-5950.

Examples include:

  • Substantially changing the established mission or objectives of an institution or its programs.
  • Changing the legal status, form of control, or ownership of an institution.
  • Changing the governance of an institution.
  • Merging / consolidating two or more institutions or entities.
  • Acquiring another institution or any program or location of another institution.
  • Relocating an institution or an off-campus instructional site of an institution (including a branch campus).
  • Offering courses or programs at a higher or lower degree level than currently authorized.
  • Adding graduate programs at an institution previously offering only undergraduate programs (including degrees, diplomas, certificates, and other for-credit credential).
  • Changing the way an institution measures student progress, whether in clock hours or credit-hours; semesters, trimesters, or quarters; or time-based or non–time-based methods or measures.
  • Adding a program that is a significant departure from the existing programs, or method of delivery, from those offered when the institution was last evaluated.
  • Initiating programs by distance education or correspondence courses.
  • Adding an additional method of delivery to a currently offered program.
  • Entering into a cooperative academic arrangement.
  • Entering into a written arrangement under 34 C.F.R. §668.5 under which an institution or organization not certified to participate in the title IV Higher Education Act (HEA) programs offers less than 25% (notification) or 25-50% (approval) of one or more of the accredited institution's educational programs.
  • Substantially increase or decreasing the number of clock hours or credit hours awarded or competencies demonstrated, or an increase in the level of credential awarded, for successful completion of one or more programs.
  • Adding competency-based education programs.
  • Adding each competency-based education program by direct assessment.
  • Adding programs with completion pathways that recognize and accommodate a student’s prior or existing knowledge or competency.
  • Awarding dual or joint academic awards.
  • Re-opening a previously closed program or off-campus instructional site.
  • Adding a new off-campus instructional site/additional location including a branch campus.
  • Adding a permanent location at a site at which an institution is conducting a teach-out program for students of another institution that has ceased operating before all students have completed their program of study.
  • Closing an institution, a program, a method of delivery, an off-campus instructional site, or a program at an off-campus instructional site.

Procedures to Ensure Timely Reporting

For Curricular Changes:

  • Stage 1: The Faculty, Department Head, Dean, and College Executive Committee prepare and approve curriculum revisions according to VSU's Guidelines for New or Changed Courses or Curriculum. Approved recommendations advance to Stage 2.
  • Stage 2: The Academic Committee of the Faculty Senate and Graduate Executive Committee meet monthly during the academic year to review and approve proposed curriculum changes and ensure changes comply with established VSU procedures and policies, including VSU's Determination of Credit Hours for Courses Policy. The Academic Committee is the main source for new program approvals, significant departures of existing programs, and program terminations. Academic Committee agendas, packets, and minutes are posted on the committee’s website.
  • Stage 3: After approval by the Academic Committee, VSU's SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison will (1) examine all curriculum changes appearing in the committee’s minutes, (2) apply the SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy to determine what communication is needed to the Commission on Colleges, (3) work with programs/units to prepare a concise notification letter or a substantive change prospectus, (4) mail that required documentation, (5) update the log of substantive changes submitted to the Commission.

For Other Substantive Changes:

  • The Provost, Associate Provosts, Deans, and Department Heads have the fundamental responsibility to be generally aware of the substantive change policy, inform the University’s SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison at the earliest point possible of proposals that may be considered a substantive change for the University and provide the SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison with any data, information, or prospectus necessary to comply with SACSCOC policy when requested. These leaders are the primary sources for planning changes relating to new instructional sites, collaborative academic arrangements, etc.
  • Once informed of these changes, VSU's SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison will (1) apply the SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy to determine what communication is needed to the Commission on Colleges, (2) work with the unit head to prepare a concise notification letter or a substantive change prospectus, (3) mail the required documentation, (4) update the institutional log of substantive changes submitted to the Commission.

If it is discovered that a program or unit may have implemented a substantive change without notifying the SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison, the Provost, Associate Provost, Dean, or Department Head must notify the SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison immediately. It is then the responsibility of the SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison to notify SACSCOC.

Policy Review

Federal regulations and SACSCOC policy on substantive change reporting change often. In order for VSU to maintain a current policy, the Accreditation Liaison is charged with reviewing the SACSCOC website annually, or as information is distributed by SACSCOC, for revisions to the Commission’s policy on substantive change and then initiating changes to VSU’s policy and procedures.

Communication between VSU and the Commission about substantive change shall be from VSU’s President and/or VSU’s Accreditation Liaison. Other VSU faculty, staff, or administrators should not communicate directly with SACSCOC about substantive change reporting. If you require a copy of prior VSU-to-SACSCOC correspondence, contact the Office of Institutional Effectiveness.

Policy and procedures approved by the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs: 01/13/2013.

Procedures revised: 09/19/2019.