SACSCOC Substantive Change

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According to SACSCOC a substantive change is defined as any significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution.

Commission Responsibility

SACSCOC is responsible for reviewing all substantive changes that occur between an institution's decennial (ten year) reviews. These reviews are used to assist with determining whether the changes have affected the quality of the total institution and assuring the public that all aspects of the institution continue to meet defined standards.

Institutional Responsibility

An institution is required to inform SACSCOC of all substantive changes as specified in the following pages outlining the three procedures for reporting. Failure of an institution to gain approval for substantive changes could result in the institution jeopardizing its funding.


Most substantive change decisions will be reached through the curriculum process. Relevant substantive change forms to be included in all curriculum proposals are below:


When a substantive change is required, a prospectus will be needed. The requirements of a prospectus can be viewed here.

Facts and Information Regarding Substantive Change

  1. The Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement applied to all programs and services.
  2. Denial of approval of substantive change is not appealable.
  3. An accredited institution in the appeals process or in litigation with SACSCOC is not eligible for consideration of substantive change.
  4. The SACSCOC substantive change policy applies only to SACSCOC accredited institutions.
  5. Procedure One, Two and Three may not address all substantive changes that SACSCOC will review in the interim between reaffirmation cycles.
  6. An institution may withdraw its prospectus/application or may discontinues substantive change at any time during the review process by submitted a formal letter to the President of SACSCOC.
  7. Once an institution submits its prospectus or application and the document is reviewed by either the Committee on Compliance and Reports or by SACSCOC staff, any information included therein that indicates possible non-compliance with any of the Core Requirements or Comprehensive Standards may lead SACSCOC to further review the institution, even if the prospectus is withdrawn or approval of the change is denied.
  8. SACSCOC staff review all substantive changes requiring notification prior to implementation and conduct a preliminary review of all changes requiring approval.
    1. Substantive change requiring prior approval
    2. Substantive change submitted by an institution recently removed from sanction
    3. Proposed substantive change submitted by an institution currently on reimbursement for Title IV funding
    4. Prospectus of an institution planning a merger/consolidation, change of legal status, governance, ownership or form of control
    5. Prospectus for approval of a direct assessment competency-based education program
  9. In an institution fails to report or to gain approval of a substantive change prior to its implementation and the nature of that changes is not in the list of number 8 or a Procedure One change, the substantive change will be reviewed and if possible acted on by staff.
  10. All final decisions regarding the accreditation status of an institution are made by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees.
  11. Substantive changes of the types described in Procedure One and Two normally will not affect an institution's cycle of reaffirmation of accreditation.
  12. Following the approval of a degree level change by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees, an institution may not initiate additional program at the new degree level until after the Board takes positive action on its continued accreditation following the Substantive Change Committee visit authorized at the time of approval.
  13. The date of the letter of approval of a substantive change is considered the date on which the change is included as part of the institution's accreditation.
  14. Extensive substantive changes by an institution may accelerate the date for the institution's next reaffirmation.
  15. If an institution fails to follow SACSCOC substantive change policy and procedures, it may lose its Title IV funding or be required by the U.S. Department of Education to reimburse it for money received by the institution for programs related to the unreported substantive change.
  16. If an institution has education programs and off-campus instructional sites that are inactive but not closed the following applies:
  17. Institution does not enroll students in education program for five year then after that a prospectus must be submitted to reinstate the educational program
  18. Institution does not offer courses or programs at an approved off-campus instructional site for five years then the institution must submit a prospectus for the off-site campus to be activated and able to offer programs where students may earn 50% or more of program credit.

Do You Have a Substantive Change?

Programs and Certificates

If you are involved with an academic program or certificate, please answer the following questions to determine if you should complete the substantive change intake form:

  • Does this involve development of a new degree or certificate program?
  • Does this new degree or certificate program involve a contract, MOU, grant, or consortium for the development or construction of all or part of a program or certificate? (This applies whether JU is outsourcing instruction or JU is providing the instruction for another organization or company.)
  • Does this involve instruction of courses delivered by APSU instructors/employees at an off-campus location?
  • Does this involve the deactivation of a program or certificate? 

If you answered yes to one or more of the self-assessment questions above, please contact the Office of Analytics & Planning for information regarding SACSCOC approval of your potential substantive change.


If you are involved with an administrative department, please answer the following questions to determine if you should contact the Provost's Office regarding a potential substantive change:

  • Does this include initiating a contract, MOU, grant, or consortium regarding outsourcing instruction or regarding JU's provision of instruction for another organization or company?
  • Does this potential substantive change include buying new property for JU?
  • Does this potential substantive change include opening a new university-owned campus or center?
  • Does this potential substantive change involve a new off-campus instructional site?
  • Does this potential substantive change include the relocation of an off-campus instructional site? (For example, JU offers some nursing courses at the XYZ Building at a specific street address provided to SACSCOC. If XYZ Building wants JU to move the instruction to another street address, then this could be considered a substantive change.)

If you answered yes to one or more of the self-assessment questions above, please contact the Provost's Office for information regarding SACSCOC approval of your potential substantive change. 

Helpful Points

What is a contractual agreement?
A 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.

What is a 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.

Notification of initiating program/courses delivered through contractual agreement or a consortium does not apply to articulation agreements with other institutions, clinical agreements, or internship agreements.

What is a 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 program(s) does the institution offer that is 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 added to the curriculum?
  • Will a significant number of new faculty members be required?
  • Will significant additional library/learning resources be needed?

What should I consider a substantive change in my program modification?
A good rule of thumb is increasing or decreasing the number of credit hours/clock hours by 25% or more. It's also important to determine if any of the above questions regarding "significant departure" are relevant, such as if 25% of the courses are being replaced, additional equipment, new faculty, or additional library, facilities or financial resources. Please note, however, that no individual metric will necessarily trigger a substantive change.

What information must you provide as part of the teach-out plan for closing a program?
SACSCOC must approve all program closures prior to implementation. The written plan must provide equitable treatment of students and must also include the following information:

  1. Date of closure (date when new students will no longer be admitted)
  2. An explanation of how affected parties (students, faculty, staff) will be informed of the impending closure
  3. An explanation of how all affected students will be helped to complete their programs of study with minimal disruption
  4. An indication as to whether the teach-out plan will incur additional charges/expenses to the students and, if so, how the students will be notified
  5. Signed copies of teach-out agreements with other institutions, if any
  6. How faculty and staff will be redeployed or helped to find new employment 

What is a dual degree?
A separate program completion credentials each of which bears only the name, seal, and signature of the institution awarding the degree to the student.

What is a 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.

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