Substantive Changes

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges requires its member institutions to have a written policy and procedure to ensure that all substantive changes are reported to the Commission in a timely fashion. Middle Tennessee State University, as an accredited member institution, adheres to the Commission's Substantive Change Policy and Procedures. See MTSU Policy 50 Timely Reporting of a Substantive Change for Accredited Institutions of the SACSCOC.

SACSCOC and MTSU substantive change policies and procedures assure the public that all aspects of an institution continue to meet standards. These policies help ensure that substantive changes, if approved, do not hinder an institution’s ability to continue meeting the SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation.

For more information, please contact MTSU accreditation liaison Dr. Mary S. Hoffschwelle at mary.hoffschwelle@mtsu.edu, (615) 898-5806, or Cope Administration Building Room 110.

What is a substantive change? 

SACSCOC defines substantive change as a significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution.

Substantive changes, including those required by federal regulations, 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 programs 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.

Other substantive changes, including those required by federal regulations, include:

  • An institution is required to notify or secure SACSCOC approval prior to implementing a substantive change.
  • An institution is responsible for maintaining compliance at all times with Standard 14.2 (Substantive change) of the Principles of Accreditation and with the Substantive Change Policy and Procedures and related policies, viz.,
  • Agreements Involving Joint and Dual Academic Awards [PDF];
  • Credit Hours [PDF];
  • Direct Assessment Competency-based Educational Programs [PDF];
  • Distance and Correspondence Education [PDF];
  • Dual Enrollment [PDF];
  • Merger/Consolidation, Acquisition, Change of Ownership, and Change of Governance, Control, Form, or Legal Status [PDF]; and
  • Seeking Accreditation at a Higher or Lower Degree Level [PDF].
  • An institution is required to have a written substantive change policy and procedure. It must be approved through institutional processes and published in institutional documents accessible to those affected and to the public. The purpose of the institution’s substantive change policy and procedure is to ensure all substantive changes are reported to SACSCOC in a timely fashion as required by Substantive Change Policy and Procedures. Institutions are responsible for implementing and enforcing their substantive change policy and procedure.
  • An institution’s fiscal and administrative capability to operate off-campus instructional sites is assessed when a new site is reviewed for approval and as part of decennial and fifth- year interim reviews.
  • A new off-campus instructional site is subject to a substantive change committee visit. A committee visit, when necessary, is authorized when a site is approved. The committee visit ensures the site has the personnel, facilities, and resources identified by an institution in its application or prospectus and ensures the quality of instructional and support services offered at the site.
  • Different or additional requirements apply to an institution on SUBSTANTIVE CHANGE RESTRICTION. Restriction applies if an institution has been placed on Warning, Probation, or Probation for Good Cause over the prior three academic years, or if an institution is under provisional certification for participation in federal financial aid programs.
  • An institution placed or continued on Probation or Probation for Good Cause must submit to SACSCOC an institutional contingency teach-out plan within 30 days of the notification of the Board of Trustees action.

When and how does MTSU report substantive change?

MTSU must notify and/or have approval from SACSCOC before implementing a substantive change. See “Reporting the Various Types of Substantive Change” in Policy 50 for a full list of the types of substantive change, notification and approval processes, and deadlines. Deans, department chairs or directors of schools, and administrative officers must inform the University’s accreditation liaison in writing of any planned substantive change by the deadlines specified in that list and in the “Timeline for Completion of Substantive Change Procedures.”

What happens if MTSU does not report substantive change?

If an institution is non-compliant with Substantive Change Policy and Procedures or Standard 14.2 (Substantive change), its accreditation may be in jeopardy. An unreported substantive change may require a review of the institution’s substantive change policy and procedures document by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees. Non-compliance subjects the institution to monitoring, sanction, or removal from membership. Failure to secure approval, if required, of a substantive change involving programs or locations that qualify for title IV federal funding may place the institution in jeopardy with the U.S. Department of Education, including reimbursement of funds received related to an unreported substantive change. For additional information, refer to Appendix A, Standards and Policy Addressing Unreported Substantive Change, in Substantive Change Policy and Procedures.