Executive Council

Authorizes Release:

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Responsible Area:

Academic Affairs

Review Cycle:

Annually or as required

Last Review:

August 2023

Related Policies and Additional References:


It is the policy of St. Mary’s University to comply with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) policy on substantive change by reporting substantive changes in a timely manner and in accordance with SACSCOC requirements. The complete SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy and Procedures Statement is available on the SACSCOC website.

Definition of Substantive Change

According to SACSCOC, a substantive change is a significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution. St. Mary’s Accreditation Liaison monitors updates and modifications made by SACSCOC to substantive change policies and requirements and ensures St. Mary’s remains in compliance. The Liaison ensures that St. Mary’s complies with the institutional changes that require Substantive Change updates and changes to the established mission or objectives of the institution or its programs. SACSCOC identifies the following as substantive changes:

  • 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. An agreement offering more than 50% of
    one or more of an institution’s programs is prohibited by federal regulation.
  • Substantially increasing 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.
  • Participating in the federal Prison Education Program providing Pell Grant access to
    confined or incarcerated students.

Reporting Substantive Change

It is the responsibility of St. Mary’s University to report all substantive changes through its SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison based on the SACSCOC’s policy and to follow all procedures and timelines as outlined in the SACSCOC Policy and Procedures Statement.   Under the university’s policies and procedures, the types of changes in the university’s programs or operations that would be considered substantive change also require approval by the Academic Council, Executive Council and the Board of Trustees of the University. Not all changes requiring approval by the Academic Council, Executive Council, or the Board of Trustees are substantive; therefore, consulting with the SACSCOC Liaison is essential. The Executive Council is convened by the University President and its standing members consists of the university’s Vice Presidents, who are officers of the University. The Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs chairs the Academic Council, and serves as a resource to the Board of Trustees.

Once a substantive change involving an academic program is approved by the Academic Council, the Executive Council, and the Board of Trustees, the SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison ensures that the substantive change is reported to SACSCOC in accordance with the timeline and requirements outlined in the SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy and Procedures Statement.

For substantive changes that do not involve changes to academic programs, e.g., entering into academic cooperative agreements, adding new off-campus instructional sites, etc., the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs will provide all necessary information for reporting the substantive change to the SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison. Once approved by Academic Council, the Executive Council, and the Board of Trustees, the SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison ensures that the substantive change is reported to SACSCOC in accordance with the timeline and requirements outlined in the SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy and Procedures Statement.

The Office of the Provost monitors and maintains records of all substantive changes, ensures the review of the policy and its publication within the university’s Policy Library, and assures the university’s officers and academic leadership comply with the policy.   

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