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Substantive Change Policy

Policy Information

Issuing Office

Office of the Provost

Affected Parties

Academic and administrative officers who can initiate, review, or approve changes in the University's programs or activities that may be considered a substantive change according to SACSCOC policy.

Policy Language

Liberty University, as a member institution, is required to notify the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) of changes in accordance with the SACSCOC published substantive change policy and, when required, to seek approval prior to the implementation of the changes in a timely fashion. The SACSCOC policy statement, Substantive Change Policy and Procedures, outlines institutional responsibilities related to the reporting of substantive change.

Substantive changes, as well as 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 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.

Additionally, SACSCOC mandates the following:

  • 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.:
  • 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.  

Policy Rationale

To ensure continuing compliance with the policies of the Commission on Colleges, as well as 34 C.F.R. § 602.22

Definition of Glossary Terms

See Appendix B: Glossary of the SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy and Procedures.

Procedural Information


Identification of substantive changes related to programs and program changes reside with the respective Deans of Liberty’s colleges and schools in conjunction with consultation with the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and review of curriculum proposals by the Undergraduate or Graduate Administrative and Curriculum Committees of the Faculty Senate. Curriculum proposals go through a formal approval process, facilitating assessment of substantive changes by the stakeholders.

Final determination is the responsibility of the Provost/Chief Academic Officer.  Letters of notification and substantive change prospectuses are prepared in a collaborative arrangement by the respective Dean initiating the program or program change and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, with final approval by the Provost/Chief Academic Officer.

Identification of substantive changes at the Institution level is determined by the SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison and the President.

All letters of notification and prospectuses are submitted to SACSCOC by the Accreditation Liaison.


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 the SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy and Procedures document.



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