Substantive change

Substantive change is defined by SACSCOC as "a significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution."

VCU follows the SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy and Procedures, and also maintains a related VCU policy, Substantive Change for Regional Accreditation, in the university policy library.

Actions that fall under substantive change 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

Substantive change process and fees

Some, though not all, substantive changes require fees to be paid to SACSCOC. Please note that the unit responsible for the substantive change will also be responsible for covering these fees. Fees can vary based on the type of substantive change required. 

Please use the academic strategy and innovation "Help desk" ticket system to submit inquiries related to substantive change process and fees.

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Some departmental actions that require SCHEV approval may also require SACSCOC notification or approval under the substantive change policy. 

For academic units proposing actions that require SCHEV approval, please also complete the SACSCOC Substantive Change Checklist to determine whether these actions also require SACSCOC notification or approval.