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Substantive Change Compliance Policy

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

  • (Approved by the Chancellor, September 28, 2011)
  • (Amended November 30, 2012)


The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) recognizes the importance of compliance with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Substantive Change for Accredited Institutions of the Commission on Colleges Policy Statement (SACSCOC, 2011), which requires UNCG to report all substantive changes accurately and in a timely manner to the Commission on Colleges. The purpose of this UNCG policy is to describe the process and procedures to be utilized to ensure that UNCG complies with this Commission on Colleges policy.


The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Substantive Change Compliance Policy applies to each academic unit and department within UNCG and is mandatory.

Definition of "Substantive Change"

Substantive change as defined by the Commission on Colleges is "a significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution." Examples of substantive changes that might be proposed by an institution include initiating coursework or programs at a more advanced level than currently approved; initiating a branch campus; altering significantly the educational mission of the institution; initiating a merger or consolidation with another institution; relocating a main or branch campus; changing governance, ownership, control, or legal status of an institution; changing from clock hours to credit hours; adding a permanent location at a site where the institution is conducting a teach-out for students from another institution that is closing; and closing a branch campus or an institution.

Other examples of substantive changes that might typically originate with proposals from department or academic program leadership include expanding programs at current degree level; initiating joint degrees with another institution; initiating a certificate program at employer's request and on short notice; initiating other certificate programs; initiating off-campus sites; expanding program offerings at previously approved off-campus sites; relocating an off-campus instructional site; initiating online programs or other programs where the faculty and students are not in the same location that are significantly different from current online offerings; initiating degree completion programs; initiating programs or courses offered through contractual agreement or consortium; entering into a contract with an entity not certified to participate in USDOE Title IV programs; acquiring any program or site from another institution; altering the length of a program significantly; and closing a program or approved off-campus site.

The initiation of new off-campus sites and the addition of new site-based programs that represent significant departures from current offerings are commonly reported substantive changes. A "significant departure" is one in which the proposed new program has no closely related counterpart among the previously approved programs in the curriculum offered at a site, whether the location is the main campus or an off-campus location. To determine whether a new program is a "significant departure," the Commission of Colleges considers whether the new program requires significant amounts of additional faculty, courses, library or other learning resources, equipment or facilities, or financial resources.


The process that UNCG will use to ensure compliance with the Substantive Change for Accredited Institutions of the Commission on Colleges Policy Statement involves the following four methods: 1) implementing effective communication and procedures, 2) providing adequate resources, 3) conducting periodic training, and 4) utilizing quality assurance safeguards.

Communication and Procedures

  • Detailed procedures regarding all internal and external (UNC General Administration and SACSCOC) academic program planning and revision processes are found in UNCG's Curriculum Guide (
  • Academic units follow the procedures within the Curriculum Guide to obtain internal approval for substantive changes.
  • The Academic Program Planning Questionnaire is sent to the Office of Assessment and Accreditation to identify timing and reporting requirements early in the planning process.
  • After a review of the responses to this questionnaire, if it is unclear as to whether a change is substantive in nature, the UNCG SACS Accreditation Liaison contacts SACSCOC staff for consultation.
  • Internally approved substantive change actions are sent to the Office of Assessment and Accreditation for external processing.
  • Approved actions are processed, documented, and tracked for each required compliance step for each external authority (UNC General Administration and SACSCOC).
  • Actions and decisions are communicated to appropriate deans and stakeholders according to the guidelines in the Curriculum Guide.


  • Policies, procedures, and information regarding substantive change can be found on the Office of Assessment and Accreditation website (
  • The Dean of Undergraduate Studies and the Dean of the Graduate School provide guidance for internal procedures.
  • The UNCG SACS Accreditation Liaison provides guidance for all external reporting activities.


  • Each academic unit dean will appoint an associate dean to serve as a substantive change liaison.
  • Each substantive change liaison will monitor the activity of their academic unit for substantive change issues and train its departments on external reporting requirements to ensure compliance with this policy.
  • The Office of Assessment and Accreditation will offer periodic training for liaisons on substantive change policy and other academic program compliance issues.

Quality Assurance

  • The Office of Assessment and Accreditation maintains and monitors an external reporting tracking system.
  • Procedures and information contained in the Curriculum Guide are reviewed and published annually.
  • The Academic Programs Committee consists of staff responsible for monitoring the various stages of academic program processes. This committee meets monthly to discuss issues regarding academic programs, to identify upcoming challenges, and to find solutions to problems and thereby supports effective compliance maintenance.
  • The University Registrar will implement changes upon receiving the official SACSCOC letters from the Office of Assessment and Accreditation and will provide the means to track off-campus activity.
  • Metrics are kept and reported annually regarding timely reporting of substantive change activity.


Responsibility for enforcement of this policy resides with the Chancellor. The Deans are responsible for their units adhering to the procedures set forth within the Curriculum Guide, and the Provost is responsible for ensuring that they do. The Director of Assessment and Accreditation serves as the liaison to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges with responsibility to report substantive changes in a timely manner. No substantive change can be implemented until a letter of approval or an acceptance of notification is received from the Commission on Colleges. Prior to receipt of the letter of approval, any distribution of information, including advertising, must include wording that the program is pending SACSCOC approval.


The Faculty Senate, Provost's Council, and the Provost have reviewed and the Chancellor has approved The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Substantive Change Compliance Policy. This policy will be reviewed and updated periodically as appropriate.


Comments or questions? Email the Policy Administrator.