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TCU Substantive Change Policy

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. As a member institution of the Southern Association of the Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), TCU must notify SACSCOC of changes in accordance with the SACSCOC published substantive change policy and, when required, seek approval prior to the establishment of the changes in a timely fashion. 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. TCU’s published substantive change policy is detailed below.


Policy Number: AA1.002 Substantive Change Policy

I.                   Applicability

This policy is applicable to any new or edited for-credit credential program (degree, certificate, stand-alone minor, etc.) including changes to instructional modality, cooperative academic agreements with other institutions, new or edited off-campus instructional site, or other institutional changes such as level change or mission change.

II.                Policy Statement and Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to establish procedures for reviewing new or substantive changes in academic programs, including curricula and degrees, mode of delivery, and location. This policy defines the processing for substantive changes, and the procedures for timely reporting to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), and the U.S. Department of Education, as appropriate.


III.             Policy Definitions

“Curricula,” “curriculum,” and “program” may refer to academic programs, including courses, degrees, and certificates.

“Minimal change” may be a modification to existing courses not involving changes to course content, prerequisites, or credit hours.

“Program” is a for-credit credential awarded by the institution that appears on a transcript. The most common programs are majors, stand-alone minors, and stand- alone certificates.

“Significant departure” is any change for which some sort of communication (notification, prospectus, etc.) is required to be sent to SACSCOC (see Table 1).

“Substantive change” is defined by SACSCOC as a “significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution.” Additional information for guidance on necessary approvals and notification may be found on the website the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (see links under Appendix).

IV.              Policy


  1. All potential program changes must be vetted through the Office of Institutional Effectiveness (IE). IE will assist in determining whether or not a proposed change is substantive and the appropriate course of action.
  2. Changes that are substantive include, but are not limited to: new doctoral programs; new or changed degree programs that represent a significant departure in terms of new courses; new certificate programs or stand-alone minors requiring new courses; joint or dual degree programs with another institution; courses and programs offered through contractual agreement or consortia; new sites for delivering courses or programs; changes to instructional modality; or closing
  3. Changes that are non-substantive include, but are not limited to: repackaging of existing curricula into new programs, minors, or certificates. Repackaging includes taking existing courses and curricula and redistributing the content into courses with new course numbers and descriptions, and/or minimal changes to existing courses or degrees.


  1. The timeline for proposals requiring institutional approval will follow the process outlined by the approval granting office (e.g. Undergraduate Council, Graduate Council, University Council, Provost’s Office, Office of Institutional Effectiveness).
  2. Substantive changes may require notification to, or approval from, SACSCOC prior to The most common substantive changes and associated requirements are found in Table 1.
  3. Most proposals require the use of forms or formats specific to TCU and/or SACSCOC (as appropriate, check with Undergraduate Council, Graduate Council, University Council, Office of Institutional Effectiveness)
  4. Substantive changes requiring SACSCOC approval prior to implementation must be accompanied by a full or modified prospectus.
    1. If approval from an external agency is required, the approval document must be included in the substantive change prospectus submitted to
  5. Submission to SACSCOC due dates are:
    1. January 1 of the same year for July 1 – December 31 implementation
    2. July 1 of the preceding year for January 1 – June 30 implementation


  1. Submission to TCU Office of Institutional Effectiveness due dates are two months before the due date for SACSCOC

Table 1. Most Common Substantive Change Types and SACSCOD Due Dates

Change TypeParametersRequirementsDue Date
New programs or changes to existing programs0-24% new contentInform IEBefore implementation
25%-49% new contentSACSCOC notificationBefore implementation
50% or more new contentSACSCOC approval (prospectus +$500)July 1 for January 1 or later start; January 1 for July 1 or later start
Method of delivery0-49% available via new modalityInform IEBefore implementation
50-100% available via new modality SACSCOC notificationBefore implementation
ClosureWhen decision to close is made, not after enrollment reaches zeroSACSCOC approval (teach-out plan)Before ceasing new admission to the program
Program re-openWithin five years of closure to admissionSACSCOC notificationBefore implementation
Program length changeIncrease or decrease program length by 25% or more -AND- Expected time to completion changes by more than one termSACSCOC approval (prosectus +$500)July 1 for January 1 or later start; January 1 for July 1 or later start
New off- campus instructional site0-24% of program instructionInform IEBefore implementation
25%-49% of program instructionSACSCOC notificationBefore implementation or reaching 25%
50% or more of program instructionSACSCOC approval (prospectus, $500 fee, visiting committee actual costs [est. $6000-10,000], $2000 admin. Fee)July 1 for January 1 or later start; January 1 for July 1 or later start


  1. Curriculum proposals must be submitted through the appropriate institutional committees (e.g. Undergraduate Council, Graduate Council, University Council).
    1. The SACSCOC Liaison will review the proposal to determine if there is a significant departure, thus requiring a substantive change prospectus to be sent to SACSCOC.
  2. Notifications to and approvals from SACSCOC will be the responsibility of the SACSCOC Liaison
  3. The SACSCOC Liaison will be the primary record holder for all correspondence with SACSCOC. Electronic copies of SACSCOC responses will be provided to the appropriate units.


  1. Program coordinators and/or Department Chairs are responsible for:
    1. Preparing proposals using current forms and guidelines
    2. Monitoring proposed programs for quality and compliance
    3. Reviewing and approving proposals after assuring the above responsibilities are met
    4. Preparing substantive change prospectus should one be required
  2. Institutional Committees are responsible for, as appropriate, review and approval of all undergraduate/graduate curricula changes:
    1. Undergraduate Council
    2. Graduate Council
    3. University Council (Core Curriculum requirements; addition or deletion of degree programs)
  3. SACSCOC Liaison is responsible for:
    1. Determining if the proposal represents a significant departure as defined by SACSCOC
    2. Determining the appropriate level of notification to SACSCOC should a significant departure be identified
    3. Submitting any required substantive change notification or prospectus to SACSCOC

V.                 Enforcement

The Office of Institutional Effectiveness will monitor and enforce compliance with this policy within Academic Affairs.

VI.              Administrative Responsibility

Office of Institutional Effectiveness

VII.           Policy History

Original version: February 2012 Revision: April 2022

VIII.        Related Policies and Information

New/changed program processes University Council

Graduate Council Undergraduate Council

Distance Education Cooperative Agreements Mission Review

IX.              Appendix

Additional information for guidance on necessary approvals and notification may be found at:

X.                 Approved By and Approval Date

Approved: Provost/Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Date: 5/24/2022