Substantive Change Policy

Policy Title: Substantive Change Policy

Policy Oversight: Vice President of Academic Affairs, SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison

Policy Application: All University employees are required to comply with this policy

Contact Information:

Ginger Henderson, Vice President of Academic Affairs, [email protected], (434) 791-5630
Pam McKirdy, SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison, [email protected], (434) 791-5618
Dana Mehalko, Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, [email protected], (434) 791-6898

Policy Review and Approval:

This policy will be reviewed every three years and approved by the Vice President of Academic Affairs

Policy Statement

Averett University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commissions on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate, baccalaureate, and master’s degrees. Degree-granting institutions also may offer credentials such as certificates and diplomas at approved degree levels. Questions about the accreditation of Averett University may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (

To maintain the commitment undertaken by virtue of its membership in SACSCOC, Averett University is required to demonstrate continuing compliance with the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement by adhering to all standards, requirements, policies and procedures associated with the definition and scope of a substantive change and found in SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy and Procedures.

The SACSCOC Policy is as follows:

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) accredits an entire institution and its programs and services, wherever they are located or however they are delivered. It is responsible for reviewing all substantive changes that occur between an institution’s decennial reviews to determine whether the change has affected the quality of the total institution and to assure the public that all aspects of the institution continue to meet defined standards.

The SACSCOC is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as an agency whose accreditation enables its member institutions to seek eligibility to participate in Title IV programs. To maintain its recognition with the U.S. Department of Education, the SACSCOC has incorporated federal requirements into its substantive change policy and procedures. Some of those requirements specify that an institution seek and receive approval prior to the initiation of substantive change so that the change can be included in the institution’s scope of accreditation.

Substantive changes include, but are not limited to:

  • 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. 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

To ensure timely notification to SACSCOC, the Vice President of Academic Affairs (VPAA), the SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison, and the Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness will be apprised of the continuing viability and progress toward implementation of the potential change.

I. Purpose of Policy

The purpose of this policy is to outline the requirements, procedures, and processes necessary to maintain compliance with the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement with specific focus on coordinating timely and complete notification of substantive changes to the University’s accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Averett University follows the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) policy for substantive change.

II. Scope

This policy applies to all University officers who can initiate, review, approve, and allocate resources to any changes, including those to academic and non-academic programs and activities that may be considered a substantive change according to SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy and Procedures. Within academic areas, such changes can originate with individual or groups of faculty members, department committees, Department Chairs, Deans and Associate Deans, and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Faculty Senate, or any other area reporting to the Vice President of Academic Affairs. In units outside academic areas, substantive change actions may involve the allocation of resources from other divisions. Each individual hereby designated is required to comply with this policy.

III. Jurisdiction

Prior to implementing any substantive change, the University must, when required, seek approval from SACSCOC through the University’s SACSCOC Liaison, in consultation with the Vice President of Academic Affairs and the Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, prior to the initiation of changes.

All proposed changes must be submitted in writing, during the early planning stage. The notifications must include a) title of proposed change, b) brief description of the change including its scope, c) responsible individual to act as contact, d) tentative timeline for approval, and e) earliest date possible for implementation.

SACSCOC Substantive Change Submission deadlines:

Substantive change prospectus, application, and notification submission deadlines depend on (1) the type of SACSCOC Board of Trustees review, if required (see also the Board review pathways explained below), and (2) the intended implementation date of the substantive change.

For a substantive change requiring approval by the full Board of Trustees (which meets biannually), to be implemented after the date of the Board meeting, the submission deadlines are

  • March 15 for review at the Board’s biannual meeting in June of the same calendar year, and
  • September 1 for review at the Board’s biannual meeting in December of the same calendar year.

For a substantive change requiring approval by the Executive Council of the Board of Trustees (which meets year round), the submission deadlines are

  • January 1 for changes to be implemented July 1 through December 31 of the same calendar year, and
  • July 1 for changes to be implemented January 1 through June 30 of the subsequent calendar year.

For a substantive change requiring notification only, it can be submitted any time before implementation. Once the institution has submitted notification, it may implement before receiving a response from SACSCOC. If there are deficiencies or additional information needed about the notification, the institutional liaison will be contacted at the time of review for resolution and before action is taken. This applies to notifications only, not to approvals: changes requiring approval cannot be implemented until approved by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees.

For a substantive change to close a program, site, program at a site, or method of delivery, a teach-out plan should be submitted as soon as possible after the decision is made to close (i.e., stop admitting students).

IV. Definitions

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) – The body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. It serves as the common denominator of shared values and practices primarily among the diverse institutions in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Latin America and certain other international sites approved by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees that award associate, baccalaureate, master’s, or doctoral degrees. The Commission also accepts applications for membership from domestic institutions in the other 39 states, as well as international institutions of higher education around the world.

Substantive Change – A significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution. Substantive change includes high-impact, high-risk changes and change that can impact the quality of education programs and services. Such changes and the applicable institutional notifications are codified in SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy and Procedures.

Branch Campus – A special form of off-campus instructional site / additional location that is geographically apart from an institution’s main campus, where instruction is delivered, and is independent of the main campus of an institution. An off-campus instructional site / additional location is independent of the main campus if it is (1) permanent; (2) offers courses in educational programs leading to a degree, diploma, certificate, or other for-credit credential; (3) has its own faculty and administrative or supervisory organization; and (4) has its own budgetary and hiring authority.

Distance Education – A method of delivery in which 50% or more of instruction occurs when students and instructors are not in the same location. It includes synchronous (live or in real-time) and asynchronous (not live or in real time) instruction.

Distance Learning – see Distance Education

Level – SACSCOC’s level taxonomy categorizes institutions by the highest degree offered. Averett University is designated as a Level III institution: Highest degree offered is Master’s.

Merger/Consolidation – The sale, exchange, or transfer of all assets of at least one institution or entity to a SACSCOC accredited institution. Following a merger/consolidation, only one institution remains in operation as a separate institution or entity.

Off-Campus Instructional Site – A location geographically apart from an institution’s sole main campus, and where instruction is delivered. An off-campus instructional site may qualify as a branch campus. (See also branch campus)

Program or Program of Study – A coherent course of study leading to a for-credit credential including a degree, diploma, certificate, or other generally recognized credential. Exception: General education, for substantive change purposes, is usually considered a program even if a credential is not awarded. See also Standard 8.2.b (Student outcomes: general education) Standard 9.3 (General education requirements) of the Principles of Accreditation.

SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison – The individual at the institution who is responsible for ensuring the timely submission of annual institutional profiles and other reports as requested by the Commission in the years between accreditation reviews. With the President, the Accreditation Liaison is responsible for the accuracy of all information submitted to SACSCOC and for ensuring ongoing compliance with SACSCOC standards, policies, and procedures beyond reaffirmation. During the Reaffirmation Cycle, the Liaison serves on the SACSCOC Reaffirmation Leadership Team and oversees all staffing aspects of the Reaffirmation process.

Teach-Out – The process and time period of a teach-out plan.

Teach-out Plan – A written plan developed by an institution for students to complete their programs of study because it decided to end a program, off-campus instructional site, method of delivery, or to close the institution. A teach-out plan provides an orderly process, the equitable treatment of students, minimal disruption and additional costs to students, and covers all enrolled students regardless of their progress to completion.

Teach-Out Agreement – An optional written agreement with an institution or entity under which students covered by a teach-out plan may complete their programs of study. A teach-out agreement may include student eligibility criteria, time limits, fee waivers, tuition parity, or other negotiated terms.

V. Enforcement

All responsible University officers and faculty will be notified of this policy and reminded annually regarding their responsibility for compliance. The SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison will provide information regarding this policy and associated resources available from SACSCOC.

VI. Supporting Documents and Resources

SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy and Procedures, March 2022 revision

VII. Policy History

Policy created: Fall 2011
Revisions:  February 07, 2014,  February 16, 2023
Scheduled Review Date: January 01, 2026