Substantive Change Reporting Policy 1016


Longwood University recognizes the importance of compliance with the SACSCOC Substantive Change Policies and Procedures of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), which requires the university to report all substantive changes accurately and in a timely manner to SACSCOC. This policy exists specifically to establish, clarify and communicate the requirement that the President and Board of Visitors must approve all University changed deemed to be “substantive” if they must also be subsequently approved by the University’s institutional accrediting body, SACSCOC. The Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs (PVPAA) must approve all University changes deemed to be “substantive” if such changes require only notification to SACSCOC; the PVPAA must also notify the President and Board of Visitors.

SACSCOC accredits the university and its programs and services, wherever they are located or however they are delivered. SACSCOC is recognized by the United States Department of Education as an agency whose accreditation enables its member institutions to seek eligibility to participate in federally funded programs. SACSCOC requires accredited institutions to follow its substantive change procedures. In order to retain accreditation, the university is required to comply with SACSCOC procedures concerning substantive changes.

While the purpose of this policy is to document the approval and transmittal process to SACSCOC, new, revised or discontinued degrees and establishment of distance learning sites may also require reporting and prior approval from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). The requirements of both agencies must be met; compliance with one does not constitute compliance with the other. This policy is primarily designed to address academic programs and curricular issues; although other defined substantive changes are also covered.


  1. Approval: An official action by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees enabling an institution to implement a proposed substantive change.
  2. Branch Campus: A location of an institution that is geographically apart and independent of the main campus of the institution, and one where instruction is delivered. A location is independent of the main campus if:
    1. The location is permanent in nature.
    2. The location offers courses in educational programs leading to a degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential.
    3. The location has its own faculty and administrative or supervisory organization and has its own budgetary and hiring authority. Source: SACSCOC.
  3. Cooperative Academic Arrangement: An agreement between a SACSCOC-accredited institution and another entity (or entities) to deliver program content recorded on the SACSCOC institution’s transcript as its own (e.g., consortia, collaborative agreements with international institutions). Source: SACSCOC.
  4. Distance Education: A method of delivery in which the majority of the instruction (interaction between students and instructors and among students) occurs when students and instructors are not in the same place. Instruction may be synchronous or asynchronous. Source: SACSCOC.
  5. Dual Academic Award: A student receives instruction at two (or more) institutions in prescribed curricula leading to each institution granting academic awards at the same credential level.  Source: SACSCOC.
  6. Educational Program: A coherent course of study leading to the awarding of a credential (e.g., a degree, diploma or certificate).  Source: SACSCOC.
  7. Joint Academic Award: A student receives instruction at two (or more) institutions in prescribed curricula leading to the institutions granting a single academic award bearing the names, seals, and signatures of each participating institutions.  Source: SACSCOC.
  8. Level: SACSCOC’s taxonomy categorizes institutions by the highest degree offered. Longwood University is designated as a Level III institution because it offers the master’s degree as the highest degree.
  9. Merger/Consolidation: SACSCOC defines a consolidation as the combination or transfer of the assets of at least two distinct institutions (corporations) to that of a newly-formed institution (corporation), and defines a merger as the acquisition by one institution of another institution's assets. For the purposes of accreditation, consolidations and mergers are considered substantive changes requiring review by the Commission on Colleges. (Examples include: a senior college acquiring a junior college, a degree-granting institution acquiring a non-degree-granting institution, two junior or senior colleges consolidating to form a new institution, or an institution accredited by the Commission on Colleges merging with a non-accredited institution). Source: SACSCOC.
  10. Notification: A letter from an institution’s chief executive officer or their designated representative to the SACSCOC to summarize a proposed change, provide the intended implementation date, and list the complete physical address, if the change involves an off-campus instructional site. Source: SACSCOC.
  11. Off-Campus Instructional Site: A location geographically apart from an institution’s sole main campus and where instruction is delivered. This may or may not be a branch campus. Source: SACSCOC.
  12. Significant Departure: A program that is not closely related to previously approved programs at the institution or site or for the mode of delivery in question. To determine whether a new program is a significant departure, it is helpful to consider the following questions:
    1. What previously approved programs does the institution offer that are closely related to the new program and how are they related?
    2. What percentage of the required coursework is new?
    3. Will significant additional equipment or facilities be needed?
    4. Will significant additional financial resources be needed?
    5. Will a significant number of new courses be required?
    6. Will a significant number of new faculty members be required?
    7. Will significant additional library/learning resources be needed?
    8. Will the CIP code change?
      Source: SACSCOC, SCHEV.
  13. Substantive Change: A significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution.  Substantive changes include but are not limited to:
    1. Any change in the established mission or objectives of the institution.
    2. Any change in legal status, form of control, or ownership of the institution.
    3. The addition of a program that represents a significant departure, either in content or method of delivery, from those that were offered when the institution was last evaluated.
    4. The addition of courses or programs of study at a degree or credential level different from that which is included in the institution’s current accreditation or reaffirmation.
    5. Initiating programs by distance education or correspondence course.
    6. Adding a method of delivery to an existing program.
    7. A change from clock hours to credit hours.
    8. A substantial increase in the number of clock or credit hours awarded for successful completion of a program.
    9. The establishment of an additional location geographically apart from the main campus at which the institution offers at least 50 percent of an educational program.
    10. The establishment of a branch campus.
    11. Closing a program, off-campus site, method of delivery, branch campus or institution.
    12. Entering into a cooperative academic agreement such as a dual or joint academic award with another institution.
    13. Initiating programs designed for prior learning.
    14. Acquiring another institution or a program or location of another institution.
    15. Adding a permanent location at a site where the institution is conducting a teach-out program for a closed institution.
    16. Entering into a contract by which an entity not certified for Title IV funding offers part of one or more of the accredited institution’s programs.
      Source: SACSCOC.
  14. Teach-Out: The process and time period of a written teach-out plan by which the university provides instructional and academic support services to students enrolled at a site that has been closed and/or in a program that has been discontinued. The 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. Source: SACSCOC.
  15. Teach-Out Agreement: A written agreement between institutions that provides for the equitable treatment of students covered by a teach-out plan to complete their program of study.  Source: SACSCOC.


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 individuals or groups of faculty members, Department committees, Department Chairs, Deans and Associate Deans, the Vice President for Academic Affairs (PVPAA), Faculty Senate, or any other area reporting to the PVPAA.

In those areas outside of Academic Affairs, potential substantive changes may arise in individual units, among supervisors in each area, executive management teams within Vice Presidential areas, or with the Vice Presidents or Cabinet. Further, the need for a potential substantive change may come to the attention of the President or those in their direct reporting line.

Each individual hereby designated is required to be familiar and comply with this policy.


As the University pursues structural and programmatic changes, the President and Board of Visitors must approve all University changes deemed to be “substantive” if they must also be subsequently approved by SACSCOC. The PVPAA must approve all University changes deemed to be “substantive” if such changes require only notification to SACSCOC; the PVPAA must also notify the President and Board of Visitors. The University will follow the substantive change procedures of SACSCOC, and inform the SACSCOC of such changes and proposed changes in accord with those procedures. Regardless of the origination point, all substantive changes must be tracked and reported under this policy.


  1. Responsibility
    1. SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison: The Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs serves as the SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison.  In the years between accreditation reviews, the liaison is responsible for ensuring the timely submission of annual institutional profiles and other reports as requested by the Commission. The liaison is responsible for the accuracy of all information submitted to the Commission and for ensuring ongoing compliance with Commission 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. The liaison is responsible for internal and external monitoring of substantive change progress, and responsible for reporting final change status.
    2. Vice Presidents: The Vice Presidents are responsible for their respective areas bringing forward any potential substantive changes under this policy.
    3. President: The President, with the SACSCOC 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. The President is also responsible for oversight and final reporting of substantive changes to SACSCOC.
  2. Sanctions: If Longwood University fails to follow SACSCOC procedures for notification and approval of substantive changes, its total accreditation may be placed in jeopardy. For that reason, the sanction for failure to follow this University policy must be sufficient to avoid such failure. If an academic program, unit or officer initiates a substantive change without following the procedures outlined in this policy, the President or PVPAA may direct the immediate cancellation or cessation of that change, with due regard for the educational welfare of students, when it is discovered. In areas outside of Academic Affairs, the same sanction may be applied by the President or relevant Vice President.


Procedures do not require approval of the Board of Visitors.

Reviewed and Approved by Cabinet, September 12, 2012.
Approved by Faculty Senate, October 4, 2012.
Approved by the Board of Visitors, December 7, 2012.
Revised and approved by the Board of Visitors, March 22, 2019.
Revised and approved by the Board of Visitors, March 19, 2021.