Substantive Change

According to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), a substantive change is "a significant modification or expansion in the nature and scope of an accredited institution" and "includes high-impact, high-risk changes that can impact the quality of educational program and services."  Institutions are required to notify SACSCOC of substantive changes or, when appropriate, seek prior approval of those changes. Moreover, institutions are required to have a policy and procedure in place to ensure all substantive changes are reported to SACSCOC in a timely manner. Substantive changes relevant to LSU (a Level VI institution) include the following actions: 

  • 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.

  • 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.

Submission deadlines for substantive change review (by the Executive Council of the Board of Trustees) are as follows:

  • January 1, for 7/1 – 12/31 implementation; and
  • July 1, for 1/1 – 5/30 implementation.


All proposals for new academic programs, including certificates and degrees, must comply with the university’s internal routing process outlined in Policy Statement 45: Courses and Curricula and, if applicable, PS-116: Reporting Substantive Change to SACSCOC. Thus, units seeking to propose a new academic program must also request a substantive change review via the Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE) to determine whether the program qualifies as a substantive change and, if so, which procedure the university must follow to comply with SACSCOC substantive change requirements. Additionally, units seeking to add or close a method of delivery to a currently offered program must also inform OIE prior to implementation of the change; OIE will facilitate a substantive change notification to SACSCOC.

To allow for sufficient time to submit the substantive change notification or prospectus and to ensure the anticipated implementation of the program, units must request a substantive change review by the OIE prior to seeking final approval from the Office of Academic Affairs and subsequent approvals via the LSU Board of Supervisors and Louisiana Board of Regents (see PS-45). Units should direct proposal materials to Dr. Sandi Gillilan, Associate Vice Provost, Office of Institutional Effectiveness. Upon completion of the substantive change review, OIE will notify both the unit and the Office of Academic Affairs whether the proposed program qualifies as a substantive change and, if so, will provide guidance regarding the development of the substantive change notification or prospectus. 

Related Documents

LSU Policy Statement 116: Reporting Substantive Change to SACSCOC

LSU Policy Statement 45: Courses & Curricula

SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy and Procedures

Contact Us

Dr. Sandi Gillilan
Associate Vice Provost

email sandi