Substantive Change for SACSCOC Accredited Institutions


Policy Statement

Washington and Lee University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). As a standard of accreditation (Principles of Accreditation: Foundation for Quality Enhancement, January 2018 edition, Standard 14.2) the University must:

1. Have a policy and procedure to ensure that all substantive changes are reported to the Commission in a timely manner; and,
2. Notify SACSCOC of changes in accordance with the substantive change policy and, when required, seek approval prior to the initiation of changes.

See Substantive Change for SACSCOC Accredited Institutions Policy Statement ( for more detailed information.

The purpose of this policy is to establish the requirements, procedures and processes necessary to ensure timely coordination and notification of substantive changes involving Washington and Lee University to the University's regional accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).


This policy applies to Washington and Lee University and all of its Affiliates.
Responsible Institutional Officer: Provost
Responsible Institutional Coordinator: SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison


Affiliates: For purposes of this policy, the term "Affiliates" means organizations or entities in which the University owns a controlling interest or has the right to elect the majority of the entity's governing board.

Substantive Change: For purposes of this policy, a substantive change is a "significant modification of the nature and scope of an accredited institution." Colleges and Universities must notify their accrediting body of potential or actual substantive change in a timely manner and in some cases must receive approval from SACSCOC for that change before the initiative is implemented. Under federal regulations, substantive change includes:

(a) Any change in the established mission or objectives of the institution
(b) Any change in legal status, form of control, or ownership of the institution
(c) The addition of courses or programs that represent a significant departure, either in content or method of delivery, from those that were offered when the institution was last evaluated
(d) 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
(e) A change from clock hours to credit hours
(f) A substantial increase in the number of clock or credit hours awarded for successful completion of a program
(g) The establishment of an additional location geographically apart from the main campus at which the institution offers at least 50% of an educational program
(h) The establishment of a branch campus
(i) Closing a program, off-campus site, branch campus or institution
(j) Entering into a collaborative academic arrangement that includes only the initiation of a dual or joint academic program with another institution
(k) Acquiring another institution or a program or location of another institution
(l) Adding a permanent location at a site where the institution is conducting a teach-out program for a closed institution
(m) Entering into a contract by which an entity not eligible for Title IV funding offers 25% or more of one or more of the accredited institution's programs

See Substantive Change for SACSCOC Accredited Institutions Policy Statement ( for more detailed information.

Substantive change is based on the concept of "significant departures" from previously approved programs, instructional sites, or modes of delivery. The overwhelming majority of program modifications, changes in curriculum, or changes to courses do not require a notice of substantive change to SACSCOC. The accreditation liaison serves as the gatekeeper and advisor for the substantive change process and will consult as needed with the University's assigned staff representative at SACSCOC.

Policy and Procedures

I. Designated Responsibility

The SACSCOC accreditation liaison is responsible for the timely reporting of a substantive change to SACSCOC in accordance with the requirements of SACSCOC and W&L policy. It is the responsibility of the accreditation liaison to keep the University informed of any changes in the substantive change policy. The W&L accreditation liaison reports to the Provost.

Each University department is responsible for informing the accreditation liaison of any potential substantive changes in a manner that ensures W&L can meet the required notification, review and approval processes of SACSCOC. For academic program activities, a SACSCOC substantive change report may be required.

II. Implementation Procedures:

A. The academic or administrative officer or department initiating the substantive change (requestor) will:

1. Make contact with the accreditation liaison to determine if potential program changes could result in a substantive change request. A determination of substantive change shall, at all times, be guided by the Substantive Change for SACSCOC Accredited Institutions Policy Statement (
2. Prepare and submit a Substantive Change Request (see Section III: The Content of the Substantive Change Request) to the appropriate departmental head, dean, the Provost, and the accreditation liaison. The requestor should actively consult with the accreditation liaison regarding the content of the substantive change request.
3. Ensure the necessary documentation for any substantive change is included with the request and that approvals are collected of the appropriate departmental head, dean, and the Provost.
4. Once approved, coordinate with the accreditation liaison to submit the substantive change report (due to SACSCOC six months in advance of implementation and due to the accreditation liaison one month earlier than that).

B. The SACSCOC accreditation liaison will:

1. Update the University's substantive change policy and procedures as needed based on SACSCOC policy.
2. Regularly present the substantive change policy and any other SACSCOC accreditation updates to the Chief Academic Officers (Deans and Associate Deans), Provost Senior Staff, and other relevant groups.
3. Respond to a requestor regarding a potential substantive change request, providing a determination on whether or not a substantive change request is warranted.
4. Work with the requestor as needed to address all components of the substantive change request and any deficiencies.
5. Review the substantive change request for completeness, appropriateness and consistency with SACSCOC policies and standards.
6. Prepare the formal transmission to SACSCOC.

III. The Content Of The Substantive Change Request

A. Detailed guidance regarding the content of a substantive change request will be provided by the accreditation liaison.

B. At a minimum, the substantive change request will include the following components:

1. Concise executive summary or abstract
2. Background information
3. Needs assessment and program planning/approval
4. Description of the change
5. Resources to be committed, as appropriate, to include:

a. Faculty and staffing
b. Library and learning resources
c. Student Support Services
d. Academic support services
e. Physical resources (facilities, equipment, etc.)
f. Financial support, to include a business operational plan

6. Evaluation and assessment plan (institutional effectiveness)
7. Support documentation

IV. Policy Amendments

The policy shall be amended as necessary to align with SACSCOC guidelines.

Revision History

This policy has not yet been revised.