Skip to Main Content
Regulations and Policies

Regulations & Policies

Academic Affairs


The purpose of this policy is to establish the requirements necessary to ensure timely coordination and notification of substantive changes involving the University of North Florida to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


UNF is required to notify the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) of changes in accordance with the SACSCOC substantive change policy and, when required, seek approval prior to the initiation of changes. Furthermore, it is UNF's responsibility to follow the SACSCOC substantive change procedures and inform SACSCOC of substantive changes as specified in those procedures.

Substantive change is defined as a significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution. Under federal regulations, substantive change includes:

  • Any change in the established mission or objectives of the institution;
  • Any change in legal status, form of control, or ownership of the institution;
  • 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;
  • 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;
  • A change from clock hours to credit hours;
  • A substantial increase in the number of clock or credit hours awarded for successful completion of a program;
  • The establishment of an additional location geographically apart from the main campus at which the institution offers at least 50% of an educational program;
  • The establishment of a branch campus;
  • Closing a program, off-campus site, branch campus or institution;
  • Entering into a collaborative academic arrangement that includes only the initiation of a dual or joint academic program with another institution;
  • Acquiring another institution or a program or location of another institution;
  • Adding a permanent location at a site where the institution is conducting a teach-out program for a closed institution; and
  • 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.

If a substantive change is discovered to have been implemented without notification to the UNF SACSCOC accreditation liaison, the appropriate vice president has the responsibility to notify the UNF SACSCOC accreditation liaison immediately. The UNF SACSCOC accreditation liaison, in consultation with the President's Office, is then responsible for notifying SACSCOC of the substantive change including, if necessary, the submission of a prospectus.

Vice Presidents should conduct an annual review of their internal operating procedures to assure timely reporting of future substantive change initiatives.

Failure of compliance with the SACSCOC substantive change policy and procedures can lead to (a) the loss of Title IV funding, including, a requirement to reimburse money to the U.S. Department of Education for programs related to the unreported substantive change; (b) an inability to receive federal grants or contracts; and (c) the levy of SACSCOC public sanctions or loss of accreditation.

Institutional Responsibilities

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 the latest revision of the SACSCOC Policy on Substantive Changes for Accredited Institutions.

Within academic areas, such changes can originate with

  1. individual or groups of faculty members,
  2. department committees,
  3. department chairs,
  4. deans and associate deans,
  5. provost and vice president for Academic Affairs,
  6. faculty association, or
  7. any other area reporting to the provost.

In those areas outside the Division of Academic Affairs, potential substantive changes may arise in (a) individual units, (b) among supervisors in each area, (c) executive management teams within vice presidential or executive director areas, or (d) with the vice presidents or executive directors themselves. Further, the need for a potential substantive change may come to the attention of the President or those in his or her direct reporting line.

Vice presidents, associate and assistant vice presidents, deans, associate and assistant deans, and directors have the responsibility to be aware of and familiar with the substantive change policy.

  • Each college dean is required to distribute and discuss the implications of the policy with department chairs, center or institute directors, and the faculty leading college level curriculum committees.
  • Vice presidents, associate and assistant vice presidents, deans, associate and assistant deans, and directors must inform the appropriate vice president and UNF's SACSCOC accreditation liaison of proposals that may result in a substantive change.
    • Notification should be submitted in writing at the earliest stage of consideration and at least two months before the timeframe specified in the attached appendix.
    • The UNF SACSCOC liaison will review the written notification and determine which of the three SACSCOC procedures to follow.
    • The unit initiating the change must provide information or the prospectus needed to comply with the SACSCOC policy when requested.

The UNF SACSCOC accreditation liaison will maintain information on SACSCOC substantive changes submitted by the university to SACSCOC. The liaison will update vice presidents, associate and assistant vice presidents, deans, associate and assistant deans, and directors when the SACSCOC substantive change policy is revised.

III. Definitions

  1. Branch campus - a location of an institution that is geographically apart and independent of the main campus of the institution. A location is independent of the main campus if the location is
    • permanent in nature
    • offers courses in educational programs leading to a degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential
    • has its own faculty and administrative or supervisory organization and
    • has its own budgetary and hiring authority
  2. Contractual Agreement - typically is one in which an institution enters an agreement for receipt of courses/programs or portions of courses or programs (i.e., clinical training internships, etc.) delivered by another institution or service provider.


  3. Consortial Relationship - A consortial relationship typically is one in which two or more institutions share in the responsibility of developing and delivering courses and programs that meet mutually agreed upon standards of academic quality.


  4. Correspondence education - a formal educational process under which the institution provides instructional materials, by mail or electronic transmission, including examinations on the materials, to students who are separated from the instructor. Interaction between the instructor and the student is limited, is not regular and substantive, and is primarily initiated by the student; courses are typically self-paced.


  5. Degree completion program - a program typically designed for a non-traditional undergraduate population such as working adults who have completed some college-level course work but have not achieved a baccalaureate degree. Students in such programs may transfer in credit from courses taken previously and may receive credit for experiential learning. Courses in degree completion programs are often offered in an accelerated format or meet during evening and weekend hours, or may be offered via distance learning technologies.


  6. Distance education - a formal educational process in which the majority of the instruction (interaction between students and instructors and among students) in a course occurs when students and instructors are not in the same place. Instruction may be synchronous or asynchronous. A distance education course may use the internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices; audio conferencing; or video cassettes, DVD's, and CD-ROMs if used as part of the distance learning course or program.


  7. Dual degree - separate program completion credentials each of which bears only the name, seal, and signature of the institution awarding the degree to the student.


  8. Educational program - a coherent course of study leading to the awarding of a credential (i.e., a degree, diploma or certificate).


  9. Geographically separate - an instructional site or branch campus that is located physically apart from the main campus of the institution.


  10. Joint degree - a single program completion credential bearing the names, seals, and signatures of each of the two or more institutions awarding the degree to the student.


  11. Modified prospectus - a prospectus submitted in lieu of a full prospectus for certain designated substantive changes. When a modified prospectus is acceptable, the Commission specifies requested information from the institution.


  12. Notification - a letter from an institution's chief executive officer, or his/her designated representative, to SACSCOC President summarizing a proposed change, providing the intended implementation date, and listing the complete physical address if the change involves the initiation of an off-campus site or branch campus. The policy and procedures for reporting and review of institutional substantive change are outlined in the document "Substantive Change for Accredited Institutions of the Commission on Colleges."


  13. 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:
    • What previously approved programs does the institution offer that are closely related to the new program and how are they related?
    • Will significant additional equipment or facilities be needed?
    • Will significant additional financial resources be needed?
    • Will a significant number of new courses will be required?
    • Will a significant number of new faculty members will be required?
    • Will significant additional library/learning resources be needed?
  14. Teach-out agreement - a written agreement between institutions that provides for the equitable treatment of students and a reasonable opportunity for students to complete their program of study if an institution, or an institutional location that provides 50% or more of at least one program offered, ceases to operate before all enrolled students have completed their program of study. This applies to the closure of an institution, a site, or a program. Such a teach-out agreement requires SACSCOC approval in advance of implementation.


  15. Teach-out plan - a written plan developed by an institution that provides for the equitable treatment of students if an institution, or an institutional location that provides 50% or more of at least one program, ceases to operate before all students have completed their program of study, and may include, if required by the institution's accrediting agency, a teach-out agreement between institutions. This applies to the closure of an institution, a site, or a program. Teach-out plans must be approved by SACSCOC in advance of implementation.

To review the different types of substantive change, the specific procedure to be used for each change, the respective approval / notification requirements, reporting time lines, and additional information about Substantive Change, refer to SACSCOC's webpage on Substantive Change at

Print Page