Substantive Change Procedures

Definition: A substantive change is a change to an institution’s mission, educational programs, scope, control, location, or organizational structure that needs to be reported to and approved by WSCUC in advance of implementation. For a list of examples, see below.


Each institution is responsible for developing internal procedures to assure that it follows WSCUC’s substantive change policies and procedures. The vast majority of substantive changes at USD are to educational programs; thus, this webpage focuses on the procedure USD follows to ensure WSCUC is notified and/or approves of educational programs at USD prior to their implementation. To request another type of substantive change (such as those in the examples below), contact USD’s accreditation liaison officer (ALO).

New academic programs (including non-degree programs that bear academic credit and are not awarded as a result of completing an approved degree program) or adjustments to existing programs must be submitted to WSCUC prior to implementation. An adjustment to a program may require WSCUC review when 25% or more of the curriculum (as measured by credit hours) or degree requirements are altered. 

WSCUC requires that institutions submit a substantive change screening form for review and either notification or approval before the change can be implemented by USD. The USD employee responsible for submitting this screening form to WSCUC is USD’s ALO (please find contact information below). The screening form is only available via WSCUC’s password protected portal for ALOs; however, USD has created a mimic of this form via USD’s Qualtrics System. Once USD’s ALO has received the Qualtrics form from the faculty making the request, it will be submitted via the official screening form in the WSCUC portal. Once WSCUC receives the official substantive change screening form, WSCUC will respond to USD’s ALO in 30-days.

  • In some cases, the screening form will be treated as notification to WSCUC only of USD’s change, with only “staff review” required and no further action needed. “Staff review” is for routine changes within the institution’s current scope of accreditation, such as a request to offer an academic program in a discipline closely related to the institution’s existing offerings, or a new program that does not require substantial new courses to implement. In this case, USD is permitted to implement the change as scheduled once WSCUC has responded to the initial screening form.
  • In other cases, the screening form will trigger a WSCUC “committee review” in order to gain approval. Requests that will require a committee review and approval are for non-routine changes, such as new programs representing a departure from the institution’s academic portfolio or alterations to delivery methods of existing programs. If a committee review is required, more information beyond the initial screening form will be needed from the faculty making the request. 

The initial screening form should be submitted well in advance of the program’s anticipated implementation (ideally six to nine months) in case a “committee review” may be required.

For more information, please contact USD’s accreditation liaison officer (ALO), Dr. Elizabeth Giddens, Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Strategic Initiatives, at or

Examples of Substantive Changes:

Substantive changes include but are not limited to the following:

  • Any significant change in the established mission or objectives of the institution.
  • Any change in the form of control or ownership of the institution, including a change in the controlling share of ownership, merger with one or more institutions, or change in legal status including a transition between non-profit/for-profit status.
  • The acquisition of any other institution, or any program or location of another institution.
  • The addition of courses or programs representing a significant departure from the existing offerings of educational programs, or method of delivery that were offered when WSCUC last evaluated the institution.
  • The initiation of an educational program in which 50% or more of the program is offered through distance education or is electronically mediated.
  • The initiation of any educational program in which the requirements for graduation are based on the mastery of competencies rather than the accrual of credit hours, including direct assessment programs.
  • The addition of academic programs of study at a degree level above or below that which is included in the institution’s current accreditation.
  • The establishment of a joint or dual degree with another institution.
  • A change in the way the institution measures student progress in credit or clock hours, including semester, trimester, or quarter-based systems, or using time or non-time-based methods.
  • A substantial change (25% or more) in the number of clock hours or credit hours awarded, or a change in the level of credential awarded, for successful completion of one or more programs.
  • Entering into a written arrangement under which an institution or organization not certified to participate in Title IV, HEA programs offers 25% to 49% of one or more of the accredited institution’s educational programs.
  • The establishment of an additional location or branch campus at which the institution offers at least 50% of an educational program.
  • The establishment of an international branch campus or additional location.
  • The addition of a permanent location at a site at which the institution is conducting a teach-out for students of another institution that has ceased operating before all students have completed their program of study.

Note that the following types of actions are not considered substantive changes:  changing the name of an academic program, department, college, school, or university; reorganizing the administration, a division, college, or school; and closing a department or eliminating a degree program.