Substantive Change: 2.09


Title: SUBSTANTIVE CHANGE Identification: 2.09
Effective Date: 5/27/21

FS 1001.64; 1001.65

Signature/Approval: Dr. Atwater


The purpose of this procedure is to establish the requirements and processes necessary to ensure timely coordination and notification of substantive changes involving Hillsborough Community College (HCC) to its regional accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The procedures comply with the SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement, as well as the Commission’s policies and guidelines. This procedure provides the operational detail to the corresponding college policy statement, “Substantive Change”, as approved by its Board of Trustees.

Failure to report planned substantive changes can result in a loss of federal Title IV funding and institutional accreditation. In addition, unreported change may be referred to the SACSCOC Board of Trustees for the imposition of a sanction. For those reasons, the following procedural guidelines are established.


A “substantive change” is a significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution as defined in the policy statement of Substantive Change Policy and Procedures.

SACSCOC is required by the federal government to monitor the compliance of its member colleges and universities with the substantive change policy and to grant permission for major changes to occur. The SACSCOC Board of Trustees requires notification of substantive changes as a condition of accreditation and, in some cases, approval prior to implementation. These procedures address substantive change identified through federal regulations and those required through SACSCOC Board approval. A substantive change includes:

  • 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.
  • Adding graduate programs at an institution previously offering only undergraduate programs (including degrees, diplomas, certificates, and other for-credit credential).
  • 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.
  • An agreement offering more than 50% of one or more of an institution’s programs is prohibited by federal regulation.
  • 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.

Other substantive changes, including those required by federal regulations, include:

  • An institution is required to notify or secure SACSCOC approval prior to implementing a substantive change.
  • An institution is responsible for maintaining compliance at all times with Standard 14.2 (Substantive change) of the Principles of Accreditation and with the Substantive Change Policy and Procedures and related policies, viz.,
    • Agreements Involving Joint and Dual Academic Awards;
    • Credit Hours;
    • Direct Assessment Competency-based Educational Programs;
    • Distance and Correspondence Education;
    • Dual Enrollment;
    • Merger/Consolidation, Acquisition, Change of Ownership, and Change of Governance,
    • Control, Form, or Legal Status; and
    • Seeking Accreditation at a Higher or Lower Degree Level.
  • An institution is required to have a written substantive change policy and procedure. It must be approved through institutional processes and published in institutional documents accessible to those affected. The purpose of the institution’s substantive change policy and procedure is to ensure all substantive changes are reported to SACSCOC in a timely fashion as required by Substantive Change Policy and Procedures. Institutions are responsible for implementing and enforcing their substantive change policy and procedure.
  • An institution’s fiscal and administrative capability to operate off-campus instructional sites is assessed when a new site is reviewed for approval and as part of decennial and fifth-year interim reviews.
  • A new off-campus instructional site is subject to a substantive change committee visit. A committee visit, when necessary, is authorized when a site is approved. The committee visit ensures the site has the personnel, facilities, and resources identified by an institution in its application or prospectus and ensures the quality of instructional and support services offered at the site.
  • Different or additional requirements apply to an institution on SUBSTANTIVE CHANGE RESTRICTION. Restriction applies if an institution has been placed on Warning, Probation, or Probation for Good Cause over the prior three academic years, or if an institution is under provisional certification for participation in federal financial aid programs.
  • An institution placed or continued on Probation or Probation for Good Cause must submit to SACSCOC an institutional contingency teach-out plan within 30 days of the notification of the Board of Trustees action.

Failure of the president to report these and other planned substantive changes can result in loss of accreditation.


HCC’s responsibility is:

  1. To notify SACSCOC of substantive changes in a timely manner; and
  2. As required in select instances seek SACSCOC approval prior to implementing change.

Substantive changes occur at different levels of the college.

Institutional Changes

  • Change in Measure of Student Progress to Completion
  • Competency-based Education by Course/Credit-based Approach – Institutional-level Approval
  • Distance Education – Institutional-level Approval
  • Governance Change
  • Institution Closure
  • Institution Relocation
  • Institution, Program, or Location Acquisition
  • Institutional Contingency Teach-out Plan
  • Level Change
  • Merger / Consolidation
  • Mission Change
  • Ownership, Means of Control, or Legal Status Change

Program Changes

  • Clock-Credit Hour Conversion
  • Competency-based Education by Direct Assessment – Approval
  • Competency-based Education by Direct Assessment – Notification
  • Cooperative Academic Arrangements Definitions and Guidelines
  • Cooperative Academic Arrangement with Title IV Entities
  • Cooperative Academic Arrangement with Non-Title IV Entities – Approval
  • Cooperative Academic Arrangement with Non-Title IV Entities – Notification
  • Correspondence Education
  • Dual Academic Award
  • Joint Academic Award with non-SACSCOC Institution(s) or Entity(ies)
  • Joint Academic Award with SACSCOC Institution(s)
  • Method of Delivery – Approval
  • Method of Delivery – Notification
  • New Program – Approval
  • New Program – Notification
  • Program Closure
  • Program Designed for Prior Learning – Approval
  • Program Designed for Prior Learning – Notification
  • Program Length Change
  • Program Re-open

Off-campus Instructional Site/Additional Location Changes

  • Off-campus Instructional Site Definitions and Guidelines
  • Off-campus Instructional Site Notification
  • Off-campus Instructional Site Approval (including branch campus)
    • Extensive Review
    • Limited Review
    • Committee Visits
  • Off-campus Instructional Site Relocation
    • Non-branch Campus
    • Branch Campus
  • Off-campus Instructional Site Name or Address Change
  • Off-campus Instructional Site Closure
  • Off-campus Instructional Site Re-open

Procedural Steps

Compliance with the following procedural steps is mandatory.

It is the responsibility of academic deans and directors, the vice president of academic affairs, campus presidents, and all other cabinet-level officers to: 1) possess a level of familiarity with college and SACSCOC substantive change policy and procedures; 2) ensure that the accreditation liaison receives early notification when planning for a modification that may prove substantive; and 3) work with the liaison, as needed to prepare substantive change documentation and reporting.

  1. The liaison meets with the President’s Cabinet in July and January of each year to: a) review SACSCOC policy on substantive change and any revisions, b) examine the institution’s current offerings and operations to ensure the college is in compliance with substantive change policy; and c) identify and discuss any possible changes planned for the college that might be substantive in nature.
  2. Proposed changes are reviewed by the liaison to determine if they are substantive per SACSCOC policy and the specific substantive change procedure that applies (see the section below “Types of Substantive Change” and the tables to follow). The liaison consults with SACSCOC staff if there is uncertainty as to a potential substantive change.
  3. The liaison and president are responsible for notifying the Commission of any substantive change.
  4. If the Commission requires the institution to write a prospectus or prepare additional documentation beyond the letter of notification, the liaison works with the appropriate college administrators to complete these reporting requirements. The liaison works with the president in the submission of the prospectus. For those changes in which prior approval is required the prospectus must be submitted no later than January 1 for implementation between July 1 to December 31 and July 1 for implementation between January 1 to June 30 of the following year.
  5. To further monitor changes at the program/course level, the liaison monitors all agenda items that come to the monthly meetings of the Technical Review Committee (TRC). The TRC reviews all agenda items prior to advancement to the Academic Affairs Committee for official consideration.


The accreditation liaison reviews SACSCOC policy, procedures, and related documents every July and January following the meetings of the SACSCOC Board of Trustees. The college’s substantive change policy and procedures are updated as needed to ensure current information is reflected.

The HCC Substantive Change policy and procedures as well as the SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy are posted on the college website. The liaison disseminates the policy and procedures to all appropriate administrators when modifications are made.


The different types of substantive change – institutional, program, and off-campus instructional site – have varying requirements. These requirements are detailed in the SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy and Procedures. Always consult the college accreditation liaison who will have more detailed information regarding substantive change requirements.


Adopted: 3/05/15; Revised: 8/30/16