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Substantive Change


To be in compliance with The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)  guidelines and Federal Law, Palm Beach State College must assess whether a proposed change in programs, facilities, centers or program delivery is a “substantive" change. Substantive change is a federal term relating to any “significant modification of the nature and scope of an accredited institution."  Palm Beach State College must notify SACSCOC of a potential or actual substantive change in a timely fashion, and in many cases must receive approval for such a change from SACSCOC before the initiative is implemented.   

It is the responsibility of PBSC to follow SACSCOC substantive change procedures and inform SACSCOC of substantive changes as specified in those procedures.  Failure to gain approval for substantive changes involving programs that qualify for federal financial assistance could result in the institution jeopardizing such funding.

There are many types of activities that constitute substantive change, each with specific SACSCOC approval or notification requirements and reporting timelines. The most frequent types of activity at PBSC that require Substantive Change approvals are curricular changes and off-site activity.   See the Substantive Change Policy and Procedures (revised 2023) for the full list. 


Changes to Curriculum

The Substantive Change review process is embedded in the College’s Strategic Planning and Curricular Development processes for New Program Proposals and Program Termination processes.  

The scope and significance of the change to the existing college offerings will be evaluated to determine whether the change requires notification or SACSCOC approval prior to implementation. 

Common examples of curricular changes that may require SACSCOC approval prior to implementation include:

  • Significant changes to program content, objectives &/or length
  • Significant changes to modality
  • Clock/credit hour conversions (requires prior approval)
  • New certificate &/or degree programs (at any level)
  • Program closures (teach-out plans require prior approval)

The College's paper Substantive Change form has now been integrated into the new online Watermark  Curriculum Management system.  A Substantive Change section is included in the online curricular request forms to identify changes that may require reporting.  Additionally, a Substantive Change review is programmed into the approval workflows for the online Add, Change and Delete Program forms. 

Off-Site Activity

Off-site instructional activity is closely monitored to ensure compliance with SACSCOC Policy.  The VPAA must be notified of any changes to the approved instructional sites or the associated activity levels prior to implementation in order to comply with SACSCOC reporting and approval requirements.

Existing sites: the Campus Off-Site Course Approval Form must be submitted each semester when courses are planned for delivery at an off-site location.  Programs and Campus Deans have oversight of their off-site activity and the approval chain verifies each program offered at each site are compliant: 

  • Off-campus site where student can obtain 24% or less of credits toward a program
  • Off-campus site where student can obtain 49% or less of credits toward a program

The VPAA must be notified of any change to the level of activity proposed at an existing site prior to implementation.   

New sites: all proposals to open a new site for instructional activity must be reviewed by the VPAA prior to implementation.

A full list of the different types of substantive changes, the respective approval/notification requirements, and the reporting time lines are listed in the Substantive Change for SACSCOC Accredited Institutions Policy Statement

The Substantive Change review process will determine the College’s reporting obligation and the timeline needed for any required notifications and approvals prior to implementation.  The College has developed this form to assess the scope of the proposed change. 

Substantive Change Form

Please direct inquiries to Academic Services for guidance on the proper PBSC procedures for any Substantive Change issues. 

If an academic unit is considering any of the substantive changes listed, the Campus Dean should contact the college’s SACSCOC Liaison, the Vice President for Academic Innovation and Strategy. 

Please note:  The SACSCOC Liaison serves as the contact person for Commission staff.  All PBSC staff inquiries about the Principles of Accreditation and accreditation policies and processes are routed through the Accreditation Liaison, who will contact Commission staff, if necessary.


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