A major revision has been completed for the university’s substantive change compliance policy, which covers how changes in academic programs and degrees must be reported to, and subsequently approved by, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
The new policy (http://policy.uncg.edu/substantive_change_compliance/) has been approved by Chancellor Linda P. Brady, and sets down a process for compliance with SACSCOC. Training sessions have already begun for the associate deans in the College of Arts and Science and the schools, who will serve as substantive change liaisons for their academic units.
“The compliance process is complicated,” said Dr. Rebecca Adams, associate provost for planning and assessment, who is the university’s SACSCOC liaison.
“We’ll need everyone to be aware of this policy when they are planning to make changes in any programs and to be willing to ask the necessary questions before moving forward,” Adams said. “This process is very complicated and there are penalties involved if we are found to be in non-compliance.”
UNCG has been found to be out of compliance on two occasions recently, both resulting from programs in one of the schools. Both situations have been rectified, but one instance last summer required the university to repay $58,000 to the U.S. Department of Education.
“The SACSCOC standard requires that an institution must notify the Commission on Colleges when there are substantive changes to any programs and, when necessary, seek approval before the changes are made,” Adams said.
UNCG’s new policy provides a definition of substantive change, and has policy sections on communications and procedures, resources, training, quality assurance, enforcement and review.
Adams explained that under the new policy, responsibility for enforcement resides with the chancellor. Deans are responsible for their units adhering to the procedures set forth within the Curriculum Guide. The associate provost for planning and assessment (Adams) serves as the liaison to the SACS Commission on Colleges with responsibility to report substantive changes in a timely manner. No substantive change can be implemented until a letter of approval or an acceptance of notification is received from the Commission on Colleges.
In addition to revising and elevating the policy, Adams said a questionnaire (http://opa.uncg.edu/academicplanning/questionnaire.aspx) has been developed for departments considering changes to their curriculum. It will help the Office of Planning and Assessment provide advice on appropriate procedures and how long the process will take. A web site (http://opa.uncg.edu/academicplanning/) on academic program planning and substantive change has been created, with links to helpful and pertinent information, including the revised Curriculum Guide (http://undergraduate.uncg.edu/colleagues/com/curriculum.php).
Faculty sometimes will grumble and say “Let’s not participate in SACS; let’s just drop out,” Adams said. She explained that SACS is charged by the U.S. Department of Education with enforcing federal rules. UNCG and other institutions don’t really have much choice in the matter. Dropping out of SACS would result in loss of accreditation and loss of federal financial aid funds, which comprise much of the $160 million UNCG awards annually.
If you are planning on making changes to a program, check out the policy first, and if you have any questions, contact the Office of Planning and Assessment.
By Steve Gilliam