Academic Resources

Middle States Accreditation Requirements

Middle States Substantive Change Definitions and Instructions

Types of Substantive Changes

The Commission considers the following types of change to be substantive and therefore to require Commission review and approval prior to implementation. Substantive change includes, but is not limited to the following:

Significant Changes in Mission, Goals, or Objectives of an Institution, Other Changes that Significantly Affect the Institution
This includes any changes that might affect mission, goals, or objectives including merger, acquisition, closure, expansion, adoption of new delivery modes, establishment of a new program that is not a logical extension of programs currently offered.

Distance Education; New Courses and Programs; Change in Content or Method of Delivery
This includes instruction constituting at least 50% of a degree or certificate program that represents a significant departure, in terms of either the content or method of delivery, from those assessed when the institution was most recently evaluated (e.g., a business school now offering nursing; distance education; correspondence courses). Although an institution may have offered one or more distance education courses in the past, the Commission requires that the institution receive prior approval through the substantive change procedures before offering 50% or more of a degree or certificate program through distance education. The 50% standard includes only courses offered in their entirety via distance education, not courses utilizing mixed delivery methods.

Higher Degree or Credential Level
The addition of the first two courses or programs offered at a degree or credential level above that which is included in the institution’s current accreditation must be approved by the Commission prior to implementation. Because branch campuses and additional locations operate with some independence from the main campus (including the resources available on each campus), the Commission also may require a branch campus or additional location to request a substantive change for the addition of programs at a higher degree level at that site, even if the main campus already offers that degree.

Contractual Agreements
Certain contractual agreements with an institution or organization not accredited by a Federally recognized agency to provide any portion of a postsecondary educational program that leads to an academic or professional degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential on behalf of the accredited institution are subject to Commission review. This includes degree completion programs developed by third parties. In addition, certain contractual relationships with entities accredited by a Federally recognized agency to provide a credit-bearing program are substantive changes. The types of factors that will determine whether a particular contract is a substantive change include: the experience of the accredited institution and of the contracting entity in offering similar contracted services; the percentage of total programs affected; and the location and method of delivery of the program. Other contractual agreements may be considered substantive changes under other circumstances.

Non-credit Offerings that Affect Mission
Commission review typically covers programs and courses that are offered for academic credit, including credit-bearing non-degree courses and certificate programs offered at either the pre-baccalaureate or the post-baccalaureate levels. Non-credit courses and community services offered in response to constituency needs do not normally fall within the purview of this policy unless they become a major component of the institution’s activities. Nonetheless, the Commission expects that established institutional procedures will ensure their quality and integrity, and will ensure that these offerings do not affect negatively the institution’s ability to meet its mission.

Branch Campus
A branch campus is a location of an institution that is geographically apart and independent of the main campus of the institution. Branch campuses may be domestic or international. The location is independent if the location 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.

Additional Locations
An additional location is a location, other than a branch campus, that is geographically apart from the main campus and at which the institution offers at least 50% of an educational program. Additional locations may be domestic or international. These include corporate sites and locations for limited, rather than ongoing, provision of programs. Some additional locations might be subject to other substantive change policies, including contractual agreements for the provision of courses at the site, which might require additional substantive change requests.

All new additional locations and the closure of locations require Commission review and approval through the Substantive Change Committee.

Instructional Site
An Instructional Site is a location, other than a branch campus or additional location, at which the institution offers one or more courses for credit. Instructional Sites should be noted on the annual Institutional Profile. Commission approval is not required for an Instructional Site to be included within the scope of accreditation. However, if an Instructional Site changes over time and meets the definition of an Additional Location or Branch Campus, further reporting and a substantive change review are required. Sites established outside of the U.S. for the sole purpose of offering courses through the study abroad experience are not considered to be instructional sites. If 50% or more of a program is offered, the site will meet the definition of an additional location and must be reviewed and approved accordingly.

Rapid Growth
The Commission may, at its discretion, conduct visits to additional locations, to ensure that accredited and pre-accredited institutions that experience rapid growth in the number of additional locations maintain educational quality. Institutions contemplating rapid growth (or uncertain whether planned changes fall under this category) should be in contact with the institution’s designated Commission liaison prior to submitting comprehensive information to the Commission.

Mergers and Other Changes in the Legal Status, Form of Control, or Ownership of the Institution
This includes, for example, merger or consolidation with another institution; sale of a proprietary institution; or beginning or ending public sponsorship and control. The institution must notify the Commission as soon as it is aware of the potential change, such as negotiations for transfer of ownership.

Site Closure
An institution planning to close or merge an additional location or branch campus should inform the Commission no later than six months prior to the planned closure/merger date or as soon as such plans are approved.

Institutional Closure
An institution planning to close or merge should inform the Commission no later than six months prior to the planned closure/merger date. Institutions planning an institutional closure should submit to the Commission for approval any plans to provide students with reasonable opportunities to complete their education, including any teach-out agreements that the institution has entered into or intends to enter into with another institution. Approvals from any licensing, regulatory or other legal entities as may be necessary also should be provided.

Clock/Credit Hours
Change from clock hours to credit hours; or a substantial change in the number of clock or credit hours required for the successful completion of a program, or the length of a program.

The Process

Substantive change requests should provide the necessary information and analysis in as concise a presentation as possible. While the length will vary dependent on the complexity of the substantive change, most requests will not be more than 25 pages. Submission should be loosely bound and paginated. Any supplemental documentation that accompanies the request must be specifically referenced within the proposal itself, and the relevance of any such documentation must be made apparent.

The following information is required:

Substantive change requests are received at Middle States 6 times per year according to the following schedule:

Submit report by: Executive Committee action at its meeting in:
September 1 October
November 1 December
January 1 February
March 1 April
May 1 June
July 1 August


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Phone: 410-704-2557
Fax: 410-704-3129





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