Substantive Changes: Middle States

Changes in a degree or certificate program may require the approval of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education if they involve modifications that meet the Commission’s definition of a “substantive change.”  The Commission defines the type of changes that require its review in a document entitled Substantive Change Policy Statement

While the policy statement describes all of the actions that might trigger a substantive change review, there are two types that are most likely to require the University to ask for the Commission's approval.  These occur when a school wishes to modify collaborative programs it has developed with other universities, especially in other countries.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education requires a review of new degree or certificate programs, including joint programs with other institutions, in which 50 percent or more of the instruction leading to the Columbia degree will be delivered at a site other than one of the University's campuses.  In the terminology of the Commission, such a site is an "additional location."

The 50 percent rule applies only to the credits required for the Columbia degree and not to the total the students will take as part of a joint degree program.  For example, assume that a school with a 60-point program wishes to offer it as part of a joint degree program with another university and that some of the courses taken at the partnering institution will count toward the University degree.  As long as the credits completed at Columbia are greater than 30, the University does not need the permission of the Middle States Commission, no matter how many points the students will take at the two institutions combined.

If the University enters into a contractual relationship with another institution to deliver instruction leading to a degree or a certificate, it may need the prior approval of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

If the University's partner is a for-profit company or an American institution that is not accredited by a federally recognized agency, the Commission's approval is necessary regardless of the number of credits given at Columbia.

In the case of joint degree or certificate programs with accredited, non-profit American universities and colleges and with institutions outside of the United States, the Commission's approval is normally necessary if 50 percent or more of the instruction is given on the partner's campus.

Departments and schools interested in creating degree and certificate programs with other educational institutions should contact the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Administration to determine if the Middle States Commission needs to review its plans. When the Commission's approval is required, the originating unit should prepare a proposal that follows the guidelines included in the Substantive Change Policy Statement. That proposal differs in content and form from the one that must be prepared for the University Senate and the New York State Education Department.