Policies and Procedures for Educational Program Change

The University is obligated by New York State regulations to register new programs leading to a degree or certificate with the New York State Education Department (NYSED) before marketing or advertising them in any way and before admitting students. It also must seek the authorization of the NYSED for significant changes in programs the Department has previously registered. The NYSED’s approval of a program is, moreover, a precondition for awarding financial aid funded by both New York State and the federal Department of Education to students who are enrolled in it.

This document describes the type of programmatic changes the NYSED expects the University to register. It also describes the process by which new degree and certificate programs and changes in those programs are approved within the University and by the NYSED.

Programs that do not lead to a degree or certificate, such as those in which the students earn a certification of professional achievement, are not registered with the NYSED. Those programs nonetheless require the internal University approvals described in this document for degree and certificate programs.

Programs Requiring Registration

The NYSED defines a new registration to include the following:

  • New programs leading to a degree;
  • New joint-degree programs with other universities and colleges
  • New programs leading to a certificate
  • Registered programs offered at a new location

The NYSED’s approval is also needed for substantial changes in registered programs. The most common types of changes it considers “substantial” include the following:

  • New programs emerging out of previously registered programs;
  • New dual-degree programs combining previously registered Columbia programs;
  • Some new joint-degree programs with institutions located in the State of New York;
  • Changes in the distribution of courses between the partners in a joint-degree program
  • Changes in the tracks within registered programs;
  • Changes in the mode of delivery or format of registered programs, including the introduction of an on-line version of an existing program;
  • Changes in the degree of a registered program;
  • Changes in credit or term requirements of registered programs;
  • Other curricular changes in registered programs;
  • Discontinuation of registered programs

Further information about how the NYSED defines the programmatic changes it expects the University to register is attached to this statement. The Department has posted the full regulations of the New York Board of Regents and of the State Commissioner of Education on-line (see http://www.highered.nysed.gov/ocue/lrp/home.html and http://www.op.nysed.gov/ ). 

Its Comprehensive Guidance Document for Program Registration, in which it describes how it interprets those regulations, is located at http://www.highered.nysed.gov/pdf/compiledguidance092012.pdf (see also http://www.highered.nysed.gov/ocue/aipr/guidance/gpr1.html). The Department maintains an inventory of all of the programs it has registered at http://www.nysed.gov/heds/IRPSL1.html.

The NYSED definitions of a new registration and a change in registration vary in some ways from how the University views its programming. Schools are, therefore, expected to consult with the Vice Provost for Academic Programs whenever there is any uncertainty about whether a program initiative it wishes to pursue needs to be registered by the NYSED.

The University's Registration Process

Educational changes requiring NYSED authorization must be approved by the Committee on Instruction and dean of the appropriate school before they can be sent to the Vice Provost for Academic Programs.

The Vice Provost reviews programming changes on behalf of the Provost and obtains the other University approvals that are necessary before the proposal can be forwarded to the NYSED. The following types of requests are reviewed by the Registrar, the Vice Provost for Online Education, the Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian, and the University Senate:

  • New degree programs, regardless of whether or not they were previously a track in another, registered program;
  • New dual-degree programs combining two University programs
  • New joint-degree programs with other universities and colleges, regardless of their location;
  • New certificate programs;
  • The addition of an on-line component to an existing degree or certificate program; and
  • Changes in the degree of a registered program.

The Vice Provost also asks the deans if a new degree or certificate program will conflict with any they already offer or intend to offer. Proposals involving on-line education are reviewed by the Vice Provost for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation.

The Vice Provost reports the following types of changes to the Education Committee of the University Senate, but they do not require the approval of the Education Committee, nor of the full Senate:

  • Changes in tracks within registered programs;
  • Changes in the format of registered programs, with the exception of the introduction of an on-line version of an existing program;
  • Change in credit or term requirements;
  • Name changes; and
  • Discontinuation of a registered program.

Once all of the necessary University approvals have been obtained, the Vice Provost sends a proposal to the NYSED for registration.

The NYSED’s regulations do not permit the University to market new programs including posting information about them on the web, soliciting applications or admitting students before they have its approval. Therefore, the Registrar’s Office will not create the codes in the Student Information System that are necessary either to collect applications or to enroll students until the Vice Provost has sent it the NYSED’s letter of registration for a new program.

The Office of the Vice Provost has created an on-line resource for procedures and required forms, located at https://provost.columbia.edu/content/policies-and-procedures-creating-and-modifying-educational-programs to provide the schools and departments with information on how to obtain approval for either a new program or a substantial change in an existing program. It also contains the applications the schools should complete for the internal University reviews of their programs.

A school that wishes to create new educational programming or to make the types of changes in an existing program described in this policy statement submits an application through the University’s on-line Academic Program Approval System (APAS). APAS routes proposals through the appropriate pathway of approvals that are needed before a new program can begin or an existing program can be modified.

NYSED Registration Procedures

Within the NYSED, the University’s proposals are registered by one of two offices.

The Department’s Office of the Professions authorizes programs leading to a degree or certificate in most fields in which New York State issues professional licenses, even if the program does not actually qualify its graduates to seek a license, with the following exception: the Office does not register programs leading to the Ph.D.

The Office approves new programs and programming changes in the following fields in which the University currently educates students:

  • Architecture
  • Accounting
  • Dental Medicine
  • Engineering
  • Medicine
  • Mental Health
  • Nursing
  • Nutrition
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Social Work
  • Urban Planning

It also evaluates programming in other fields in which the State issues licenses. A complete list of its areas of responsibility is available at http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/.

The Department’s Office of College and University Evaluation (OCUE) registers programs in other fields. OCUE is also responsible for authorizing all programs leading to the Ph.D., regardless of field, and programming in the field of education, regardless of degree.

The forms the NYSED expects the University to submit in support of proposals vary depending on whether the Office of the Professions or OCUE reviews them and on whether the proposal is for a new registration or a change in an existing registered program as defined by the Department. These forms are different from the applications the schools complete for the internal University review of their programs.

Schools may access the appropriate forms through the Vice Provost’s website for educational programming. Given the substantial number of possible permutations in the State forms schools must complete in support of their applications, they should contact the Office of the Vice Provost for guidance on which ones they should use.

Annual Audit of Educational Programming

To ensure that the University’s educational programs are properly registered, the Office of the Vice Provost, in cooperation with the Registrar, conducts an inventory audit every summer. It sends each of the schools a list of its registered programs. The school is asked to confirm that the list includes all of its programs and to identify any changes in them over the preceding academic year. The school is also asked for information on any new programs or changes in existing programs that it anticipates in the coming academic year.

Program Registration and Financial Aid

Students may not be awarded state or federal financial aid in new programs without the prior authorization of the NYSED and the federal Department of Education. The NYSED decides whether to permit the University to award state financial aid as part of its registration process. Registration is also a prerequisite for awarding federal financial aid but not a sufficient condition to allow the University to disburse that aid. The University’s Office of Student Financial Services must complete the additional step of seeking the authorization of the Department of Education before it can award federal financial aid to students in a new program. The Registrar’s Office will enter new programs into the Student Information System once the Vice Provost sends it a copy of the NYSED’s letter of registration, thereby permitting schools to accept applications and admit students. However, the schools may not include funding from federal sources in the packages they offer incoming students until they are authorized by the Office of Student Financial Services to do so.

There will be a gap between when the NYSED registers a new program and the Department of Education authorizes the University to give its students federal financial aid. Schools may market a new program and create a web site for it once it has been registered by the NYSED, but they must include the disclaimer that it students will not be eligible for federal aid until the University has received authorization from the Department of Education. The disclaimer may be removed once the Office of the Executive Director of University Financial Aid has informed the school that the University has received that authorization.

The Division of Student and Administrative Services has issued a policy statement which describes how the Office of the Registrar and the Office of Student Financial Services conduct their own reviews of academic programs, as described in its statement, Student and Administrative Services’ Central Administration of the University’s Academic Programs.

Programmatic Changes Requiring Registration With the New York State Education Department

1. Registration of a New Program

New Programs Leading to a Degree

The NYSED distinguishes between new degree programs that begin as tracks or concentrations in already registered programs and those that do not. It considers the first to involve a change in registration, as described later in this statement. New programs that were not part of previously registered programs are approved through its process for new registrations.

The NYSED does not require the separate registration of tracks within a registered program, although it does expect the University to ask for a change in a program’s registered status whenever the number of tracks within it changes as described later in this statement. It is also not necessary to obtain separate approvals for concentrations in subject areas in which students may also major as long as the University has a registered program in that area.

New Joint-Degree Programs With Other Universities and Colleges

With increasing frequency schools are creating collaborative programs with other universities in which some credits earned at each institution are counted towards the completion of the degree at the other. The NYSED considers these to be new programs if the University’s partner is not a New York State college or university. Schools may not treat the courses taken at the partner institution as transfers of credits. 

Collaborative educational programs with institutions within New York State only require a new registration if one or both of the programs they combine have not already been registered by the Department. If both programs are registered, the NYSED considers the new joint-degree programs as a change in registration as described below.

New Programs Leading to a Certificate

The NYSED registers all certificate programs, regardless of whether they are open only to students already enrolled in a degree program or can be taken by students with no other affiliation with the University.

Registered Program Offered at a New Location

The University must seek the approval of the NYSED before it can offer a program that has already been registered at a new location. Exceptions are possible, and are described at: http://www.highered.nysed.gov/ocue/aipr/Off-CampusInstruction1.html. It also must ask its accrediting agency, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, to change its accredited status to include additional locations and other instructional sites.

2. Changes in Registered Programs

New Programs Emerging Out of Previously Registered Programs

If a school wishes to turn a track or concentration in an existing program into a separate program, the University must ask the NYSED to authorize a change in registration.

New Dual-Degree Programs and New Joint-Degree Programs with Institutions Located Within the State of New York

Whenever the University wishes to combine two programs that the NYSED has already registered, the Department treats it as a change in registration. This is true whether both programs are offered by the University (in the NYSED terminology, a dual-degree program) or the University is developing a joint-degree program with another university or college within New York State. It is not applicable if either of the two programs has not previously been registered. In those cases, the University must submit an application for a new registration as described earlier in this document.

Changes in Tracks Within Registered Programs

While the NYSED does not separately register tracks or concentrations within a program, the University does need its approval to add a new track or concentration to a previously registered program. Similarly, the Department expects the University to report the elimination of a track or concentration so that it can update its inventory.

Changes in Mode of Delivery or Format of Registered Programs

When a school decides to offer 50 percent or more of a registered program’s curriculum on-line, the University must seek authorization from the NYSED. This is the case regardless of whether the use of on-line teaching will replace or supplement classroom instruction.

A change in registration is necessary whenever a school wishes to extend an existing program over a greater number of terms or reduce the length of time it takes to complete the degree or certificate.

If a school adds a part-time option to a program previously open only to students who enroll full-time, the University must seek authorization from the NYSED.

Whenever a school wishes to offer a registered program that is already given entirely or partially during the day, exclusively on the weekend, at night or through a combination of weekend and night, the NYSED expects the University to obtain its authorization.

Other types of changes in the delivery or format of a registered program may also require NYSED approval. Therefore, whenever a school makes a significant change in either. it should, therefore, seek the guidance of the Vice Provost for Educational Programs on whether they must prepare a proposal

Changes in the Degree of a Registered Program

If a school decides to change the degree awarded on completing a program (for example, from a Master’s of Science to a Master’s of Arts), the University must first obtain the approval of the NYSED.

Change in Credit or Term Requirements

The NYSED has defined the minimum credits or terms of enrollment required for each level of degree. Students in Bachelor’s programs must complete at least 120 credits. For a Master’s degree the minimum number is 30. The Department does not specify a minimum number of credits for a Ph.D. or professional doctorate, but it does require a minimum of three academic years of full-time graduate study for a program leading to a doctoral degree, or the equivalent in part-time study. The University may not offer degree programs requiring fewer points (or years for doctoral programs) than stipulated in the State’s regulations. It can require more.

If a school wishes to change the number of credits in a degree or certificate program by one-third or more of the minimum required for the level of degree its students will earn, the University must ask the NYSED to amend the program’s registered status. Thus, the University must seek the permission of the NYSED for changes in the number of credits if they equal or exceed the following limits:

  • Bachelor's: 40 credits
  • Master's: 10 credits
  • Ph.D. or professional doctorate: 1 year

There is no NYSED minimum for certificate programs, but the University Senate has stipulated that students who are simultaneously enrolled in a degree program must take at least 20 credits while those in a stand-alone certificate program (one in which the student is not enrolled in a degree program at the same time) must complete at least 24.

Any changes in the number of credits in a certificate program may need the approval of the NYSED since they could affect its students’ eligibility for state and federal financial aid. Schools should, therefore, consult with the Vice Provost for Educational Programs to determine if a change in the credit requirements of a certificate program requires the University to submit a proposal to the NYSED.

Changes in the Distribution of Courses Between the Partners in a Joint-Degree Program

In a joint-degree program, the University agrees with its partner institution that a certain number of credits earned at each will counted toward the completion of the degree awarded by the other. The University must obtain the NYSED’s authorization to increase or decrease substantially the credits the students take at the partner institution.

Other Curricular Changes

Other changes in the curriculum of a registered program may also require the NYSED’s approval. The Department does not provide clear guidance in its publications about the type of curricular changes it wants to approve. The substitution of one required course for another does not rise to that level. The University does, on the other hand, need the Department’s authorization for such changes as a major reorganization of the curriculum, the addition or elimination of a major requirement (e.g., an internship), or a change in the focus of a program. Moreover, the Office of the Professions and OCUE tend to view curricular changes differently, with the former expecting to see more to ensure that any modifications made are permitted by State licensure requirements. Due to the ambiguity in the NYSED’s expectations, schools should consult with the Vice Provost for Educational Programs whenever they intend to make material alterations in the curricula they offer.

Changes in the Names of Registered Programs

When a school changes the name of a program, the University must report it to the NYSED so that it can update its inventory. This is true even if the new name is not accompanied by any of the changes described above.

Discontinuation of Registered Programs

Whenever a school decides to discontinue a registered program, the University must inform the NYSED so that it can record the change in its records.