WSCUC Substantive Change


As defined by WSCUC, a substantive change is:

"...a change to an institution’s mission, educational programs, scope, control, or organizational structure that needs to be reported to and approved by WSCUC in advance of implementation. The standard of review for substantive changes is whether a substantive change would adversely affect the institution’s capacity to meet WSCUC Standards of Accreditation."

Under both WSCUC Commission policy and the federal Department of Education, certain substantive changes are required to have prior approval. 

The following has been adapted/excerpted from the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) Substantive Change Manual (September 2021 - updated edition).  There are three primary types of actions/changes that require Substantive Change Review and two levels of review:

Actions / Changes that Require Substantive Change Review

  1. Program (new programs or adjustments to existing programs)
  2. Structural (changes to organizational structure, including institutional mission, ownership, legal status or control)
  3. Location (additional location or branch campus)

Levels of Review

  1. Staff Review and Decision
    • Routine changes within the institution's current scope of accreditation, such as a request to offer an academic program in a discipline closely related to the institution's existing offerings, or a new program that does not require a substantially new course to implement. NOTE: As NPS already has institutional approval to offer distance education courses, a program modality change generally falls under staff review.

  2. Committee Review and Decision
    • Peer review by the Substantive Change Committee for significant but focused changes, such as new programs representing a departure from the institution's academic portfolio or alterations to delivery methods of existing programs.
    • Peer review by the Substantive Change Committee and by the Commission Structural Committee for changes that reach beyond a program and affect the institution as a whole. 
    • Peer review by a team of evaluators (a comprehensive evaluation for changes that significantly affect the institution as a whole and/or pose challenges to its ability to meet WSCUC Standards of Accreditation.
    • Peer review through the Eligibility and Seeking Accreditation process for changes that result in the creation of a fundamentally new institution. 

Substantive Change Review Screening Form

The Accreditation Liaison Officer (ALO) submits a Substantive Change screening form via the WSCUC portal to determine the need for and/or level of review.  While the ALO has developed an intake form to streamline the process, it is not necessary to complete it if the Academic Council forms are completed fully, avoiding the need for duplication.  But if the user seeks an early decision on accreditation, the form is available here.  The user can complete the form and upon notification of approval, the ALO will pass that information on to the requestor identified on the form.


Institutions are encouraged to submit the Substantive Change screening form and/or application at least four months prior to the planned implementation date of change. Please note that programs (degrees, certificates, changes in modality or location, etc.) cannot be started without WSCUC approval. Even reviews requiring staff review only generally take several months for processing. 

Frequently Asked Questions

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