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Applying to Offer Programs at a New Degree Level

The move to a new degree level consists of three general stages:

  • The review of the institution's readiness to offer degrees at the new level.
  • The academic review of the program proposal.
  • The planning review of the program proposal (including a canvass of other institutions in the region).

These stages are addressed through a process that includes preparation of a proposal to register a new program and to amend the institution’s master plan. (The proposal also may require charter amendment for an independent college or degree authorization for a public or proprietary college.) The process also includes an institutional self study and review by an external evaluation team. Before the institution prepares the materials required to support its application, it should contact the State Education Department’s Office of College and University Evaluation to discuss the institution’s plans. 

After conferring with the Department, the institution initiates its application by submitting the following documents:

  1. self study by the institution’s faculty and staff that reports on their assessment of the institution’s strengths and weaknesses, in relation to readiness to move to a new level of study.
  2. Program registration application for each proposed program, including materials to support the master plan amendment and any other actions that may be required.
  3. External reviewer report, from an evaluation team approved in advance by the Department.  

More information about the master plan amendment, external review, and other processes is available in our program registration guidance document.

Readiness Assurances

The following guidelines provide an overview of the self study process for institutional readiness and the assurances sought:

Assurance I: the institution’s existing programs provide a solid foundation for moving to a new level.

The existing programs and the institution as a whole must be in compliance with all the standards for program registration. At the institutional level there is solid documentation that students consistently attain general institutional educational objectives as well as specific program objectives. In the proposed program area, the institution can demonstrate course content and rigor, faculty expertise, library and other resources, and articulation with existing program(s).

Assurance II: the institution understands the implications of this new role.

Introduction by a college or university of its first academic program at a new degree level significantly changes the character of the institution and its component parts. Examples:

  • More theory, abstract thinking, and research often characterize higher levels of degrees and course work; for that reason, teaching and learning is likely to be more complex and labor intensive.
  • Requirements related to faculty credentials may change.
  • The nature of class work and examinations is likely to change.
  • The size, content, and use of the library are likely to change, along with the expectation of student and faculty information literacy and research skills.
  • The jobs of admissions personnel, the registrar, academic advisors, librarians, and support service personnel are likely to become more complex and varied.
  • The nature of the student body is likely to change.
  • The cost of operation may increase as a consequence of offering the new level of study.
  • The size of the faculty and student body is likely to change.
  • The campus culture—including types of gatherings and meeting places, student organizations, and activities—may change.
  • The involvement of faculty and administrators in outside events, professional activities, and issues is likely to increase.
  • The administrative infrastructure may change to accommodate new programs and/or departments.
  • The campus may acquire new facilities or equipment, or modify existing facilities for new uses.
  • The role of the institution in the community may change.

Assurance III: the institution has the resources and systems to both operate at the current level and undertake the expanded educational role.

The institution must be able to document the sufficiency of its current and estimated future resources and structures to address the requirements of the new level of study. The basis of estimated future resources, including income and expenditures, must be well documented and meet a “prudent person” standard.

Preparing the Self Study

  1. If the institution will offer programs at the new level on more than one campus, the readiness self study must separately address each campus.
  2. It is highly recommended (but not required) that the institution discuss its plans in specific detail with a group of advisors that offer programs at the intended level of study. The group should consist of faculty in the disciplines to be offered; faculty in related disciplines, especially in the liberal arts and sciences; librarians; and administrators familiar with the general, academic, and student services operations of institutions with programs at that level. The group should visit the institution to meet with the faculty and administrators. Their advice should inform, and potentially result in revisions to, the institution’s proposal (including the self study).
  3. When the institution’s faculty and administration have completed a draft of the self study, the institution needs to assemble an evaluation team to assess its readiness to offer programs at the new level. The team should comprise experts in the discipline(s) to be offered; experts in related disciplines, including those in the liberal arts and sciences; a librarian; and administrators from institutions offering programs at the proposed level who can address general, academic, and student service operations. The potential members of the team needs to be approved in advance by the Office of College and University Evaluation. The team makes an evaluation visit to the institution and records its findings using the external evaluation team report form  .
  4. Following the visit, the team reports its findings in writing directly to the institution. The institution revises the proposal as necessary and prepares a written response to the findings and any recommendations in the report(s). It attaches the team report(s) and its response and submits the complete proposal to the Department.

The Department may elect to schedule its own peer review visit following receipt of the proposal.