Any new initiative from an accredited member school that constitutes a “substantive change” requires a petition to the Board of Commissioners for approval. To help schools determine what changes are considered substantive, the Board adopted in February 2014 a new set of “Guidelines Regarding Petitions for Change,” found in Appendix 3 of the Board Policy Manual. Those new guidelines distinguish between substantive changes approved by the Board of Commissioners and significant but nonsubstantive changes approved by Commission staff (see examples of the latter in notes 2, 5, and 6 below). Further guidelines for various changes contemplated by member schools are listed here:
- Guidelines for Programs Combining Undergraduate and Graduate Work
- Guidelines Regarding Dual and Joint Degrees Offered by Two or More Institutions
- Guidelines for Candidacy Petitions
Instructions for Submitting Petitions
While Section Six: Guidelines for Petitioning the Board of Commissioners in the Handbook of Accreditation covers a variety of reasons to petition the Board, listed below are online forms that the Board has adopted for the most common types of petitions. These online forms require the use of Microsoft Word 2007 or later. A $250 submission fee is required for all but the last two petitions listed below. Petitions are to be emailed to the Director, Accreditation Services, with the completed petition saved and attached as a PDF, along with any appendices or supporting documents combined into a second PDF attachment. In addition, the completed petition (and any appendices or supporting documents) are to be printed and mailed to Director, Accreditation Services, ATS Commission on Accrediting, 10 Summit Park Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15275-1110, along with a check for $250 per petition payable to ATS Commission on Accrediting (not simply ATS).
Unless otherwise noted below, the deadline for submitting petitions is November 1 or April 1 (see also the Notes below).
- Petition for New or Revised1 Degree Program (updated 6/16/14)
- Petition for Comprehensive Distance Education Approval (updated 6/16/14)
- Petition for Educational Experiment or Exception (updated 6/16/14) [See also a list of exceptions/experiments approved to date.]
- Petition for Change of Ownership or Governing Control (including mergers, acquisitions, affiliations, alliances, etc.) (posted 8/8/14)
- Petition for Opening2 a New Extension Site (updated 6/16/14)
- Petition for Relocating3 an Approved Extension Site (or Campus) (updated 6/16/14)
- Petition for Expanding4 an Approved Extension Site updated 6/16/14)
- Petition for Closing5 a Complete Degree Site (updated 6/16/14)—no fee
- Petition for Change in Nomenclature6 for a Degree (updated 6/16/14)—no fee
1 A reduction in degree program hours of 10 percent or more no longer requires a petition, unless it would cause the program not to meet a Commission standard, such as duration. The Board interprets the duration requirement for the three-year MDiv as requiring at least 72 credit hours and for the two-year MA as requiring at least 36 credit hours. Any proposed reduction within those minimums does not require a petition; any reduction below those minimum hours requires a petition for an exception. Schools unsure about whether a proposed revision to an approved degree program (e.g., in purpose, content, resources, etc.) requires a petition should consult with Commission staff. For example, if changing the curriculum of a Standard D degree program makes it align more closely to a Standard B degree program, that would require a petition. On the other hand, adding a specialization to an approved degree program does not normally require a petition, unless it is in a significantly new area where existing resources at the school may be in question.
2 If a school is petitioning to open an extension site that offers less than half of a degree program, it can submit this petition at any time (with the $250 fee) and receive a decision usually within 60 days of submission. If the site will offer half or more of a degree, including a complete degree, then this petition must be submitted by the usual deadlines of November 1 or April 1 (with the $250 fee).
3 The Board of Commissioners considers the relocation of an approved extension site to be the closure of one site and the opening of a new site (regardless of the distance between the two sites). However, rather than submitting two petitions, only this one is required for a relocation.
4 A petition to expand a site is required only if (1) a school wants to offer more than half a degree at a site currently approved to offer less than half a degree, or if (2) a school wants to offer a complete degree at a site currently approved to offer half of more of a degree but not a complete degree, or if (3) a school wants to offer a complete degree at a site that is a different degree than the complete degree(s) already approved for that site.
5 A petition to close an extension site is required only if that site is approved to offer a complete degree. Such petitions have no fee and may be submitted at any time. If the site being closed is approved to offer less than a complete degree, the Board does not require a petition, but it does require that staff be notified via an email (sent any time before the closure) that specifies when the site will close and describes how the educational needs of students at the site will be met. If a school simply desires to terminate an approved degree program at its main campus (or at a site that will remain in operation), no petition is required, but the school must notify staff via email, describing how the educational needs of any current students in that program will be met and specifying the date the last student(s) will be enrolled.
6 A petition to change the name of a degree is required because the ATS Commission not only accredits institutions, but it also approves individual degree programs. This petition, however, requires no fee, and it can be submitted at any time with a decision rendered usually within 60 days of submission.