Degree Approval Process
New degree proposals undergo three rounds of review. The degree is officially implemented only after all three rounds are completed. An internal review of the proposal is conducted by the Board of Regents on recommendation from the Faculty Senate. A state review of the proposal allows the Washington public four-year institutions (UW, EWU, CWU, WWU, Evergreen) to weigh in on the potential impact of the proposed new degree on their own offerings. A federal review of the proposal is conducted by our accrediting body, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), to ensure that the university is capable of delivering the degree at the level of quality required of institutions that accept federal student loan money. The Provost’s Office coordinates the internal and state reviews, and the university’s accreditation liaison officer (ALO) handles the federal review.
The Faculty Senate reviews all proposed new degrees and makes recommendations to the Board of Regents for final approval. The Provost’s Office manages the submission process to the Board of Regents. New degree proposals are submitted by the dean of the college that wishes to offer the degree.
The proposal is first submitted to the Provost’s Office for initial review. The purpose of this review is to identify potential concerns that the Faculty Senate may raise and help the college proactively address those concerns. The Provost’s Office does not approve or reject the proposal. The review committee consists of representatives from undergraduate education, graduate education, assessment, institutional research, finance and administration, and the Registrar’s Office. The committee typically provides feedback within 2 – 3 weeks of submission; the Provost’s Office will work with the college if revisions are suggested. When the proposal is in final form, the Provost and Executive Vice President reviews and submits it to the Faculty Senate on behalf of the college. At this time the Provost’s Office also submits the proposal for state review.
Faculty Senate review begins with an evaluation by the Library Committee and Budget Committee. The proposal then moves to the Catalog Subcommittee for review. The proposal then goes to the appropriate academic committee — baccalaureate and professional degrees to the Academic Affairs Committee, and graduate degrees to the Graduate Studies Committee. If the committee supports the proposal, they submit it to the full Faculty Senate for review and formal vote. If the vote is positive, the Provost, on behalf of the Senate, recommends the proposal to the Board of Regents for adoption. If the vote is negative, the proposal is returned to the relevant Faculty Senate committee(s) for further review.
The Board of Regents reviews degree proposals during their regularly scheduled meetings in September, November, March, and May. The Regents may act on the proposal in the semester in which they receive it or carry it forward to the succeeding semester. If the vote is positive, the accreditation liaison officer submits the proposal for federal review.
State-level review is designed to minimize the likelihood that a new degree will cause an existing degree already offered by a fellow public institution to struggle or fail. The state legislature discourages degree duplication in disciplines where in-state demand is low. To address this, the state Council of Presidents maintains an Interinstitutional Committee for Academic Program Planning (ICAPP) that is charged with reviewing and discussing new degrees that are being considered for implementation by Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, the University of Washington, Washington State University, and Western Washington University. ICAPP membership consists of representatives from each of the six public institutions. A member school submits its degree proposal to ICAPP, which has 30 days to review and comment. If a representative has concerns that the proposed degree will negatively impact their university’s offerings, they can request some form of remediation, typically that the focus of the proposed degree be revised. If the 30 days pass with no comments, the proposed degree is added to the state’s list of planned new offerings, and no future objections can be raised.
Accreditor review is the last step of the degree approval process. Because WSU accepts federal student loan money, WSU cannot begin offering a degree until our accrediting body determines that it meets federal quality standards. WSU’s accrediting agency is the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The review process depends upon the type of degree being proposed. WSU is approved to offer Bachelor’s degrees, Master’s degrees, research doctorate degrees, and a few specific professional degrees (DNP, DVM, PharmD, MD). WSU is not approved to offer Associate’s degrees or any other professional degree. If the new degree is of a type that we are approved to offer, the accreditation liaison officer simply asks NWCCU to add it to our federal list of degrees. If the new degree is of a type that we are not approved to offer, the proposal undergoes formal review to ensure that WSU is capable of meeting the requirements for that degree type. The review can include a site visit, and the entire process typically takes 6 – 9 months. Regardless of degree type, the proposed new degree cannot be advertised until NWCCU notifies the accreditation liaison officer that it has been added to WSU’s federal list.