New Academic Program Development

Types of Programs

New academic programs are classified first by level (undergraduate or graduate) and then by specific type of program. Undergraduate programs have four broad categories: certificates, associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees, and bachelor's minors. Both associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees may have emphases (a concentrated area of study). Graduate programs have three broad categories: certificates, master's degrees, and doctorate degrees. Both master's degrees and doctoral degrees may have emphases.

The table below lists the types of programs available for SUU students, the minimum and maximum credits allowed by USHE Policy R401, and a link to the SUU General Catalog with more specific information.

Program Credit Requirements by Type
Program Type Minimum Credits Maximum Credits More Info
Certificate of Proficiency 16 29 Catalog Entry
Certificate of Completion 30 33 Catalog Entry
Associate of Applied Science 63 69 Catalog Entry
Associate of Arts/Science 60 63 Catalog Entry
Specialized Associate's Degree 68 85 --
Bachelor's Degree 120 126 Catalog Entry
Bachelor's Degree Major 30 -- Catalog Entry
Bachelor's Degree Emphasis 12 -- --
Bachelor's Degree Minor 16 -- Catalog Entry
Graduate Certificate -- < 30 --
Master's Degree 30 36* Catalog Entry
Graduate Degree Emphasis 6 -- --

* Professional master's degrees over 36 credits may be considered if the higher credit count is needed to meet accreditation standards.

Please note that doctoral programs are considered "out of mission" for SUU and must undergo a more rigorous approval and review process, which is one reason why the requirements are not listed here.

Approval Process & Timeline

A new program's approval process and timeline is somewhat dependant on the type of program. Each new program is associated with a particular R401 submission type: full, abbreviated, and notification. Only the full R401 needs to undergo USHE review, but all need to be reviewed and/or approved by the SUU Board of Trustees. The following table shows the approvals needed for each type of new program (past the department and college/school):

R401 Required Approval Levels
R401 Submission Type University Curriculum Committee Deans' Council Board of Trustees USHE Peer Review USHE Board NWCCU
Full (x2) Only if "out of mission"
 - New associate's degrees 
 - New bachelor's degrees 
 - New master's degrees 
 - New doctoral degrees
 - New emphasis for an existing program
 - New certificate (completion, proficiency, or graduate)
 - New baccalaureate minor
 - New or change to administrative unit
 - Program name change
 - Program restructure
 - Program transfer to a new administrative unit
 - Program suspension or discontinuation
 - Program reinstatement

The Provost's Office maintains a public R401 tracker for all campus constituents so they can follow along as programs go through the approval cycle. Please note that specialized accreditor approvals are not reflected in the above table.

Budgetary Considerations

It is anticipated that all new program proposals are as resource-neutral as possible, but there may be times that new programs require a new set of skills, expertise, or instructional capacity to implement. The R401 process allows for such planning. However, if an R401 is approved, it is not a guarantee of future funding of faculty lines. All budget requests for new faculty lines or programs should be submitted through the normal budget cycle.

A full R401 requires the submission of projected student enrollment and graduates in addition to departmental budget data. Departments must work with the Director of Academic Budget in the Provost's Office to identify and project this information and complete the appropriate sections of the R401 form.

Curriculum Requirements

General Education

Provost Anderson strongly believes that General Education should be considered a distinct portion of a student's baccalaureate degree and be an opportunity for exploration. If programs require specific courses that also happen to be General Education, those courses must be counted in the major's credit total. (Students are still encouraged to plan their course of study to take advantage of "double-dipping" their requirements wherever possible, but the number of students who complete a significant portion of their General Education courses prior to enrolling at SUU continues to increase.)

Questions to Consider:

  1. Will the program have any required General Education courses? How many required GE courses would be in the program? What would happen if a student enters SUU with a different course in those GE categories? Are there other options that students could complete without compromising their educational and professional goals?
  2. Some programs may have "recommended General Education" courses. Why those particular courses? Would it be detrimental to the student's educational or professional goals if they take non-recommended GE courses? Would it still be appropriate to include these recommendations in the catalog entry?

Total Credits/Length of Program

USHE Policy R401 requires that baccalaureate programs require a minimum of 120 and a maximum of 126 credits. Policy R470 requires a General Education program between 30 and 39 credits. Academic majors must be a minimum of 30 credits, and ideally should be few enough credits that students would be able to complete an additional minor or certificate (16+ credits) without going over 120 credits. (For example, 120 credits - 30 General Education credits - 51 major credits = 39 "free elective" credits for students to fill outside the major requirements.)

Questions to Consider:

  1. How many credits are in the program? How many "free elective" credits are students left with to complete a minor, certificate, "fun" classes, or transfer in unapplied credits without going over 120 total (if applicable)? If there are little to no free elective credits, can anything be adjusted?
  2. What are the minimum number of terms (semesters or sessions) a student will need to be at SUU to complete the program requirements? Would the program be considered "transfer-friendly" (if applicable)?
  3. Will there be lower-level and/or prerequisite courses in the program that are unique to SUU that might hinder a transfer student's progress? If yes, what is unique about them? If a transfer student entered and needed to complete those courses before moving forward, how much time would be added to their graduation?
  4. Does the program have specialized accreditation and/or licensure requirements that require large credit totals? If so, are there any creative ways to meet accreditation/licensure requirements while still lowering the amount of required credits? What resources would be needed for this?
    • If accreditation requirements will not allow for reducing credit totals, could the department create a more "generalized" version of the program for students who enter the program/SUU later that does not meet accreditation requirements? Alternatively, could a graduate-level program be developed so that students graduate with 150 credits with a bachelor's and a master's degree?
  5. How will major electives be structured in the program? Can students take any electives within the department (or particular prefixes), or is there a list of specific/accepted electives? In other words, will the program need to be updated every time a new elective course is proposed or will students automatically be able to use the new elective in the program?

Program Course Sequencing

Ideally, upper-division courses should not be required in the first two years of the major to align with USHE expectations, and to better serve transfer students from two-year institutions. USHE also expects all General Education to be completed within the first two years of baccalaureate study (within the first two years/60 credits, our 30-35 credit GE program requirements can be intermixed with other courses, including some lower-division major requirements). Except in situations that warrant a different approach (highly sequenced majors, accreditation-driven majors, and majors that require students to perform in their Junior and Senior years, such as music and theatre), it's generally expected within USHE that GE is completed in the first two years.

In some majors and for some students, the major's math requirements can be the sticking point for progressing in the program. Other courses can create "bottlenecks" that hinder progress, in that either not enough seats are offered each term and/or there is a high enough DFW rate that course repeats take up time and seats.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Does the program's current plan include 3000-level or 4000-level courses within the first two years? If so, can they be moved to the third and/or fourth years without disrupting the overall program's sequencing and graduation path? If they cannot be moved, are the courses' learning outcomes appropriate for their current level as per USHE guidelines?
    • Do these courses follow the "common course numbering" discussed in statewide Majors Meetings? Could these upper-division courses be switched to lower-division courses without compromising the learning outcomes or negatively affecting a student's ability to earn enough upper-division credits to meet graduation requirements?
  2. Are all General Education courses completed within the first two years of the course map? If not, why? Can they be moved to the first two years?
  3. Will the program require a specific math course? If so, what is the assumed level of math readiness that students will enter into SUU with? If students are not ready for that math course, what is the maximum number of additional semesters students will need to be prepared? What is the average math readiness that students in the program enter with? (Institutional Research & Assessment and/or the Student Success Advisors may be able to help answer this question.)
    • Are the math requirements appropriate for the major? Do they align with requirements in the profession and/or what's needed for further graduate study?
    • Are the math requirements consistent with other USHE programs?
  4. What would be the program's "bottleneck" courses, if any? What changes could be made to alleviate these bottlenecks? What resources would be needed?
  5. Does USHE's Equity Lens Framework offer any insights about program requirements or potential modifications?

Course Level

Generally speaking, undergraduate programs will require undergraduate courses and graduate programs will require graduate courses. However, there are some rules and exceptions that place additional restrictions and opportunities on programs:

Associate's Programs

  • Courses in associate's degrees must be at the 1000 and/or 2000 levels. No upper-division coursework (3000-4999) is allowed per USHE policy.

Bachelor's Programs

  • Students must complete a minimum of 40 upper-division (3000-4999) credits for a bachelor's degree. However, only a minimum of 10 of those 40 credits must be specifically within the student's major requirements.
  • Baccalaureate minors do not have a minimum number of required upper-division credits, but its generally recommended that minors require at least 1/3 of their program in upper-division coursework.

Graduate Programs

  • A minimum of 2/3 of a master's degree coursework must be at the 6000 level or above. Example: For a 36-credit degree, as many as 12 credits could be at the undergraduate or continuing education level if needed. Keep in mind that this applies to both the overall program requirements and individual students. In other words, if a 36-credit program already lists 9 credits of sub-6000-level courses as requirements, only an additional 3 credits of sub-6000-level credits could be substituted for other requirements for individual students.

Questions to Consider:

  1. If upper-division coursework is originally identified to use in an associate's degree, do those courses absolutely have to be included? If so, can those courses be changed to lower-division (with a corresponding change in learning outcomes/expectations) without disrupting other programs? Alternatively, can a block of program electives be required instead with students advised toward particular courses?
  2. How many lower-division and upper-division credits are pedagogically appropriate for a bachelor's major or minor?  Why?
  3. Is it appropriate and/or necessary to include non-graduate work in a master's degree? If so, what type, level, and number of courses will be included? Will this inclusion be a temporary measure until graduate-level courses can be developed, or is this inclusion a strategy to recruit a specific population of students?

CIP Code

A CIP (Classification of Instructional Program) code is a 6-digit code within a taxonomic scheme used by the U.S. Department of Education. Its purpose is to support accurate tracking and reporting of academic fields of study. CIP codes have been revisited every 10 years since 1990, with the latest revision in 2020.

Why Are CIP Codes Important?

  1. CIP codes allow institutions across the country to compare data points like completion rates, time to graduation, curriculum similarities, etc., through annual IPEDS reporting. USHE also uses CIP codes to compare programs across the state schools along those same metrics. When USHE uses that comparison data, it's often tied into how they calculate our annual funding through performance based-metrics.
  2. Some accreditors also use CIP codes to classify programs, courses, and faculty (as Provost Anderson had us do when he first came on board) to ensure that faculty are teaching subjects that they're qualified in and there's not a mismatch.
  3. There's also something called a SOC (Standard Occupational Classification) code that the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses. Several years ago the BLS and the National Center for Educational Statistics (the group that runs IPEDS) started a crosswalk that aligns occupation codes (SOCs) with program codes (CIPs) as part of an effort to try to ensure that people receive the requisite knowledge and skills for their job from their educational program. Additionally, this crosswalk can help provide a better estimate of expected annual income for students who pursue a career in specific fields (e.g., studying accounting to become an accountant).
  4. Some federal funding (like Perkins) is tied to specific CIP& codes that the feds want to see more graduates in, like Engineering and Computer Science.
  5. Federal financial aid may also be tied to CIP codes for aid programs like the Pell Grant, Direct Loans, and TEACH Grants.

Program Learning Outcomes

Program learning outcomes (PLOs) are student learning outcomes that outline specific skills, knowledge, and competencies that the department expects a graduate of that program will develop. PLOs should be concise, specific, and measurable/assessable declarative statements. When developing PLOs, ask these types of questions:

  1. What do we want students who graduate from our program to know?
  2. What do we want students who graduate from our program to be able to do?
  3. How will students demonstrate what they know or can do? What evidence will we use to prove this?

PLOs should be aligned with department and college/school goals, with individual course learning outcomes aligned with the program(s). Programs with specialized accreditation are encouraged to use resources from their accreditor to develop and assess PLOs. Curriculum mapping is a valuable tool once PLOs are identified and program assessment begins.

Program Degree Maps

Degree maps were approved by the State Board of Regents on July 17, 2014, as a degree-completion measure. Degree maps or graduation plans are a suggested semester-by-semester class schedule that includes prefix, number, title, and semester/credit hours.

When proposing a new associate degree program, only one (1) degree map is required. When proposing a new bachelor's degree program, one (1) degree map is required for each modality (on-campus vs. online) and program length (four-year vs. three-year). Program maps do not need to be submitted for graduate degrees, certificates, or minors.

Degree maps should be created in consultation with the program's Student Success Advisor(s). Keep these guidelines in mind:

  1. These are "idealized" plans. Each student's individualized plan will likely be different from the actual plan shown on this map, and they should work with their Student Success Advisor to create their particular plan. However, these plans are still helpful to show prospective students how programs can be completed in four (and/or three, if applicable) years and in what order courses should be taken.
  2. Assume that an entering student has no prior credits. Although many students do enter SUU with prior earned credits, it would be impossible for the department to create plans that take into account every contingency. It is the Student Success Advisor's responsibility to create personalized graduation plans based on the student's prior credits. Again, this is an idealized plan.
  3. Assume that the entering student is math-ready. For example, if the major requires students to start in MATH 1210 Calculus I, then create the plan with students starting in MATH 1210. If, however, the department has found that the majority of students only come in ready to start in MATH 1050/1060, they should seriously consider adjusting the major math requirements.
  4. Keep the map as generic as possible. For example, use the phrase "COMM Major Elective" instead of listing seven course options. If more specificity is needed, use the "Notes" section in each applicable map.

Institutional Certificates

Institutional certificates do not require proposal and approval through the University curriculum process as outlined in SUU Policy 6.8. Any University department, organization, or division may offer a non-credit-bearing institutional certificate, but any credit-bearing institutional certificate must be sponsored by an academic college/school. (Each college/school is responsible for developing its own process for approving institutional certificates.)

Non-credit-bearing institutional certificates should require an investment of time and effort by the participant appropriate to the subject matter but should not exceed more than 900 clock hours' worth of work.

Institutional certificates will appear on a student's Continuing Education transcript upon completion of the certificate. The department, organization, or division that offers the institutional certificate is responsible for tracking students' enrollment in the certificate and for notifying the Registrar's Office when students have completed the requirements.

Please note that institutional certificates are not eligible for Federal financial aid as a stand-alone credential.


Provost's Office