Program Approval Rule Changes & Implementation

Lunch & Learn Series

The Division of Academic and Health Affairs (AHA) will hold a Lunch & Learn series throughout the summer and fall to share more detailed information about upcoming changes. The rule revisions primarily affect universities and health-related institutions, but some rules also affect community colleges offering academic associate and bachelor’s degrees.

May 16th: Rule Changes & Implementation Overview

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Planning Notification: Changes Effective June 1, 2023

THECB has revised the planning notification rules to ensure compliance with statutory requirements in Texas Education Code §61.0512(b).

While the new planning notification rules will be in effect June 1, the THECB understands that the summer will be a transition period. We will contact and work with institutions that submit requests for new degree programs if a planning notification was not submitted before June 1.

Which degree programs will require a planning notification after June 1st ?

• Academic associate degrees
• Bachelor’s & master’s degrees
• Doctoral & professional degrees (must be submitted one year prior to submission of full degree program proposal)

Applied, Embedded, and Multidisciplinary Studies associate degrees are exempt from the planning
notification requirement.

What information is required in the planning notification?

The planning notification form will be a short online form available June 1 that includes basic contact information and the proposed degree title, designation, level, and CIP code. A formal signature from a chief administrative officer (CAO), or designee, and board member (or designee) will not be required, but the submitter will need to certify that its CAO and board or designees have approved the planning notification.

Who can submit a planning notification?

The ability to submit a planning notification will be limited to those staff at institutions who currently have access to submit other program approval documents.

Where can I find the planning notification form?

The planning notification form is an online form. The link is available in the existing document submission portal and will be visible once a user logs in. As noted above, only those with existing access to the document submission portal will be able to submit the form.

Why is a one-year waiting period required for doctoral programs under the new rules?

The current rules require a one-year waiting period for professional programs, and that requirement has been extended to doctoral programs. Given the amount of time and planning required to launch a doctoral program, the THECB anticipates that most institutions will know the basic information listed above at least one year in advance. This also allows the THECB to anticipate more accurately when doctoral programs will be submitted and plan for allocation of staff time dedicated doctoral program approvals. If there are extenuating circumstances related to meeting the one-year planning notification requirement for a doctoral or professional program, please contact

I submitted a planning notification for a doctoral program before June 1st, 2023. Will I still need to wait one year to submit the full proposal?

No, if a planning notification has already been submitted before June 1, 2023, the doctoral program falls under the current planning notification rules and the one-year waiting period is not required.

Distance Education: Changes Effective May 2023 (pending Board approval and adoption period)

Requests for changes to or additions of digital modalities for all degree programs will be notification only. Institutions should only submit the certification form for electronically delivered and off-campus education programs with new degree program requests or for degree program changes.

Doctoral and professional programs delivered through distance education will no longer need to undergo a review by the Learning Technology Advisory Committee (LTAC) before approval by THECB. Institutions will not be required to submit the full Distance Education Doctoral Proposal Form for new or changes to doctoral programs related to distance education.

No changes are currently planned for off-campus or self-supporting requests.

Note: Institutions that have never been approved to offer a program through a distance education modality before must submit an Institutional Plan for Distance Education to the THECB before submitting a request for distance education (TAC §4.259 rules).

New Degree Programs and Program Modifications: Changes Effective September 1, 2023

The THECB has revised the program approval and program modification rules to ensure transparency regarding timelines and approvals, and to better align degree program approval requirements with the state’s strategic plan for higher education, Building a Talent Strong Texas.

The THECB is in the process of designing online forms for most requests with the goal of launching the online forms Sept. 1, 2023. The intent of this redesign is to streamline submission and review processes, and eventually provide more transparency and status updates to institutions.

Changes to THECB Board Approvals

Beginning September 1, new degree programs requiring board approval will include only doctoral, professional, and degrees that represent a level change up for the institution (e.g. first Bachelor’s degree at a community college).

Changes to Other Approvals

New degree programs with more than 50% new content will require approval from the Commissioner of Higher Education, and the majority of other requests will require assistant commissioner approval or notification only.

Changes to 50-Mile Notification Process

Institutions will no longer be required to complete a 50-mile notification before submitting a full proposal. Instead, the THECB will notify area institutions once proposals have been received and there will be a 30-day comment period during the approval process. Comments received by institutions will be considered as part of the request review process, and significant objections will be mediated by the THECB.

Changes to Certificate Collection & Approval

Universities and health-related institutions will no longer be required to submit requests for approval of certificates. The THECB will complete a collection at least once a year of all credit-bearing certificates offered at each university and health-related institution, regardless of semester credit hours required. The date and process for the first collection of certificates has not yet been determined. More information will be made available in the coming months.

Distance Education Changes: Effective December 1, 2023

• Simplification of digital program delivery options (100% online and hybrid).
• No changes to face-to-face main campus or off-campus
• THECB will use/evaluate Institutional Plan for Distance Education as evidence of adherence to best practices.
• More information about these changes will be made available over the summer from AHA and the Division of Digital Learning.