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.

Previous Lunch & Learns

October 10th: Troubleshooting New Forms & Submissions
May 16th: Rule Changes & Implementation Overview
July 31st: Overview of New Processes & Forms
August 22nd: Using the Portal and Submitting New Forms

Frequently Asked Questions

Notification of Planning

What information is required in the planning notification? 

The planning notification form is a short online form 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) is not 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 is the planning notification form located? 

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 access and submit the form.  

When submitting a full proposal, can the CIP code, degree title, or designation be different than what was submitted in the planning notifications? 

Slight deviations from the original submission are allowed, but AHA staff will likely follow up with the institution if there are any significant changes. The new degree proposal submission form requires institutions to select/enter the associated planning notification.  

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 

If a planning notification was submitted for a doctoral program before June 1, 2023 will a one-year waiting period still be required? 

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. 

30-Day Comment Period

Do institutions still need to submit a 50-mile notification for new degree programs? 

Except for applied associate and workforce certificates, a 50-mile notification is no longer required prior to submission of a new degree program proposals to the THECB. THECB will send out a notice for a 30-day comment period upon receipt of a new proposal.  

Which institutions will the THECB send a 30-day comment period notice to?  

THECB will send a notification to public institutions within the same higher education region as the institution submitting the proposal.  

Which institutional contacts will the notification be sent to?  

THECB has utilized existing lists of chief academic and instructional officers, liaisons, and certificate and degree program submitters to identify contacts at each institution. Please contact if any of these contacts change moving forward.  

Who should comments be sent to? 

The 30-day comment period notification email will indicate which THECB staff is assigned to the proposal and comments should be emailed directly to that staff member.  

What happens after a comment is submitted? 

THECB staff will review the comment and include the feedback in the overall analysis of need and duplication of the proposed degree program. If there are significant issues raised, THECB staff will work with institutions to reach a resolution.  

Degree Program Approval

Why did Academic and Health Affairs (AHA) complete a rule revision for academic program approvals? 

Higher education and the Texas economy have undergone a significant transformation in recent years, and the academic program approval rules had not been significantly revised over the last two decades. AHA has revised the program approval and program modification rules to better align degree program approval requirements with the state’s strategic plan for higher education, Building a Talent Strong Texas, and to ensure transparency regarding timelines and criteria for program approval.

What level of approvals are needed for degree programs under the new rules? 

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

How long will it take to get a degree program approved under the new rules? 

With the new rule changes, AHA is working to streamline internal business processes, modernize technology used for proposal processing, and increase transparency for institutions.  

Estimated timelines for approval: 

  • Less than 50% new content: 30-60 days 
  • 50% or more new content: 60-90 days 
  • Proposals that require approval at a quarterly board meeting: 6-9 months 

The above timelines are estimates only and depend heavily on the number of proposals already submitted in the queue for approval, the complexity and length of the proposal, and whether there is a need for additional information following an initial review of the proposal.  

How does THECB define 50% new content? 

The determination of whether a proposed degree program consists of 50% or more new content is made by the institution in preparing the degree program proposal and should align with the 50% new content guidelines provided by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Does the institution still need to complete a 50-mile notification prior to submitting a proposal? 

No, institutions are no longer 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 from institutions will be considered in the proposal review process and used as one part of criteria for program approval. AHA staff will reach out to institutions if there are follow-up questions regarding comments received.  

The only exception is the applied associate degrees and workforce certificates, since these programs were not included in the current rule revision. Future rule revisions will address workforce program approvals. 

Budget and Enrollment Spreadsheet

Content coming soon!

Academic Certificates

What kind of approval is required for academic certificates? 

The delivery of academic certificates, regardless of degree level or credit hours, requires notification only. Institutions must notify THECB no later than 90 days after the new certificate has started being offered. Universities and health-related institutions are no longer required to complete a 50-mile notification for academic certificates.  

Why is THECB expanding its collection of academic certificates? 

The goal of the expansion is to provide institutions more flexibility with the kinds of certificates they are able to offer and the ability to report graduates of any certificate on file with THECB. This change also allows THECB to collect a more comprehensive list of credentials available across the state.  

Does the institution still need to have a degree program in the certificate area to notify THECB? 

No, the requirement that an institution have a degree program in the same academic content area to offer a certificate has been removed from the rules. 

How should the institution notify THECB of a new academic certificate? 

A new certificate notification form will be available no later than November 1, 2023.  

Will THECB do any other type of certificate collections? 

AHA is developing a process where a bulk collection of all existing certificates can be completed, including providing institutions with a dashboard of all academic certificates currently on file. More information will be provided about a bulk collection, when available. 

Embedded Associate Degree

What is an embedded associate degree?  

Following the definition of an embedded credential as defined in the Texas Administrative Code, an embedded associate degree is an associate degree that is wholly embedded in an existing or proposed bachelor’s degree program. The function of an embedded associate degree is similar to other credentials embedded in degree programs such as master’s degrees in doctoral programs and other embedded certificates.  

Why would an institution create an embedded associate degree?  

The embedded associate degree is designed to be an offramp for students previously or currently enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program who stop out or need to (hopefully temporarily) discontinue their baccalaureate education. The embedded associate provides another mechanism to award students a credential even though they have not yet been able to complete a bachelor’s degree. The Coordinating Board recommends that institutions review degree program data and identify which programs students are most likely to stop out of with a high number of semester credit hours and no degree.  

Are institutions required to create embedded associate degrees?  

The adopted rules do not require any institution to create an embedded associate degree. As noted above, the Coordinating Board expects institutions to be intentional and targeted in the development of these degrees.  

Can an institution develop general studies associate degrees?  

While universities may have a multidisciplinary studies associate degree embedded in a multidisciplinary bachelor’s program, universities are not permitted to develop standalone associate degrees including a general studies degree similar to those offered at community colleges. Universities are not permitted to advertise stand-alone associate degrees and the Coordinating Board will, at its discretion, review how embedded associate degrees are being advertised on institutional or departmental websites and recruitment materials. Universities are not permitted to enroll incoming students directly in associate degrees.  

Does this require a SACSCOC level change?  

If the institution has not offered associate degree before, it must be approved for a level change with SACSCOC to offer an embedded associate degree. Please review the embedded associate degree criteria on the SACSCOC website and contact your accreditation liaison for more information. 

What is the process to submit a request for approval of an embedded associate degree?  

Institutions should follow the same process used to submit other program approval requests. If the institution would like to include an embedded associate degree in a request for a new bachelor’s degree, please include the embedded associate degree information in the bachelor’s degree proposal.  

Do institutions need to complete a 50-mile notification or submit a planning notification for an embedded associate degree?  

No, embedded associate degrees are exempt from these requirements.  

Does an embedded associate degree need to have the same CIP code as it’s associated bachelor’s degree?  

The adopted rules require that embedded associate degrees must be in the same, related or supporting CIP code. If the CIP code relationship is logical and the degree is wholly embedded in a bachelor’s degree, institutions have flexibility in assigning CIP codes to the degree programs. CIP codes will be evaluated as part of the staff review of the degree request.  

How will the embedded associate degree show up in the Coordinating Board’s inventory of degree programs?  

Embedded associate degrees will be listed on the program inventory as an associate degree with a footnote indicating that it is embedded. The Coordinating Board is working on updating the program inventory database so that the degree associated with an embedded degree can be listed directly in the inventory.  

What does the curriculum for an embedded associate degree need to look like?  

Institutions must provide the semester credit hours (SCH) required for core curriculum components, the discipline-specific required courses, and the elective courses that need to be completed for the degree. While embedded associate degrees are not required to include the full core curriculum (except for multidisciplinary associate degrees as required by statute), they must meet accreditation general studies requirements and statutory core curriculum requirements for American History (6SCH) and Government/Political science (6SCH).  

Where can I find more information about embedded associate degrees?  

The full criteria for embedded associate degrees is in Chapter 2, Subchapter D relating to Approval Processes for Academic Associate Degrees. 


For questions related to rule changes and implementation, please contact Emma Gelsinger in Academic and Health Affairs.