Two factors determine the level to which the Board of Regents becomes directly and formally involved in the process of approving or denying the development, implementation, suspension, and/or elimination of academic and research programs: (1) the degree to which the proposed program "fits" with an institution's approved mission, and (2) the relationship between (a) the resources needed, (b) the resources available to implement and sustain the program fully, and (c) the projected benefit of the program to the socio-economic welfare of the State and its citizens. Two levels define these factors:
Level I Proposals are those that may be approved by the Commissioner of Higher Education or his designee. The approval of such proposals will be conveyed to the Academic and Student Affairs Committee of the Board of Regents at the next regular meeting of the board. The institution must file the request with the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education by means of a memo to the Deputy Commissioner
Level I proposals include campus initiatives typically characterized by (a) minimal costs; (b) clear adherence to approved campus mission; and (c) the absence of significant programmatic impact on other institutions within the Montana University System and community colleges. Examples include:
1. Re-titling or eliminating existing majors, minors, options via a Program Termination Checklist (e.g. from B.S. in Mechanized Agriculture to B.S. in Agricultural Operation Technology);
2. Adding new minors where there is a major;
3. Departmental mergers and name changes;
4. Program revisions; and
5. Distance delivery of previously authorized degree programs.
Further, with Level II documentation circulated to all campus chief academic officers in advance, the Commissioner or designee may propose additional items for inclusion in the Level I process. For these items to move forward, the Commissioner or designee must reach consensus with the chief academic officers. When consensus is not achieved, the Commissioner or designee will move the item to the Level II review process.
Examples of Level I proposals of this type include:
1. new minors, options, and certificates within an existing major or degree;
2. eliminating organizational units within larger institutions such as departments, divisions and colleges or schools with the exception of the five Colleges of Technology where changes require Board action;
3. consolidating existing programs and/or degrees.
Certificate of Associate of Applied Science Degree Programs may be submitted as Level I proposals, with memo and backup documentation, when they are offered in cooperation with and/or at the request of private or public sector partners and the decision point to offer the program is not consistent with the regular Board of Regents program approval process. Level I approval for programs under this provision will be limited to two years. Continuation of a program beyond the two years will require the normal program approval process as Level II Proposals. All other Certificate or Associate Degree programs may be placed on submission at any Board of Regents meeting. They will be placed on action agendas at subsequent meetings. All campuses agree to insure that all other campuses receive program information well in advance of submission. (Item 92-001-R0796)
Level II proposals request approval of substantive additions to, alterations in, or termination of programs, structures, or administrative or academic entities typically characterized by the (a) addition, reassignment, or elimination of personnel, facilities, or courses of instruction; (b) rearrangement of budgets, cost centers, funding sources; and (c) changes which by implication could impact other campuses within the Montana University System and community colleges. Level II proposals require approval by the Board of Regents. Board policy 303.1 indicates the curricular proposals in this category:
1. Changes in the names of degrees (e.g. from B.A. to B.F.A.)
2. Implementation of a new minor where there is no major;
3. Designation of academic options, concentrations, or tracks within majors;
4. Establishment of new degrees and addition of majors to existing degrees;
5. Expansion/extensions of approved mission; and
6. Changes in governance and organization as described in Board of Regents’ Policy 218, such as formation, elimination or consolidation of a college, division, school, department, institute, bureau, center, station, laboratory, or similar unit.
The Commissioner of Higher Education and his/her designated staff makes recommendations to the Board of Regents. Authority for approval or denial rests with the Board.
To illustrate, changing the name of a degree requires the proposing institution to notify OCHE and the Board by means of the Notice of Intent and Board approval. Renaming the degree is appropriate when the objectives under which the degree was originally approved no longer represent the current program and its evolved curriculum accurately to the academic community, its students, prospective employers, and society as a whole. Such evolution may be the result of an institution's efforts to amend the curriculum over time to better reflect new knowledge or professional requirements for new and additional competencies in the discipline. For example, an institution might propose changing from a B.A. in Technology degree to a B.S. in Technology, without a change in the title of the major. Although the courses which define the major may remain relatively unaltered, it might be argued that graduates of the program would have better opportunities for placement when potential employers are able to readily compare a more commonly-held B.S. degree with those held by other candidates.