Program Approval

The Program Approval Process is the set of required steps that must be taken for new programs to become active or existing programs to be revised, renewed or deactivated.  The approval process generally takes an average of about 5 months to complete once a program has been submitted to the system office for pre-approval. The following are outlines of the basic process steps for all Transfer Academic Programs, CTE Programs, BAS and BSN Programs. Statewide TAA do not create an exemption from following these processes.

Before Developing a New Academic Program

Making the Business Case
  • Is there a need for this program?
    Program should fit with needs of the community. Local labor market information should be reviewed prior to submitting for approval.
  • Does it make sense for the community?
    Hold a community stakeholder meeting. Get a sense for how much training is needed and to what level.
  • What competencies are needed? What level of credential?
    Meet with subject matter experts to determine overall program outcomes and competencies. Certificates and awards students will earn through the program should reflect industry employment standards for entry-level and advancement along the career pathway. Some programs may also require accreditation from a third-party accrediting body to meet industry or licensure standards.
Course Availability
  • What courses are required for the program?
    Look at CCNS to ensure there are courses in place that will fit their needs for the proposed program. Consider up front what courses you need to have in the program. Review existing programs at other colleges to see examples of program components. Any new courses required for programs should be proposed though the College Curriculum and State Faculty Curriculum Committee processes.
Market Saturation and Competition Issues
  • Is this program or a similar program available at nearby colleges?
    College should take into considerations similar programs (either existing or under development) at nearby community college institutions and weigh this against market demand. VP of Academic Affairs should present program discussion of proposed new programs at VP Council. Program development should take a pro-active and student-centered approach to ensure that students have equitable access and that programs are diverse and inclusive.
Instructor Capacity
  • What are the staffing needs of the program?
    Once you have built the business case and you know the program should move forward, put together a program advisory committee for program design to know what your staffing needs are going to be. Faculty should be hired near final approval time.

For complete guidance on determining program eligibility, please visit the Federal Student Aid Handbook.

Tips for Successful Approval Requests

  • HLC and Board approval must be documented prior to submitting to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) for Financial Aid approval
  • Programs with half credits must be rounded down for financial aid awarding, per ED guidance.

In order to be Title IV Financial Aid eligible, a program must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be at least 16.0 credit hours
  • Must be at least 15 weeks instructional time in length
  • Must prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation

Eligibility and Certification Approval Report (ECAR) 

All Certificate level degrees be individually listed on the ECAR. Once a college has received initial ED approval to offer Associate or Bachelor level degrees, individual program approval is not required and all  subsequent Associate and Bachelor degree programs are automatically approved by ED once HLC and State Board approval have been granted.

Guidelines for Financial Aid and Program Length

CCCS considers 15 credit hours as a full-time term. The number of weeks to completion is decided by a formula:

  • Fewer than or equal to 15 credits = 15 weeks
  • 16 to 30 credits = 30 weeks
  • 31 to 45 credits = 45 weeks
  • 46 to 60 credits = 60 weeks

Colleges may create accelerated programs allowing students to complete in fewer than the stated number of weeks.  Accelerated programs using the conversion may result in a financial aid eligible designation for programs previously ineligible.

HLC Best Practice Guidelines

  • Consider Equity for Students. The degree must be available for all students. By specifying the destination, the degree is limited to specific group of students.
  • Consider Ease of Use for Student in Transfer or Employment. It should not only be available for students who want to transfer to one specific destination. What if a student wants to earn an Associate of Engineering Science in Mechanical Engineering, but they do not necessarily want to transfer to University of Colorado-Boulder or Colorado School Mines. Or, perhaps, the student starts with the intention of transferring to that destination, but circumstances change while the student is pursuing the degree. The specific destination could limit or impact the students ability to use the degree for transfer elsewhere or gain employment. The degree title should be general and flexible enough giving the student opportunity to explore opportunities for use with the degree.
  • Consider How Degree/Credential Will Appear on Diploma. Keep the titles simple, straightforward, and unambiguous. What is the degree or credential level and what is the study.
  • Consider What Might Change in the Future. Degrees and credentials change over time as well as partnerships. If the partnership dissolves, will the degree or credential be able to continue?
  • Consider Marketability for College. It is easier for the college to market a degree that it simply, clearly stated. Marketing requires a quick 15 second sound bite. If it has to be explained, the audience will be lost.
  • Degrees and credentials should be able to stand alone and not be dependent on other credentialing or external entities. Partnerships should complement the degree or credential. It should not limit its use, scope, or sustainability.

CCCS Best Practice Guidelines

When building programs in Gateway and making considerations for Banner and Recruit…

  • Transcript and Program Description fields have a 30 character limit
  • Application title field has a 60 character limit
  • Titles across all fields should match as closely as possible

This process is governed by Board Policy (BP) 9-30, Approval of Academic Programs; C.R.S. 23-60-201; C.R.S. 23-60-211; and C.R.S. 23-1-133

Board Policy SP 9-30b

Program Approval describes a necessary process for Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs to receive federal Perkins funding. It ensures that all programs meet the standards set by the accrediting body for each program. Once approved, CTE programs send annual data on student academic success and job placement success. These numbers help determine continued funding to keep programs innovative and up to date.

Need help?

For general assistance, questions, or distribution list requests please email and a member of our Administrative Assistant Team will reach out shortly.

For course approval and curriculum maintenance questions, contact