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Official, accurate, and unbiased information and analysis

What needs to be approved?

Existing academic programs evolve and new ones emerge.  When this happens, ideas are vetted internally, first at the college level and later by the Board of Trustees.  New programs frequently require external approval as well, most often through the New York State Education Department (SED) and sometimes through our accrediting body, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Why do we need to go through external review processes?

Cornell’s authority to grant degrees is bestowed by the New York State Board of Regents.  The Board of Regents mandates that all degree-granting academic programs in our state must be registered with the New York State Education Department (SED).  In short, Cornell is only authorized to grant degrees that have been approved by SED.

Programs that involve contractual agreements with other institutions and/or programs that involve a significant share of off-campus instruction may also require review by our accrediting body, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.  Our eligibility to receive federal financial aid for our students depends on our maintaining accreditation through Middle States.

What proposals need to go through formal academic program approval with New York State?

  • New academic programs

Before a new field of study or degree-granting program may be offered, it must go through internal and external vetting and approval processes. This is the case even when the new program has evolved from a concentration or track in an existing registered program. Like degree-granting programs, all certificate-granting programs must be registered with SED.

  • Changes to the name of an existing academic program

If an existing academic program wishes to alter its official title without making changes to the curriculum, that name change needs to be registered with SED.

  • Dual degree programs

A dual degree program is a program in which a student earns two degrees (e.g., a BA and a BFA; a BS and a MEng; or a PhD and a JD) through pursuing a coherent program of study that crosses fields or disciplines. Even when a dual degree program involves existing registered programs, the dual degree program itself must be reviewed internally and registered by SED.

  • Joint degree programs

Distinct from a dual degree program, a joint degree program is one offered in collaboration with one or more partner institutions.  Joint degree programs may require review by SED and/or the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  • Distance education programs

Programs that are designed such that students may complete a major portion (i.e., 50% or more) of the requirements for a degree or certificate at some distance from the source of the instruction must be registered as distance education programs with SED.

  • Programs administered at other sites (i.e., not on-campus)

Both SED and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education have review processes in place for programs and for-credit courses offered at off-campus locations. The nature of review depends on how many courses are offered at the location and whether or not the off-campus location is within New York State.  The approval process may be considerably more involved if the entire program is offered at a non-campus location.

  • Significant changes in program content, including any of the following:

    • Cumulative change from the department’s last approval of the registered program of one-third or more of the minimum credits required for the award
    • Changes in the program’s focus or design, including a change in the program’s major disciplinary area
    • Adding or eliminating an option or concentration
    • Eliminating a requirement for completion, including an internship, or clinical, cooperative education, or other work-based experience
    • Altering the liberal arts and science content in a way that changes the degree classification, as defined in Section 3.47(c)(1-4) of Regents Rules
    • Other changes in the program’s key characteristics
    • Changes in the program award (e.g., the degree)
    • Changes in the mode of delivery (e.g., to distance education)
    • Changes that alter financial aid eligibility (e.g., from full-time to part-time, or to an abbreviated or accelerated semester)
    • Changes in the number of credits required for a certificate or advanced certificate program
    • Discontinuance of a program

 How do I find out what programs are already registered with New York State?

The Inventory of Registered Programs is the New York State Education Department’s official list of all approved degree and certificate programs and all approved programs leading to teacher certification and professional licensure in New York State. This list is used for informational purposes by educational institutions and by the State Education Department’s credentialing units, including professional licensing and teacher certification.  The list is also used by the Higher Education Services Corporation and the Office of the State Comptroller in their administration and oversight of state-funded student financial aid programs and by the U.S. Department of Education in its administration and oversight of federal student aid programs.

The New York State Education Department’s Inventory of Registered Programs can be found here:

  • For a listing of registered Cornell endowed college degree programs, select the “Search for Programs by Institution” button.  Then, select “Cornell University” (institution number:  419510).
  • For a listing of registered College of Agriculture and Life Sciences degree programs, select “Search for Programs by Institution” button.  Then, select “NYSC Ag & Life Sciences” (institution number:  250010).
  • For a listing of registered College of Human Ecology Degree Programs, select “Search for Programs by Institution” button.  Then, select “NYSC Human Ecology” (institution number:  250020).
  • For a listing of registered College of Veterinary Medicine, select “Search for Programs by Institution” button.  Then, select “NYSC Veterinary Medicine” (institution number:  250040).
  • For a listing of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations degree programs, select “Search for Programs by Institution” button.  Then, select “Sch Indust & Labor Rel” (institution number:  250030).

Questions about academic program proposals can be directed to Kristin Walker,