Off-Campus Instruction

Note: this page addresses Part 54 of Commissioner’s Regulations, “Off-Campus Instruction,” which applies to New York institutions. Out-of-state institutions seeking to operate in New York State should refer to question-and-answer item number 16 on this page.

General Information

Off-campus collegiate instruction has expanded rapidly in our State in recent decades, extending access to college and university education to non-traditional populations, students at a distance from the main campus, and others who find it difficult to enroll in courses at residential campuses.  New York State has standards governing off-campus instruction that are intended to assure that all off-campus instruction meets the quality standards required of all college credit-bearing instruction in the State and that all instruction is fully integrated into our system of comprehensive, statewide planning for higher education.

Key Quality Assurance Standards and Classification of Off-campus Locations

All courses which an institution offers for credit at an off-campus location must be part of a registered degree program offered by the institution and are subject to the same quality standards required of all registered curricula by statute, Regents Rules, and Commissioner’s Regulations.

Section 50.1 of Commissioner’s Regulations defines extension sites, extension centers, and branches.  Part 54 classifies all instruction offered at a location other than the institution’s principal center into the following four categories.  The following is a summary of the categories of off-campus instruction, their definitions, and the approvals required.

Summary of the Categories of Off-Campus Instruction, Their Definitions, and The Approvals Required
Categories of Off-Campus Instruction Definitions Approval Required

EXTENSION SITE or INSTERINSTITUTIONAL SITE

No complete programs AND 15 or fewer courses for credit AND 350 or fewer course registrations* for credit in any academic year

[CR 50.1 (t)]

No separate approval required.

EXTENSION CENTER or INTERINSTITUTIONAL CENTER

No complete programs AND more than 15 courses for credit OR more than 350 course registrations in any academic year

[CR 50.1 (s)]

Commissioner’s approval required.

[CR 54.1 ( c ) and (d)

BRANCH CAMPUS or INTERINSTITUTIONAL PROGRAM

One or more programs leading to a certificate or degree (any number of courses and course registrations per academic year

[CR 50.1 (r)]

Regents approval required. (Master plan amendment, charter amendment, as appropriate.)

[CR 54.1 (a) and (b)]

EXCEPTIONS

  • outside New York State or on Federal territory
  • clinical or practice sites
  • courses offered to high school students in high schools
  • inside correctional facilities
  • Native American reservations
  • Other exceptions granted by the Commissioner
[CR 54.2]

No separate approval required.

* Course registration means the number of students registered in each course at each location, not the headcount enrollment at the location. 

EXTENSION CENTERS

Protocol for Review of Extension Centers

Applications for extension center should be sent to the Office of College and University Evaluation in the same manner as applications to register a new program.  Colleges within the State University and City University should use the appropriate SUNY/CUNY extension center application forms and submit their application to their respective central administrations.

A description of the information to be submitted with an application to establish an extension center follows.  The required information falls into three categories:

  • General information needed to locate and classify the center
  • Academic information concerning the courses available at the proposed center and their relationship to registered programs at the main campus, the physical plant, equipment, and library resources at the center, the faculty and administrators who will be available at the center, and the support services that will be available to students.
  • Planning information needed to assess the financial implications and need and demand for the center.

The Department will review carefully the information submitted with each application.  It may, in some circumstances, request additional information.  There is also the expectation that a visit to the prospective center will be a part of the State Education Department’s review.  In every case, the Department will canvass other institutions in the region of the proposed center to determine their assessment of the center’s likely impact upon existing programs and institutions.

Application Form for Approval of Extension Centers and Interinstitutional Centers PDF Image Icon (36KB)

Off-campus Questions and Answers

  1. What are the basic standards for approval of an extension center and for offering courses through an extension site?

The basic standards are: (1) that all educational activities offered as part of a registered curriculum meet the requirements established by statute, Regents Rules and Part 52 of Regulations, including that whenever and wherever an institution offers courses as part of a registered curriculum it provides adequate academic support services; and (2)  that the need or demand for the extension center and for the courses offered there for credit from the points of view of students or special groups of students, including military personnel and persons in sparsely populated areas, potential employers of the students completing those courses, the institution and the public be demonstrated (see section 54.1 (c)(ii).

  1. What are the input considerations that the department takes into account in reviewing applications for extension center approval?

The Department would take into account the following: the proposed scope of course offerings, disciplines, and degree levels; the demographic characteristics and academic experiences and skills of the student body to be served; student access to faculty and other resources necessary for strong student achievement; and the evidence of need provided by the institution.

  1. Are there different definitions for off-campus locations for State registration purposes and for Regents institutional accreditation purposes?

Yes, there are different definitions. The definitions of an extension site, extension center, and branch campus for the required State registration purposes are contained in section

50.1 of Commissioner’s Regulations.  The definitions of “additional location” and “branch campus” for the voluntary Regents institutional accreditation purposes are contained in Section 4-1.2 of Rules of the Board of Regents. The definitions used for voluntary accreditation conform to the requirements of the U.S. Department of Education.

  1. Does an institution’s submission of  NYSED 8, “Directory of Off-Campus Instructional Locations,” serve as a request for approval of an off-campus location?

Submission of NYSED 8 is sufficient in the case of an extension site.  A separate proposal must be submitted for an extension center and a branch campus.   To request approval to operate an extension center, use the “Approval of Extension Centers and Interinstitutional Centers” application form.  For a branch campus, please refer to the “Program Registration Procedures” document.  Please note, public colleges should use the appropriate SUNY or CUNY forms and submit the proposal to the central administration of SUNY or CUNY.

  1. Is the number of registrations in credit-bearing courses per academic year requested in the application for an extension center the same as student headcount?

No, it is not a headcount but a cumulative total of enrollments in all courses at the proposed center during the academic year. Thus, a person enrolled in two classes would be counted as two course registrations.

  1. Can an off-campus location offer credit-bearing courses that are not a part of a registered program at the main campus or a branch campus? 

No. All courses which an institution offers for credit at an extension site or at an extension center must be part of a registered program at an institution’s principal center or branch campus and are subject to the standards of all registered curricula (section 54.3 of regulations).

  1. Can a site or center offer a whole program on a rotating schedule?

No. No complete programs may be offered at a site or center on any schedule. The institution needs to be able to identify a course or courses that will never be offered at the center for the location to be categorized as a center.  Offering a whole program at an off-campus location constitutes establishment of a branch campus. Establishment of a branch campus requires master plan amendment and registration of programs and, potentially, Governor’s approval for a public institution, charter amendment for an independent college, or Commissioner’s consent to a proprietary college’s certificate of incorporation with the Department of State. However, see questions 12 and 13, below, for possible waivers of master plan amendment approval.

  1. Can an extension center identify courses offered via distance education from the main campus as the courses that will never be offered at the site/center?

No.   Coursework offered by distance education from the main campus is judged as available at the extension location and, therefore, cannot be counted as physically taken at the home campus.  If a complete program is available at the extension location, it is a branch campus.   

  1. May an institution advertise that a student can obtain a degree at an extension site or an extension center?

No. Advertisements must clearly specify the course or courses for each program offered in part at a site or center that must be taken at the main campus or at a branch campus that offers the registered program.

  1. Can offering a whole program at an extension site or center result in a TAP disallowance?

Yes. For each student studying at an extension site or center, the institution must be able to document that the student has taken some course work toward his or her degree at the main campus or a branch campus that offers the registered program. Failure to do so can result in a TAP disallowance.

  1. Is it necessary to request approval of an address change for an extension center or a branch campus?

Yes.  The reason for a proposed change of address can range from a routine matter such as 911 renumbering to a substantial relocation potentially requiring Commissioner’s approval, master plan amendment, and/or charter amendment. For an independent college, the President or the President’s designee for program registration matters of an independent college or proprietary should send a letter to the Office of College and University Evaluation (OCUE) prior to the address change, requesting approval of a new address/location for the extension center or branch.  Public colleges should send the request to the appropriate central administration of SUNY/CUNY. SUNY/CUNY will forward the request to OCUE following its own review.   OCUE will notify the institution if additional information is needed in support of the request or if a canvass or site visit will be necessary.   

  1. Is it necessary to notify the Department of the closing of an extension center or a branch?

Yes. The institution should notify the Department so that it can be deleted from the Inventory of Registered Programs. In the case of closure of a branch campus, the institution should contact OCUE well in advance of the closure to discuss matters such as accommodation of enrolled students and retention of student academic and financial aid records.

An institutional decision to cease operation of a branch campus does not terminate the institution’s master plan approval to operate that branch unless the Board of Regents votes to rescind such approval.  A subsequent institutional decision to reopen the same branch campus would not require Regents action to approve a master plan amendment if the programs to be offered were at the levels and the disciplinary areas already authorized.  Reopening the branch would require registration review. 

  1. Must a college have an established extension site or center before proposing a branch campus?

No. An institution may propose a branch campus at a location at which it has never offered courses.

  1. Can a college offer a full credit-bearing certificate program to employees at a certain business location without requesting approval to establish a branch campus?  Can a full certificate program that serves employees of a specific business be offered at an extension site or center without requesting approval to convert the site/center to a branch campus?

The Department will consider waivers of the requirement for a branch campus if a certificate will enroll and train only the employees of a specific business or industry and the institution can demonstrate that the business or industry has identified a need for the certificate program.

  1. Are there any certificate programs that are considered sufficiently small to allow the Department to waive the branch campus requirement?

The Department will routinely waive the requirement for a branch campus if the off-campus certificate program consists of fewer than 24 credits. 

  1. Does Part 54 of Commissioner’s Regulations, “Off-Campus Instruction” apply to out-of-state colleges and universities that wish to offer credit-bearing coursework or degree programs in New York State?

No.  State law requires an out-of-State institution that wishes to establish a limited and temporary location in New York State by offering credit-bearing coursework, but less than a complete degree program, to obtain permission of the Regents prior to commencing operation in the State.  An institution seeking Regents permission to operate should contact the Office of College and University Evaluation for more information.

An out-of-state institution that wishes to offer one or more complete degree programs or complete non-credit program leading to licensure in a field licensed by the State Education Department (for example, nursing, massage, acupuncture) would need prior approval to establish a new campus in New York State.  The institution would be subject to the procedures described in “Opening  a College in New York State” section of this web site.

  1. For an off-campus location to be classified as an extension site or center, may research, internship/externship, or independent study courses, or components of courses constitute the course(s) to be taken at the main campus?

No.  One or more complete residential courses must be taken at a main campus or branch campus for an off-campus location to be classified as a site or center.

  1. Can students at a site or center complete the requirements of a complete program by taking courses at another site or center?

 No.  They must take the rest of the program at a main campus or branch campus.