The Master Plan Amendment (MPA) Process

A college or university states its mission, goals, and objectives in its master plan. The master plan describes its philosophy, purposes, and direction; the characteristics of the people it seeks to serve; the level and range of programs it offers; the research it conducts; and the services it provides. It may be modified by amendment as the institution evolves.

An institution’s or campus’ approved academic mission consists of the levels of study it offers and the set of disciplinary areas in the New York State taxonomy of academic programs in which it offers degree programs at each level of study (associate, baccalaureate, first-professional, master’s, and doctoral). Each program of study at an institution is a curriculum as defined in Section 50.1(i) of the Commissioner’s ReguIations.

When an institution seeks to expand its academic mission (e.g., by offering a degree at a new level of study or in a new disciplinary area), it must submit a master plan amendment application  Word Image Document Icon (160K) for review by the Board of Regents. The Regents must approve an amendment of an institution’s master plan before the institution may undertake the proposed activities. The main purpose of this process is to permit public review of significant changes in an institution’s academic mission.

What actions require Master Plan Amendment?
Regents approval of a first master plan or of an amendment to an existing master plan is required in the following instances for degree programs:

  1. An institution’s initial authorization to award a degree (i.e., a new college);
  2. An institution's first program at a new level of study (e.g., first master’s degree);
  3. An institution's establishment of a branch campus or inter-institutional program;
  4. At each degree level an institution’s first program (associate, baccalaureate, first-professional, master’s, and doctoral) in each of the following ten disciplinary areas:
    1. Agriculture
    2. Biological Sciences
    3. Business
    4. Education, including education, home economics, and library science; however, an institution offering home economics and/or library science but not education programs may not offer education programs without approval of a master plan amendment.
    5. Engineering, including engineering, architecture, engineering technology, metallurgy, and related interdisciplinary studies; however, an institution offering architecture, engineering technology, and/or metallurgy but not engineering programs may not offer engineering programs without approval of a master plan amendment.
    6. Fine Arts
    7. Health Professions
    8. Humanities, including humanities, area studies, classics, comparative literature, English, foreign languages. linguistics, philosophy, religious studies, theology, and related interdisciplinary studies
    9. Physical Sciences, including physical sciences, astronomy, astrophysics, atmospheric sciences and meteorology, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, geology, geophysics and seismology, mathematics, oceanography, paleontology, physics, and related interdisciplinary studies
    10. Social Sciences, including social sciences, anthropology, archaeology, communication, criminology, economics, geography, history, political science, psychology, public affairs, and sociology.

An institution authorized to confer baccalaureate and master’s degrees and offering registered baccalaureate programs in a HEGIS subject field (4-digit level) within one of the ten disciplinary areas may register a master’s degree program in the same subject field without approval of a master plan amendment, even if it would be the institution’s first master’s degree program in the disciplinary area. Subsequent registration of additional master’s degree programs in the disciplinary area would not need master plan amendment approval. For example, if an institution authorized to confer master’s degrees offers a registered baccalaureate program in zoology (HEGIS 0407) and wishes to offer a master’s degree program in the same subject field, zoology, the only action needed would be registration, even if the program would be its first master’s degree program in the Biological Sciences disciplinary area.

The Regents will act on a request for approval of an amendment to the master plan of an institution already authorized to award degrees on the basis of supporting material that does not include a full curriculum in registerable form only when the institution does not have faculty competent to design the curriculum and teach the courses. In that circumstance, the proposal will (1) list the specific first program or programs to be submitted for registration pursuant to the master plan amendment; (2) describe the institution’s overall competence to establish such programs at a high quality level; (3) describe generally the foreseeable programs it would offer at each proposed level within each proposed disciplinary area; and (4) describe in detail the resources it would use to design, develop, and eventually, offer the programs. Registration then follows approval of the master plan amendment as a separate action when the proposed program meets registration standards.

New Institutions
Establishing a new higher education institution requires Regents review and approval of a master plan amendment. This includes the conversion of an existing nondegree institution to a degree-granting institution.  Individuals interested in this process should review the Protocol for Opening a College in New York State and contact the Office of College and University Evaluation for more information.

Branch Campuses and Interinstitutional Programs
Establishing a branch campus or interinstitutional program requires Regents review and approval of an amendment to an institution’s master plan. For an independent institution, a concurrent charter amendment also may be needed. 

Extension Courses
Individual courses offered in extension do not require master plan amendment approval and/or charter amendment because they are of a limited and temporary nature, so long as the institution does not offer a complete program at an extension location. Institutions are required to inform the Department of the locations of extension sites and interinstitutional sites. They do this through the Inventory of Off-Campus Instructional Locations (NYSED-8 form) in the Higher Education Data System (HEDS). Part 54 of Commissioner’s Regulations also defines extension centers and interinstitutional centers and requires that institutions receive the Commissioner’s approval to operate them.

MPA Approval Process
If a Master Plan Amendment is required, the institution must complete the MPA supplement Word Image Document Icon (160KB) in addition to the registration materials for new programs.

When both applications are complete, the Department sends the required abstract to other New York public, independent, and proprietary colleges and universities as the basis for the canvass of their comments and advice on the need and demand for the proposed program(s) and its potential effect on other institutions. 

When the canvass is complete and no objections have been raised, the Department prepares a formal recommendation to the Board of Regents following its review and analysis of the information provided. (Following Regents approval of an amendment to the master plan of State University or City University, the Governor must approve the amendment. The Department cannot register the program proposed until the Governor has approved the master plan amendment.)