1.2.15. Program Merger and Acquisition Policy

Program Merger and Acquisition Policy

Merger Policy

A program merger occurs when two or more institutions with at least two independently accredited social work education programs of the same level (e.g., two master’s social work programs) decide to merge, therefore creating one social work program under a single name and accredited status.
During the merger process, programs will work closely with their assigned accreditation specialist to ensure students’ accredited education is not jeopardized. All programs involved in the merger may be reassigned to one accreditation specialist.
Accreditation is awarded to the merged program as a whole; not to the independent programs. A single institution can only house one accredited social work program for each program-level.

Substantive Change Process

The merger process is completed via the substantive change process detailed in section 1.2.4 Program Changes in the EPAS Handbook.
The institutions / programs involved must mutually agree upon which program will serve as the main site for the substantive change process. That main site will then add the other program(s) to its accredited scope as additional program options. If both program levels (i.e., baccalaureate and master’s) at an institution are merging with one or more other institutions, then the main site may be the same or different for each program level. The main site is responsible for submitting a Substantive Change Proposal for each new program option and follows section 1.2.4 Program Changes in the EPAS Handbook accordingly.

Letter of Withdrawal

After approval of a Substantive Change Proposal, the primary contact of each independent accredited program party to the merger submits a Letter of Withdrawal, including a transfer / graduation plan, per section 1.2.9 Program Closure and Withdrawal of Accredited Status in the EPAS Handbook.
The Letter of Withdrawal specifies the closure / end date of the independent program and a narrative discussing how the program is making arrangements for the graduation or transfer of its students, either into the merged program or elsewhere. All students must be transferred (to the newly merged institution or another institution) or graduated from the independent program on or before the end date of the independent program. After the end date of the independent program, all degrees must be issued by the merged institution for students to earn a degree from a CSWE-accredited program. The independent program remains accredited until a plan for graduation or transfer of all students is established and each independent program is expected to remain in full compliance with all standards during the merge process. Any students admitted to, enrolled in, or graduated from each independent program after the specified end date will not be recognized as a graduate from a CSWE-accredited program.
Each program must also furnish an electronic copy of the Letter of Withdrawal via email to the president / chancellor and primary contact of every independent institution / program involved in the merger.
Once the requisite Letter(s) of Withdrawal is submitted to the program’s accreditation specialist, the program(s) do not participate in the reaffirmation process.
Note: If an independent program’s reaffirmation timetable occurs during the merge process, the program must request a timetable change per sections 1.2.2. Postponement of Reaffirmation Review and 1.2.3. Agenda Adjustments in the EPAS Handbook. When merging, the independent programs agree to the reaffirmation timetable for the main site.
For each independent program withdrawing accreditation, excluding the main site, the COA votes on the withdrawal of accreditation at the COA meeting after the agreed upon closure date, as documented in the Letter of Withdrawal.

Institutional Name Change

If the merger involves an institutional name change, the main site must submit the Program Database Record Verification and Updates Form to CSWE’s Department of Social Work Accreditation.

Acquisition Policy

An institutional / program acquisition occurs when an institution acquires another institution or program with at least one accredited baccalaureate or one accredited master’s social work education program; therefore, moving one social work program to another institution, under a single institutional name and accredited status.
During the acquisition process, programs will work closely with their assigned accreditation specialist to ensure students’ accredited education is not jeopardized. All programs involved in the acquisition may be reassigned to one accreditation specialist.
Accreditation is awarded to the acquired program as a whole; not to the independent programs. A single institution can only house one accredited social work program for each program-level.

Substantive Change Process

The acquisition process is completed via the substantive change process detailed in section 1.2.4 Program Changes in the EPAS Handbook. The institutions / programs involved must mutually agree upon the date of acquisition for the substantive change process. Depending on the accredited status of the program, the institutions / programs follow the process that aligns with their situation:

  1. If the acquiring institution has an accredited social work program, the acquiring program will then add the other program(s) to its accredited scope as additional program options. The acquiring program is responsible for submitting a Substantive Change Proposal for each new program option and follows section 1.2.4 Program Changes in the EPAS Handbook accordingly.
  2. If the acquiring institution does not have an accredited social work program, and is acquiring an accredited social work program, the acquiring program must submit an Initial Accreditation Eligibility Application, complete the initial accreditation process, and will be in candidacy status for one year prior to being reviewed for an initial accreditation decision by the Commission on Accreditation (COA).
    1. Accredited status for the acquired program will be retroactive to the fall term of the academic year in which the program is granted initial accreditation.
    2. Students admitted to or enrolled in programs during the acquisition process are to be informed that their program will be in candidacy status for one year and that they will not be considered to have graduated from an accredited program unless and until the program is granted initial accreditation by the COA.
    3. Programs should also ensure student transcripts reflect admission / enrollment or transfer to the acquired program no earlier than the fall preceding initial accreditation being granted.
    4. The accreditation specialist will provide timetable options, guidance, and information before and during the year of candidacy.

Letter of Withdrawal

The primary contact of each accredited program party to the acquisition submits a Letter of Withdrawal per section 1.2.9 Program Closure and Withdrawal of Accredited Status, including a transfer / graduation plan, in the EPAS Handbook.
The Letter of Withdrawal specifies the closure / end date of the acquired program and a narrative discussing how the program is making arrangements for the graduation or transfer of its students, either into the acquiring program or elsewhere. All students must be transferred (to the acquiring institution or another institution) or graduated from the acquired program on or before the end date of the acquired program. After the end date of the acquired program, all degrees must be issued by the acquiring institution for students to earn a degree from a CSWE-accredited program. The accredited program remains accredited until a plan of graduation or transfer for all students is established and the accredited program is expected to remain in full compliance with all standards during the acquisition process. Any students admitted to, enrolled in, or graduated from each independent program after this end date will not be recognized as a graduate from a CSWE-accredited program.
The acquired program must also furnish an electronic copy of the withdrawal letter via email to the president / chancellor and primary contact of every institution / program involved in the acquisition.
Once the requisite Letter(s) of Withdrawal is submitted to the program’s accreditation specialist, the program(s) do not participate in the reaffirmation process.
Note: If the acquired program’s reaffirmation timetable occurs during the acquisition process, the program must request a timetable change per sections 1.2.2. Postponement of Reaffirmation Review and 1.2.3. Agenda Adjustments in the EPAS Handbook. When being acquired, the acquired programs agree to the reaffirmation timetable for the acquiring program.
For each acquired program withdrawing accreditation, the COA votes on the withdrawal of accreditation at the COA meeting following the agreed upon closure date, as documented in the Letter of Withdrawal.

Institutional Name Change

If the acquisition involves an institutional name change, the acquiring program must submit the Program Database Record Verification and Updates Form to CSWE’s Department of Social Work Accreditation.