Area of Emphasis Transfer Model Curricula: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About AoE TMCs

Vice President
C-ID Faculty Coordinator

Senate Bill 1440 (Padilla, 2010) resulted in faculty spending countless hours developing transfer model curricula (TMCs) at the state level and the corresponding associate degrees for transfer (ADTs) at the local level. Although much work was accomplished in the two years following the passage of SB 1440, the legislature adopted a follow-up bill, Senate Bill 440 (Padilla, 2013), to ensure progress continued on developing ADTs as well as establishing strong pathways to the California State Universities (CSU) for community college students. While the ASCCC had significant concerns with SB 440 as it was finally passed, as originally introduced the bill was much more problematic. Early versions of the bill not only created mandates requiring the development of ADTs but also specified the areas of emphasis (AoEs) that would be developed.  In its final form, SB 440 mandates the development of AoE TMCs but leaves open the determination of what AoEs will be developed. As a result of this new mandate, the Intersegmental Curriculum Workgroup (ICW), the entity that makes curricular determinations regarding the implementation of SB 1440 and now SB 440, established a definition for what an AoE is in the context of ADTs, identified two AoEs to be developed, and convened the faculty to do this work.

SB 440 Requirements: State and Local Level

In addition to ADT development mandates, SB 440 required the development of four AoE TMCs. As stated in SB 440 and subsequently incorporated into Education Code 66746(b)(1)(D),

Before the commencement of the 2015-16 academic year, there shall be the development of at least two transfer model curricula in areas of emphasis and, before the commencement of the 2016-17 academic year, there shall be the development of at least two additional transfer model curricula in areas of emphasis.

Further, Education Code §66746(b)(1)(C) includes the requirements for the development of ADTs based on both majors and AoEs at the local level:

A community college shall create an associate degree for transfer in every major and area of emphasis offered by that college for any approved transfer model curriculum approved subsequent to the commencement of the 2013-14 academic year within 18 months of the approval of the transfer model curriculum.

Together, these legislative requirements drive the state level development of the AoE TMCs and, potentially, the local implementation of AoE ADTs. At the state level, the development of at least four AoE TMCs is required. However, the introduction of these TMCs may or may not lead to a local degree development mandate. Presently, the “offered by that college” component of Education Code §66746(b)(1)(C) has been operationalized using Taxonomy of Program Codes (TOP Codes); if a college has a degree in the TOP Code assigned to a TMC, then it has an ADT development obligation. In the event that a new TMC, AoE or major, is introduced and assigned a new TOP Code that previously did not exist and, therefore, is associated with no existing curricula, then no local ADT development is mandated.

AoE TMC Definition and Development

While the term “area of emphasis” was added to Title 5 regulations to permit local development of degrees that were broader than a typical major, the ICW determined that a clear definition of the term in the context of ADTs was necessary. As ADTs direct students to take the appropriate coursework to prepare them for a specific pathway at the CSU, an AoE ADT necessarily would have to similarly direct student choices so that their transfer destination was at least somewhat prescribed. While many of the existing TMCs are interdisciplinary in nature and some may even effectively feed into multiple majors, none was intended to do so. To meet the conditions set forth in Education Code, ICW developed the following working definition of an area of emphasis: An area of emphasis is an interdisciplinary TMC that is developed to serve multiple majors at the CSU. Such a TMC may not have a clear department of origin at the CCC and would be designed to prepare the student for an array of majors at the CSU.

(The full policy is located on the C-ID website at

With this definition in mind, the ICW began by investigating disciplines that might be served by an AoE TMC. Besides adhering to the AoE working definition, disciplines selected for AoE TMC development must have enough similarities in major preparation or such minimal preparation that one TMC could effectively prepare a student for various transfer disciplines as well as allow the CSU to deem the TMC similar to one or more CSU majors. If the TMC is deemed similar by a CSU, a student who completes the TMC-aligned ADT at a CCC must be able to complete the Bachelor’s degree at the CSU in 60 units. Furthermore, the AoE TMC would encompass a number of disciplines that on their own may transfer small numbers of students per year but when combined may transfer over 100 students per year, thereby creating a viable pathway for students. The introduction of AoE TMCs will serve not only to increase the number of students transferring into the CSU destination majors but also to increase student pursuit of the involved majors at the CCC.

AoE TMCs: Social Justice Studies and Global Studies

In order to determine what AoE TMCs might be developed, the ICW reviewed the major preparation required at the CSU in numerous majors that were somehow related, potentially shared preparatory courses, and had low numbers of transfer students. At the end of this process, two potential AoE TMCs were identified, Discipline Input Groups (DIGs) were convened, and Faculty Discipline Review Groups (FDRGs) were appointed to develop a draft TMCs and descriptors. The AoE TMCs that are now named Social Justice Studies and Global Studies are currently in the final stages of development. The Social Justice Studies DIG included faculty from Ethnic, Women’s, LGBT, Chicano, and African American Studies, and the Global Studies DIG included faculty from political science, history, and international studies.

The C-ID descriptors and TMCs associated with Social Justice Studies and Global Studies were vetted by faculty statewide from all involved disciplines with feedback and comments incorporated into the documents as appropriate. To reduce confusion in the field, new TOP Codes were established for both Social Justice Studies and Global Studies to clearly indicate that these AoE degrees are different from degrees previously identified locally as “area of emphasis” degrees. Additionally, no degrees are presently assigned to the new TOP Codes, colleges have no mandate to develop an ADT. If local faculty determine that these TMCs would permit them to create ADTs that are beneficial to students, then AoE ADTs will readily be developed even without the mandate to do so.

AoE TMC to ADT: One-to-many

Consistent with the idea of an AoE being broader than a major, local AoE ADT development is anticipated to operate differently from the development of traditional ADTs. At the local level, the AoE ADT may be more specialized than the TMC, with the college making course selections that narrow the scope of the courses students may take. In so doing, one TMC may be used to create multiple degrees at the CCC, and the college can have different options associated with one AoE. For instance, a Social Justice Studies ADT as locally implemented may have a Women’s Studies or a Latin American Studies focus. This idea of a TMC that permits discipline focus at the local level provides a demonstration of the “one-to-many” relationship that can exist between an AoE TMC and ADTs. The process begins with one TMC intended to serve multiple majors at the CSU and ends with one TMC potentially leading to multiple ADTs at the CCC. Examples of these different degrees were presented along with the Social Justice Studies TMC and can be viewed at

Next Steps

The SB 440 legislation requires the completion of two additional AoE TMCs by fall 2016. The Intersegmental Curriculum Workgroup is continuing to investigate disciplines that potentially may be appropriate for Area of Emphasis degree development. The C-ID website ( is the best place to obtain information and updates on the work of ICW and the C-ID System.  The ASCCC will provide updates regarding this process as they become available.

AoE TMC Acronyms

AoE     Area of Emphasis
ADT     Associate Degree for Transfer
CCC      California Community Colleges
C-ID     Course Identification System
CSU      California State University
DIG      Discipline Input Group
FDRG    Faculty Discipline Review Group
ICW     Intersegmental Curriculum Workgroup
ICFW     Intersegmental Curriculum Faculty Workgroup
LGBT     Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
TOP Code Taxonomy of Programs Code
SB       Senate Bill
TMC     Transfer Model Curriculum