Dealing with "Non-compliant" Degrees

Co-chair, System Advisory Committee on Curriculum (SACC)

What follows is a document prepared by the faculty of SACC. It is a product of discussions that began due to concern about how colleges are dealing with the development of "compliant" degrees. As individuals, and as a system, I think we were all surprised by the quick timeline for "fixing" our degrees. Hopefully you will find some of our suggestions and explanations helpful.

Many colleges have expressed concerns about the timeline and task of addressing non-compliant degrees (i.e., those based on general education alone with no major). We understand the challenge that converting or eliminating these degrees poses as colleges around the state strive to bring all Associate Degrees into compliance with Title 5 regulations. All Associate Degrees must have a major or the newly permissible "area of emphasis". Each degree should have a general education component and a planned program of study that allows a student to explore a defined collection of compatible and complementary courses about a single discipline or organized collection of several disciplines. To create any degree requires thought and careful planning.

The conversion of non-compliant degrees to compliant degrees requires an equal amount of thought and careful planning and is probably best achieved by creating new degrees, as opposed to seeking to modify those that are not compliant.

To assist colleges in this endeavor, the following frequently asked questions list has been prepared by the faculty of the System Advisory Committee on Curriculum (SACC).

FAQ about "Non-compliant" Degrees

1. What is a noncompliant degree?

Typically, these are degrees which have no focus other than to prepare for or fulfill general education requirements for four-year universities. These are often called transfer studies, university studies, and in some cases, liberal arts/studies (those not leading to teaching majors). Such degrees were never compliant, but were approved in error. The status of such degrees was communicated in a minimum conditions compliance advisory in May 2005. Another memo from the Chancellor's Office was sent in late 2007, where colleges were reminded to address any remaining non-compliant degrees and a deadline established for doing so.

2. What is the most important thing for our college to do to address any degrees that may be non-compliant?

You must remove all non-compliant degrees from your published catalog for Fall 2008.

3. The transfer or university studies degree (and liberal arts or general studies) has been popular with students. Will this change hurt students?

It should not hurt students. If the college converts the transfer degree to a GE/IGETC certificate of achievement, then students can still earn recognition for accomplishing this work. Students can still complete all the transfer requirements for UC or CSU and have that work recognized: either through the certificate of achievement, or through a new degree that has a defined major or area of emphasis. While this will take some work, in the long run it will actually provide several new options for students. Of particular interest is the new Area of Emphasis which can provide significant flexibility when colleges plan to expand their degree offerings to students.

4. Won't this loss of transfer studies degrees reflect badly on the college's Accountability Report for Community Colleges (ARCC)?

No. Certificates are also counted in the ARCC data. With a Certificate of Achievement for completion of GE work, transfer students actually have more options available to recognize their work. A single student, for example, could earn both a Certificate of Achievement AND a degree-effectively being counted twice for their efforts.

5. Our college wants to simply convert our noncompliant degree to something that will be approved by the Chancellor's Office. Is this possible?

Although conversion seems like a simple approach to resolving the problem of a noncompliant degree, a more thoughtful solution is recommended. It is challenging to convert a general degree to something that is required to be specific.

6. We don't have enough time to thoughtfully address non-compliant degrees due to our catalog deadline. What options do we have?

There are several options for your college. It's perfectly legal to publish an addendum to your catalog for board approved curriculum changes that occur after your catalog deadline, which will buy you the spring semester to create some compliant degrees or certificates. Another option would be to delete the non-compliant degrees now and address the creation of new degrees between now and the next catalog cycle. Finally, we also recommend creating Certificates of Achievement for students completing the CSU GE and IGETC requirements. Ideally, you will create degrees that are academically sound, benefit students, and reflect the philosophy of your faculty.

7. Who should take responsibility for addressing the non-compliant degrees?

Degrees are under the purview of the academic senate, so it is crucial that faculty take the lead in the creation or deletion of degrees. Some Curriculum Committees are assuming responsibility for this work; some articulation officers or others have been assigned the task. We recommend that discipline faculty, counselors, administrators and articulation officers be involved in a dialogue about the best options for students and the college.

8. What names are appropriate for the new certificate?

While Title 5 is not mandating this, we recommend avoiding the terms of "transfer studies" and "university studies" because they imply an inherent "right" to transfer into a four-year university. Any title suggesting that students have completed general education is warranted.

9. Who can we contact for help?

Stephanie Low

Specialist, Academic Planning & Development Chancellor's Office, California Community Colleges

lows [at] > System Office > Divisions > Academic Affairs