Changes to the Graduation Requirements for the Associate's Degree


The current road to changes in Title 5 to revise the graduation requirements for the Associate's Degree began with a resolution in Fall 2001 calling for a review of the mathematics and english requirements for graduation. Breakouts to discuss the implications and issues were held at Academic Senate Plenary Sessions from Fall 2002 through Fall 2004. Two colloquia were held in Spring 2004, at which testimony was solicited that helped inform the development of a discussion paper, disseminated Fall 2004 . Finally, at the 2005 Spring Plenary Session of the Academic Senate, the body passed two resolutions recommending changes to the graduation requirements for the Associate's Degree.

S05 9.01 Change the Current Title 5 Requirement for English
Resolved, that the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges recommend to the Board of governors that the associate degree minimum requirement for english in Title 5 55805.5, be changed to read "an english course at the level of the course typically known as 1a, either english 1a or another english course at the same level and with the same rigor, approved locally."

S05 9.0 Change the Current Title 5 Requirement for Mathematics
Resolved, that the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges recommend to the Board of Governors that the associate degree minimum requirement for mathematics in Title 5 55805.5, be changed to read "a mathematics course at the level of the course typically known as intermediate algebra, either intermediate algebra or another mathematics course at the same level, with the same rigor and with elementary algebra as a prerequisite, approved locally."

At this point, both those who supported the resolutions and those who opposed them have been asking what happens now? The purpose of this article is to provide a clear picture as to the process for implementing Title 5 changes and what to expect in the coming months. With the passage of the two resolutions, the Academic Senate is now engaged in the process of discussing the best way to implement the resolutions. One issue that has emerged is the unintended result that changes to the Title 5 sections cited in the resolutions will have. While the changes suggested will indeed change the graduation requirements, changing the language to 55805.5 also has the effect of changing degree-applicability for elementary algebra and english composition courses one-level below freshman Composition. Discussions with the field have clearly shown that the intention and understanding of delegates was simply to change the graduation requirements, leaving degree-applicability as a separate issue. The Academic Senate is now working with the System Office on the language changes necessary to carry out the intention of the body in approving these resolutions. Drafting of the language changes for Title 5 will probably take most of the fall semester, with the recommendations for change going before the Consultation Council early in 2006. The Consultation Council, with representatives from all segments of the community colleges, will review the recommendations and a plan for implementation before sending the item forward to the Board of governors for consideration. If all goes smoothly, the Board of governors should have a first reading of the proposed changes in mid-spring. Public comment will be accepted during the period before the second reading two months later. At the second reading, the Board of governors will take action on the issue. Assuming the Board of Governors approves the changes recommended by the Academic Senate, how the changes to the graduation requirements will be phased in, the timeline and students affected, will depend on the implementation plan that is developed. Given the tendency for timelines to slip, colleges will probably see the first steps towards implementation of the requirements taking effect in Fall 2007.

Given that graduation requirements are an academic and professional matter, it is likely that the Board of Governors will follow the recommendation of the Academic Senate. However, final approval of the Title 5 changes is not a sure thing. The issue of information competency followed a similar path to that of changes to graduation requirements. Several years were spent discussing the issue, conducting a feasibility study, and publishing a paper prior to approval of a resolution in favor of an information competency requirement. The Academic Senate worked with the System Office to draft Title 5 language to implement the requirement. The language was reviewed in the Consultation Council, and the proposal was brought before the Board of governors in mid-summer. The Board expressed strong support for the proposal and agendized the item for action at its next meeting. Regrettably, the department of finance stepped in during the period prior to the second reading and declared the implementation of the information competency requirement an unfunded mandate, effectively forestalling further consideration of the item. The issue never received a second reading before the Board of governors.

Therefore, it is not at all assured that at this time next year, even with support by the Consultation Council and the members of the Board of Governors, changes to the graduation requirements will indeed be incorporated into regulation. However, the story of information competency provides one other parallel that may be of help for local senates.

In spite of the fact that the Board was not able to take action, the discussions leading up to the proposal to the Board had shown faculty the importance for our students of having an information competency requirement. As a result, local faculty chose to effectuate local requirements for information competency even though no change in regulation had been made. Discussions for these changes began even before the intervention of the department of finance. Similarly, local faculty are encouraged to engage now in discussions and planning for changes in the graduation requirements for the Associate's Degree. While not all colleges supported the above resolutions, the fact that the recommended changes will be under discussion by the Consultation Council and the Board of Governors in the coming year means that colleges can only benefit from beginning consideration of how such changes should be implemented at each college and how to support the success of all students under higher-level graduation requirements. As suggested in a companion resolution (F04, 9.03), this local discussion should include possible development of alternative courses and enhanced student support mechanisms.