Appendix J

4/25/17

SENATE COMMITTEE ON CURRICULAR AFFAIRS, UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION, AND ADMISSIONS, RECORDS, SCHEDULING, AND STUDENT AID

Revisions to Senate Policy 59-10 Requirements for the Minor

(Legislative)

Implementation: Upon Approval by the Senate and development of procedures when applicable

Introduction:

Revisions to Senate Policy 59-10 Requirements for the Minor were approved by the University Faculty Senate on April 19, 2016 to include clarity in the language describing requirements for minors and to update the policy to enhance the consistency in the application of minor requirements across the university.  This proposal would modify that policy to change the necessary requirements for minor completion.

Discussion and Rationale:

The proposed modifications are intended to revise the current policy on academic minors. As it stands, the current policy states that “At least six (6) credits of the minor must be unique from any other degree or minor earned by the student.” After passage in April 2016 and implementation beginning fall semester 2016, the policy has caused considerable confusion and concern among students and advisors, because at face value, the policy adds at least 6 credits to the academic plan for each minor a student chooses to complete, potentially lengthening the stay and increasing costs for any student considering a minor.  Prior to the current policy, there were no restrictions on the number of major credits that could potentially be applied toward a student’s minor(s).  That is, a student could potentially utilize all credits (whether Prescribed Courses, Additional Courses, Supporting Courses, General Education, or Electives) required for a major toward a minor or minors if that overlap occurred.  The current policy eliminates that flexibility and imposes an additional six-credit burden on top of degree requirements for each minor a student wishes to pursue.

Part of the rationale for the current policy was to prevent the intentional embedding of entire minors within the Prescribed Courses of a major program, so that by completing the major, a student would automatically complete a specific minor.  However, there is little evidence that this is a widespread practice within Penn State.  The proposed revision provides a compromise, allowing students to intentionally apply their “selective” courses, such as General Education, Additional, Supporting, and Elective Courses, toward a minor, but also ensuring students may not complete a minor which is fully prescribed in their major program(s) or secondary minor program(s).

There are several issues of fairness and practicality that make a revision to the current minor policy worth considering:

  • Students should have the opportunity to accomplish a minor within eight semesters, adding value to their academic record. Affordability and timely graduation should not be sacrificed by adding extra credits “unique from any other degree or minor” for students who wish to obtain a minor.
  • The definition of majors at Penn State states that “Each major may have requirements identified in Prescribed, Additional, and Supporting Courses and Related Areas categories. Elective credits are not considered part of the major.” Therefore, students in a major with a high number of Electives more easily complete minors than students in majors with few (if any) Electives.
  • Students who enter Penn State with Advanced Placement (AP) or other credits from high school are at an advantage to complete minors because they will likely have additional space in their schedules to take courses beyond the minimum 120 credits without going beyond 15 credits per semester.
  • Students should not be dissuaded from earning minors to gain a depth or breadth of learning in multiple areas, particularly if the students are intentional in selecting their non-prescribed courses. Making it more difficult for students to earn minors penalizes both students and academic programs in which faculty have invested significant time in curricular planning.
  • Academic requirement accounting in LionPATH (i.e. the degree audit) may allow one student to receive a minor while another may not, and imposes an unnecessary burden on major and minor coordinators to police the current minor policy.
  • Many faculty advisors view minors as a value-added opportunity to initiate discussions with students about purposeful planning related to their major and careers. Making the completion of a minor more difficult will discourage those conversations.
  • A minor is meant to complement a student’s knowledge in a particular subject area; whether or not those subjects overlap with another list of credentials is irrelevant.
  • Additionally, a survey of the minor policies of peer CIC institutions did not identify minor requirements as restrictive as Penn State’s current policy. Imposing these unnecessary restrictions on minors puts our students at a competitive disadvantage relative to other universities with less restrictive policies.

In short, the proposed modification to the current minor policy would benefit students by allowing them to complete a minor, in addition to their major, without needing to earn more credits than are required by their major program. The revisions are fair and do not preferentially benefit students in majors with a high number of elective or AP credits. The revisions also reward students and academic programs for careful planning and intentional course selection.

Recommendations:

It is recommended that Senate Policy 59-10 be replaced with the following text. New text and concepts are in bold.

Please note that the following contains bold text for additions and strikeouts indicating deleted text. Deleted text is notated with [Delete] [End Delete]. Added text is notated in with [Add] [End Add].

59-10 Requirements for the Minor (recommendation)

A minor is an academic program of at least 18 credits. A minor program may consist of course work in a single area or from several disciplines, but must include at least six credits at the 400-level. Total requirements for a minor are to be specified and generally limited to 18 to 21 credits. All courses for a minor must be completed with a grade of ‘C’ or above. At least six (6) credits of the minor must be completed in courses offered by the University or in cooperative degree programs that have been established by formal agreement and approved by the University Faculty Senate. At least six (6) credits of the minor must be unique from [Add] from the Prescribed Courses required by the student’s major program(s). [End Add] [Delete]any other degree or minor earned by the student. [End Delete]

Some minors are generally intended to add breadth to the student’s academic experience and often will have minimal prerequisite preparation required to begin the minor. Other minors are intended to add depth or specialization to the student’s major. Therefore, entrance to some minors may require the completion of a number of prerequisites including courses, portfolios, auditions, or other forms of documentation that are not included in the total requirements for the minor. Any prerequisites necessary to complete minor requirements must be clearly detailed in the minor description.

Requirements for a minor may be completed at any campus location offering the specified courses for the minor. Students may not change from a campus that offers their major to a campus that does not offer their major for the purpose of completing a minor. Minors should be reviewed by the Senate Committee on Curricular Affairs every five (5) years for enrollment and currency.

59-10 Requirements for the Minor (clean copy)

A minor is an academic program of at least 18 credits. A minor program may consist of course work in a single area or from several disciplines, but must include at least six credits at the 400-level. Total requirements for a minor are to be specified and generally limited to 18 to 21 credits. All courses for a minor must be completed with a grade of ‘C’ or above. At least six (6) credits of the minor must be completed in courses offered by the University or in cooperative degree programs that have been established by formal agreement and approved by the University Faculty Senate. At least six (6) credits of the minor must be unique from the Prescribed Courses required by the student’s major program(s).

Some minors are generally intended to add breadth to the student’s academic experience and often will have minimal prerequisite preparation required to begin the minor. Other minors are intended to add depth or specialization to the student’s major. Therefore, entrance to some minors may require the completion of a number of prerequisites including courses, portfolios, auditions, or other forms of documentation that are not included in the total requirements for the minor. Any prerequisites necessary to complete minor requirements must be clearly detailed in the minor description.

Requirements for a minor may be completed at any campus location offering the specified courses for the minor. Students may not change from a campus that offers their major to a campus that does not offer their major for the purpose of completing a minor.  Minors should be reviewed by the Senate Committee on Curricular Affairs every five (5) years for enrollment and currency.

SENATE COMMITTEE ON CURRICULAR AFFAIRS

  • Asad Azemi
  • Michael Bartolacci
  • Raymonde Browne
  • Colleen Connolly-Ahern
  • Michele Duffey, Chair
  • Marc Friedenberg
  • James Jaap, Co-Vice Chair
  • Paul Kalapos
  • Lawrence Kass
  • Kenneth Keiler
  • William Kenyon
  • Suzanna Linn, Co-Vice Chair
  • Robert Melton
  • Judith Ozment
  • Timothy Palmer
  • Mari Pierce
  • Julia Plummer
  • Lisa Posey
  • Felisa Preciado
  • Ljubisa Radovic
  • Ling Rothrock
  • Robert Shannon
  • Richard Singer
  • Jennifer Sliko
  • Rodney Troester

SENATE COMMITTEE ON UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION

  • Andrew Ahr
  • Jesse Barlow
  • Barbara Barr
  • Paul Bartell
  • Kathy Bieschke
  • Linda Caldwell
  • Gretchen Casper
  • Richard Duschl
  • David Eggebeen, Vice Chair
  • Joyce Furfaro
  • Yvonne Gaudelius
  • Sammy Geisinger
  • David Han
  • Claire Kelly
  • Ellen Knodt
  • Karen Pollack
  • Janina Safran
  • David Smith
  • Samia Suliman
  • Mary Beth Williams
  • Matthew Wilson, Chair
  • Richard Young

SENATE COMMITTEE ON ADMISSIONS, RECORDS, SCHEDULING, AND STUDENT AID

  • Charles Abdalla
  • Steven Andelin
  • Martha Aynardi
  • Daniel Beaver
  • Clark Brigger
  • Wei-fan Chen
  • Maura Ellsworth
  • Galen Grimes
  • Anna Griswold
  • Michel Haigh, Chair
  • Harold Hayford, Vice Chair
  • Robert Kubat
  • Themis Matsoukas
  • George Samuel
  • Frederic Weber
  • Douglas Wolfe