• Decrease font size
  • Reset font size to default
  • Increase font size

Main Menu

2.0 Core Requirements

3.0 Comprehensive Standards

4.0 Federal Requirements

Submit Content

4.4 Program Length PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 02 September 2009 06:11

4.4 Program Length

Program length is appropriate for each of the institution's educational programs.

Responsible Unit: Division of Academic Affairs

Compliance Judgment



The program length for degree programs at North Carolina A&T State University follow the standards set by accrediting agencies and peer institutions. Degree programs follow the guidelines and policies of the Faculty Senate in developing curricula. The Faculty Senate's review of new course and program proposals ensures that all educational programs meet the credit-hour requirements for program length and are appropriately challenging, academically significant, and rewarding. In addition, the University of North Carolina-General Administration (UNC-GA) defines the expectations for campus-level degree program planning, as stated in the UNC-GA Policy Manual (p. 5) [1]:

"Each institution must have a clearly defined process for campus review and approval of proposals to plan and, once planning is completed, a process for approving requests to establish new academic degree programs. The appropriate campus committees and authorities must approve any notification or request to plan or establish a new degree program before submitting it to the Division of Academic Affairs at the Office of the President (OP)."

The curriculum development process at A&T, which determines the courses in a major and the program length, begins with an initial proposal from the departmental or program faculty as outlined in SACS Principle 3.4.1, Academic Program Approval. If the school or college approves the proposal, it is referred to the Committee on New Programs and Curricula of the Faculty Senate.

"The Committee on New Programs and Curricula reviews, analyzes and approves all proposed curricular changes and new programs recommended by academic departments or other representative individuals or groups" [2].

Minutes of the Committee on New Programs and Curricula are published and forwarded to the full body of the Faculty Senate. On April 28, 2009, the committee reviewed, discussed, and approved curricula changes submitted by the departments of Business Education; Biology; Marketing, Transportation & Supply Chain; Economics & Finance; Human Development & Services; Physics; Agribusiness, Applied Economics & Agriscience Education; Curriculum & Instruction; Natural Resources & Environmental Design; Political Science & Criminal Justice; Graphic Communications Systems & Technological Studies; Construction Management and Occupational Safety &d Health; Electrical & Computer Engineering; Civil, Architectural, Agricultural, & Environmental Engineering; Nursing; Energy & Environmental Studies; Manufacturing Systems; Family & Consumer Sciences; and Mathematics [3].

Undergraduate Degree Programs: The 117 baccalaureate programs offered by North Carolina A&T State University require between 124 and 128 credit hours for completion [4]. For an in depth discussion, see SACS Principle 2.7.1, Program Length. For each degree program, the courses and credit-hour requirements are in the Undergraduate Bulletin and on the university website.

General Education Core: In 2002, A&T began a comprehensive revision of the general education core curriculum. The revision committee started by researching general education revisions at other institutions in order to benchmark models of interdisciplinary education, which the FUTURES strategic plan had determined was the new direction for the university [5]. Visits to institutions with leading-edge general education programs, such as Portland State University, helped to determine the program length for University Studies (UNST).

Launched in 2006, UNST is an interdisciplinary themed program that requires a minimum of 37 credit hours of coursework [6]. Incoming freshmen complete thirteen credit hours of UNST foundation courses (UNST 100, University Experience, one-credit hour; UNST 110, Critical Writing, three-credit hours; UNST 120, The Contemporary World, three-credit hours; UNST 130, Analytical Reasoning, three-credit hours, and UNST 140, The African American Experience: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, three-credit hours). Next, students take twelve credit hours of theme-based courses, nine credit hours of major-specified courses that support the seventeen UNST learning objectives, and three to six credit hours of a senior capstone experience, typically specified by the student's major department.

Freshman students who do not meet freshman proficiency competency requirements in English composition and/or mathematics must pass the non-credit UNST 103, Basic Writing and/or MATH 099, Intermediate Mathematics before enrolling in any UNST foundation courses.

Students take theme-based UNST courses only after they have completed the four UNST foundation course, generally, typically, after the second semester of the freshman year. Students choose a UNST thematic cluster in consultation with their advisor, or major department chair, prior to completing UNST foundation coursework. Students are required to complete twelve credit hours in a single thematic cluster prior to the senior capstone experience. Students wishing to switch clusters must still complete twelve credit hours in a single thematic cluster, unless otherwise approved by the UNST dean.

In addition to the 37 credit-hour requirement, all A&T students are required to complete fifty hours of service/experiential learning prior to the senior capstone experience. Student service/experiential learning hours are monitored in conjunction with the Division of Student Affairs. See SACS Principles 2.7.3, General Education; 3.5.1, College-level competencies, and 3.5.3, Undergraduate program requirements.

Graduate and Professional Degree Programs: Currently, North Carolina A&T State University offers master's degrees in 58 disciplines and doctoral degrees in eight. The Graduate Catalog states that all master's programs require at least thirty semester hours of graduate work (p. 38) [7] and that all doctoral programs require at least 24 course credits hours and twelve dissertation credits of graduate work beyond the masters (pp. 41-43) [8]. Master's programs at the university require around one to two years for completion. Doctoral programs require approximately three to five years beyond the master's, or four to six years beyond the baccalaureate level.

The university graduate programs are outlined in the Graduate Catalog [9] and on the website at the School of Graduate Studies and Academic Affairs links. Some examples of program length confirm that the policies are followed. The MS in Plant, Soil & Environmental Science requires thirty semester hours for the thesis option and 33 for the non-thesis option [10]. The Master of Arts in Teaching is offered in twelve content areas for initial licensure (Phase I) and advanced studies (Phase II) [11]. Phase I programs generally require 21-24 graduate hours and Phase II and additional fifteen to eighteen graduate hours.

To determine the appropriate length for its graduate programs, the university is guided by the standards of accrediting agencies. Twenty-four programs are accredited by professional agencies [12]. Also, external reviewers examine curricula against current disciplinary standards.

In 2004, the Biology Department invited a four-person external team to review its programs. Team members were from the National Science Foundation, Michigan State University, Tennessee State University, and Morehouse School of Medicine. The team's report [13] recommended establishing core courses for all majors and providing electives for specific degree tracks (pp. 5-6). In addition, the team suggested abandoning attempt to offer teaching labs with almost every course. Since the 2004 visit, the Biology Department has added a capstone course and two online courses for Biology 100, and created a virtual for the same course. To enrich the research components of the program, the faculty developed research-based courses in biostatistics and epidemiology and created facilities for students to pursue research in the cancer core, molecular biology core, and the tissue/cell core.

Supporting Documents

[1] UNC Policy Manual 400.1.1.1

[2] Faculty Handbook, Committee on New Programs & Curricula

[3] Faculty Senate, Minutes, Committee on New Programs & Curricula

[4] Undergraduate Bulletin, Credit Hours

[5] FUTURES, Uncompromising Excellence, p. 1

[6] UNST Course Outline

[7] Graduate Catalog, Master's Degree Programs

[8] Graduate Catalog, Doctoral Degree Programs

[9] Graduate Catalog

[10] Master of Science, Plant, Soil & Environmental Science

[11] Master of Arts Teaching Programs

[12] Accreditation Schedule

[13] Biology, External Review 2004

go to top

Last Updated ( Thursday, 11 February 2010 14:22 )

Get Adobe Reader

To view supporting documents you will need Adobe Reader.

The SACS website and tools have been optimized for the Firefox web browser.