Standard 9.3 General Education Requirements

This is the second in a series focused on SACSCOC interpretations of The Principles of Accreditation

Let’s take a look at Standard 9.3 (General Education Requirements). This Core Requirement has three separate components, but is only one standard and, as such, only requires one narrative that addresses ALL THREE of the components. This is not an area where institutions commonly have problems, but in June 2019, SACSCOC revised the interpretation of this standard.

Let’s look at Standard 9.3 as it appears in the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement.

The institution requires the successful completion of a general education component at the undergraduate level that:

  1. is based on a coherent rationale
  2. is a substantial component of each undergraduate degree program. For degree completion in associate programs, the component constitutes a minimum of 15 semester hours or equivalent; for baccalaureate programs, a minimum of 30 semester hours or equivalent.
  3. ensures breadth of knowledge. These credit hours include at least one course from each of the following areas: humanities/fine arts, social/behavioral sciences, and natural science/mathematics. These courses do not narrowly focus on those skills, techniques, and procedures specific to a particular occupation or profession. (General education requirements) [CR]

The first two parts to an institution’s response are pretty simple. In fact, part b is one of the few times you will see a SACSCOC standard with a clearly quantitative requirement. So, part a: Do you have a mission statement or a purpose statement for your general education curriculum? There is your coherent rationale. I once worked at an institution without such a thing and I wondered how they made decisions about the general education curriculum before we collaborated with the faculty to write one. It is not a bad idea to ask faculty to take a look at this every few years and capture the deliberations in the form of meeting minutes. Part b: even easier if you are on semester hours or quarter hours. Other approaches will get more complicated, but I would welcome the opportunity to help you compose a compelling case for compliance using some other measure.

The SACSCOC interpretation, which can be found here, focuses on part c and more narrowly on the humanities/fine arts discipline. The interpretation indicates that some courses commonly found among general education curricula including speech, writing classes that are not literature intensive, oral communication courses, and introductory foreign language courses don’t count as a humanities course when you are making your case for compliance with this standard. These courses may fulfil humanities requirements within your general education curriculum, but they won’t count as THE ONE required in the standard.

While your general education curriculum is a comprehensive and significant component of your degree programs, the narrative for this standard should be short and sweet.

At Southeastern Accreditation Consultants, we’re ready to collaborate and support your accreditation efforts. From reviewing narratives, to strategies for compliance, to building your documentation, we offer individualized services to best meet your needs. Contact us to get started.

Published by Douglas A. Wymer

Throughout an academic career spanning nearly 20 years, Dr. Wymer participated in many site visits (both substantive change and reaffirmation visits) for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and he has been a visiting team member for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges with the Western Association of Colleges and Schools. In addition to serving as a team member, Dr. Wymer has served as a visiting committee chair for SACSCOC. After earning a B.S. in Biology (with a minor in Chemistry) from what was then Shorter College, an M.S. in Entomology from Clemson University, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Tennessee Technological University, Dr. Wymer started a rewarding career in academia. He earned tenure and achieved the rank of Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences at The University of West Alabama and served in a number of administrative roles at UWA including Department Chair and Assistant Dean. He served as a Department Head at Pensacola State College and, after a year in that position, was promoted to Dean of Baccalaureate Studies and Academic Support. In 2016 he became the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Lake-Sumter State College, where he served for four years before launching Southeastern Accreditation Consultants.