This policy contains the college policies on The Assessment Process/Transfer of Credit; Policy and Procedures for Degree Program and Portfolio Review and Approval; and the Policy on Educational Planning Studies
Since the degree program is central to the awarding of advanced standing at Empire State College, its development is a task on which students and mentors spend considerable time and thought. Each student is expected to engage in degree program planning under a learning contract, or section of one, for at least 4 credits and up to 8 credits. The degree program describes studies done at previous colleges, college level learning from life or work experiences and contracts to be undertaken at Empire State College. The emphasis on degree program planning provides students with an opportunity to design their program of study at Empire State College in light of both their long-range goals and their previous education. Another reason for the importance of degree program planning derives from the college's perspective on assessment. Each student's request for advanced standing is evaluated in the context of the student's goals and the nature of the whole degree program. This orientation precludes a piecemeal approach to the granting of advanced standing.
The section that outlines the steps involved in "Planning the Degree Program and Developing the Portfolio" are replaced by Policy and Procedures for Degree Program and Portfolio Review and Approval (effective 7/01/09).
Where prior learning has been gained through formal study at regionally accredited colleges, a student supports the requests for advanced standing with official college transcripts. Credits indicated on such transcripts are accepted with the following limitations:
may transfer in any credits with a C grade or higher grade that the center assessment committee determines are appropriate to the degree program and which are consistent with other Empire State College academic policies. Associate in Occupational Studies degrees are evaluated by the center assessment committee on a course-by-course basis. D grades earned as part of an A.O.S. degree are not transferable, even if the student completed the A.O.S.
In determining how to use any transferred credit in an Empire State College degree program, students should consider seriously the following points:
There is no statute of limitations regarding the age of acceptable learning substantiated by transcript except in some areas, technologies and science for instance, where that learning may be outmoded and may not be accepted if it is crucial to the structure of a concentration.
The maximum advanced standing allowed toward a bachelor's degree is 96 credits; toward an associate degree the maximum is 40 credits.
Approved: October, 1978 Supersedes April, 1975 Policy Revised: February, 1996, July 2009
Undergraduate students at Empire State College develop individually designed degree program proposals, with guidance from their mentors. Each student's degree program proposal and portfolio must be approved by a center faculty assessment committee as well as by the Office of College-wide Academic Review (OCAR). The center and college must approve the individual student's program and portfolio before the college can award the degree. Specific steps in this process are outlined below.
This document presents the college's policy and procedures for review and approval of students' individual degree program proposals and portfolios. Its goals are to promote quality and consistency with college policy in student degree programs and portfolios; ensure timely approval of student degree programs and portfolios; and clarify the process for students, faculty and staff.
Important companion documents are the Policy on Educational Planning Studies, Individual Prior Learning Assessment Policy and Procedures, and Advanced Standing: Policies and Procedures that Govern the Assessment of Prior Learning.
The elements of the student's degree program proposal and portfolio evolve over time.
Portfolio submission to the center Office of Academic Review (OAR) – When the mentor submits the portfolio to the center OAR, the degree portfolio includes the:
* The director of academic review has the discretion to accept a portfolio submission or schedule an assessment committee review pending receipt of an official document.
Center review – When the center OAR forwards the portfolio to the center assessment committee, the degree portfolio includes the items above and:
Evaluator recommendations on individualized prior learning (PLA) assessment requests. At this point, student requests for credit through PLA are removed from the portfolio. (The director of academic review may substitute the student's brief description of one or more PLA components that may still be in progress.)
College review – When the center OAR forwards the center-approved portfolio to the Office of College-wide Academic Review (OCAR), the portfolio includes all of the above, with the exception that all evaluator recommendations must be included, and with the addition of an "action statement" summarizing center assessment committee action on the portfolio.
OCAR may only review portfolios that contain official documentation of prior college coursework and other prior learning sources.
The sooner the student and mentor submit all elements of the degree portfolio, the more likely the student is to secure timely college-level approval of the degree program and to complete the degree.
The student and mentor normally submit the degree program proposal and portfolio, containing the elements expected at the point of submission, within the first 32 credits of enrollment or prior to the student's final 16 credits for the degree, whichever comes sooner. (See steps 2 and 3 below.)
Degree program review and approval involves careful analysis of the degree program proposal, rationale essay and any supporting documents by college faculty and staff. The steps in review and approval include the following:
1. Student Degree Program Proposal and Portfolio Development
The student develops the degree program proposal and portfolio during an academic study in educational planning, guided by her/his faculty mentor. See the Policy on Educational Planning Studies for more information.
2. Student Submission for Mentor Review and Approval
The student submits the degree program proposal and portfolio to the mentor for her/his review and approval.
The mentor's approval indicates that s/he considers the degree program proposal and portfolio to be complete and in substantially good form.
The mentor may not necessarily agree with every academic choice the student makes. If the mentor believes that the program design is unsound or inconsistent with college policy, or that the portfolio is not ready for review, the mentor advises the student to make revisions. If the mentor is not satisfied with the changes, s/he may forward the degree program proposal and portfolio to the center OAR with a note explaining her/his concerns.
If the student and mentor continue to disagree about the program design and the mentor is unwilling to forward the program to the center OAR, the student may ask the director of academic review (DAR) to review the degree program proposal and portfolio. The DAR conducts a review upon the student's request.
3. Mentor Submission to Center OAR
The mentor submits the degree program proposal and portfolio to the center OAR as soon as s/he is satisfied that they are in substantially good form and contain all elements expected at the point of submission, as outlined above.
When the center OAR receives the degree program proposal and portfolio, an acknowledgement goes immediately to the student and mentor. If the student expects the degree program proposal and portfolio to be in the center OAR, and s/he has not received an acknowledgement, the student should contact the center OAR.
4. Review of Student Degree Program and Portfolio by Center OAR
The center OAR assembles all elements of the degree portfolio and reviews the program proposal and portfolio during two stages, as outlined below.
At either stage, if the DAR believes the degree program proposal or associated documentation is incomplete or inconsistent with college policies, s/he notifies the mentor and student regarding necessary additions or changes and may return the portfolio, in whole or in part, for further work.
When the center DAR determines that the program proposal and portfolio are incomplete or inconsistent with college policies, the DAR may schedule a center assessment committee review to clarify the issues involved.
Stage 1 – Assembling Documentation and Placing PLA Requests
From the time of admission forward, the center OAR receives and retains students' official college transcripts and official documentation for generic prior learning sources.
Ideally, the student prepares the degree program proposal and portfolio during an educational planning study, including any requests for individual prior learning assessment (PLA), and the mentor submits them as a unified whole to the center OAR. The center OAR then assigns any individual PLA requests in accordance with the Individual Prior Learning Assessment Policy and Procedures.
Alternatively, a student may submit PLA request(s) and a draft degree program proposal, which have been reviewed by the mentor, to the center OAR, prior to preparing the full degree portfolio. In this case, the center OAR begins assigning student requests for individualized prior learning assessment as they are received. See the Individual Prior Learning Assessment Policy and Procedures for more information.
Stage 2 – Preparing for Review by Center Assessment Committee
Once the DAR determines that the student's degree program proposal and portfolio are ready for review by the center assessment committee, s/he schedules it for review; ideally, the review takes place within 45 days.
If one or more components of the degree program proposal are still awaiting documentation (i.e., transcripts, other official documents, or evaluator recommendations for individualized PLA components), and the DAR determines that the remaining components do not involve issues of redundancy, general education designations, level of learning, etc., that are likely to require an assessment committee judgment, s/he may schedule the student portfolio for assessment committee review pending receipt of the remaining documentation.
5. Center-level Review and Approval by the Center Assessment Committee
The center assessment committee reviews and approves the degree program proposal and portfolio at the center level, on behalf of the college faculty as a whole. Approval by the committee is required before a degree program proposal and portfolio can be forwarded to the Office of College-wide Academic Review.
The center OAR creates meeting schedules, establishes committee membership and identifies committee chairs on a rotating basis. The committee consists of three or more faculty members. When one of the members is unable to attend, the DAR, associate dean, dean or another center faculty member or academic administrator serves as a substitute.
The center OAR records the names of assessment committee members who will be making decisions on each student's degree program proposal and portfolio, on the college's administrative system.
At least three members must review the portfolio and only those who review the portfolio may participate in the decision on a case. Centers may identify primary and secondary readers for a portfolio.
The primary mentor of a student under review may not serve in a decision-making capacity member for that case. For that student, the DAR, the associate dean, dean, or another center faculty member or academic administrator serves as a substitute.
The DAR attends assessment committee meetings as a non decision-making member (except that s/he may participate in the decision in the circumstances noted above). The DAR's primary role is to promote continuity and consistency in center judgments in relation to college policy. The DAR also provides any background information related to a student's degree program proposal and portfolio. The DAR helps the committee reach consensus, when possible.
The associate dean and/or dean may attend assessment committee meetings at any time but do not participate in decisions unless substituting for another committee member.
Action Statement. The center assessment committee review results in an "action statement," which summarizes the committee action. Center OAR staff prepare the action statement and forward it to the mentor and student, or to the mentor only, normally within 2 weeks of the assessment committee meeting. If the action statement is forwarded only to the mentor, the student will be notified that his or her program was reviewed and to contact their mentor for the details of committee action.
The center assessment committee review may result in one of the following outcomes:
Center-level approval of the degree program proposal and portfolio. Center-level approval means that the degree program proposal and portfolio are ready to forward to the Office of College-wide Academic Review. Center OAR staff forward the degree program proposal and portfolio, as approved at the center level, along with the action statement, to the Office of College-wide Academic Review. OAR staff also send the action statement, along with a copy of the center-approved degree program proposal and general education grid, to the student and mentor.
Center approval of the degree program proposal and portfolio may encompass minor changes in the original submission (e.g., changes in a study's designation as meeting a general education requirement, as part of the concentration or as advanced level). In this case, the action statement must specify the changes involved. Further, the action statement may state that if the student does not respond within a specified time frame, the center OAR will forward the portfolio as approved by the center to the Office of College-wide Academic Review.
If the changes are significant, the student may need to re-submit the degree program proposal and portfolio.
When the student needs to submit revisions or further documentation, the assessment committee may delegate final review and approval to the DAR or to the committee chair and/or first reader, or may determine that the degree program proposal and portfolio must be returned to the same committee for final center-level review and approval.
When the DAR schedules a degree program proposal and portfolio for assessment committee review pending receipt of documentation for specific components (i.e., CLEP results, military documents, PLA recommendations, etc.), the assessment committee may:
It is essential that the student respond to the action statement, as needed, in a timely way, in order to complete the college's approval process. Failure to do so may mean that s/he must earn additional credit in order to graduate.
Once the degree program proposal and portfolio have center-level approval and the portfolio is complete (all required documentation is in and any conditions are met), the center OAR forwards the portfolio and action statement, normally within 2 weeks, to OCAR for final technical review, and notifies the mentor and student.
OCAR is responsible for the college-level technical review and concurrence of the degree program proposal and portfolio. When OCAR finds no technical problems with the degree program proposal and portfolio, it "concurs" (approves) the portfolio and the center decision then becomes official. OCAR notifies the director of academic review of the student's center and forwards the college-approved degree program and portfolio to the College Registrar. The center OAR notifies the mentor and student.
If OCAR finds that the degree program portfolio is incomplete, contains technical errors or does not comply with college policy in terms of technical criteria, OCAR staff inform the center DAR within 30 days. The center DAR works with the mentor, student, and others as appropriate as needed to resolve the problem, provide additional information, or secure a written waiver from the associate dean or dean, as appropriate.
Students who plan to earn two degrees from Empire State College (e.g., both an associate and a bachelor's degree) must submit two degree program proposals. The student may develop both degree proposals during a single educational planning study, and the center and college may review both simultaneously, or these steps may occur sequentially. Students wishing to earn a second bachelor's degree must submit a degree program proposal and portfolio for the second degree, which contains at least 32 credits of new Empire State College study including 4 new credits for Educational Planning. See sections 907 and 908 in the Empire State College Advanced Standing: Resources and Criteria for the Assessment and Program Review .
The student is responsible for making enrollment choices each term, in consultation with the mentor, which are consistent with her/his college-approved degree program. The college-approved program is the basis for student-mentor consultation each time the student enrolls. For each study, the student and mentor pay particular attention to the number of credits, level of study needed for studies in the concentration and the degree as a whole, liberal arts and sciences designations, general education designations, and the role of the study in meeting concentration and area of study guidelines.
Failure to conclude the college-level approval process in a timely fashion, or failure to complete the program as approved at the college level, may mean that the student must earn additional credit in order to graduate.
Substitutions in Empire State College Studies Students, with the advice of the primary mentor who consults with the DAR as appropriate, may make substitutions for Empire State College studies so long as they do not change the structure or substance of the degree or bring it out of compliance with college policies. Some examples:
Degree Program Amendments. The following changes in an approved degree program require a degree program amendment: degree designation (e.g., B.A. vs. B.S or B.S. vs. B.P.S.), area of study, concentration title, or advanced standing credit (i.e., transcript credit and/or credit by evaluation). See section 910 in the Empire State College Advanced Standing: Resources and Criteria for the Assessment and Program Review .
The student submits a request for an amendment for review by the mentor, who submits it to the center OAR.
When requesting an amendment, the student is responsible for paying a degree program amendment fee. The DAR may waive the degree program amendment fee.
If the amendment simply resolves a technical issue, the DAR may approve and forward the amendment to OCAR without review by the center faculty assessment committee. If the amendment involves significant academic aspects of the program design, the center DAR forwards it to the assessment committee for center-level approval, and then to OCAR. In such cases, the roles of all parties are similar to those played in the review processes described above.
A student considering a significant change in a college-approved degree program should consult with her/his mentor and may consult the DAR, to determine whether a degree program amendment is needed.
When a student has completed all Empire State studies, center OAR staff conduct an academic review for graduation to reconcile the contract evaluations for the student's Empire State College studies with the student's college-approved degree program.
The center OAR notifies the College Registrar once the center academically clears the student for graduation. The College Registrar completes the final academic clearance for graduation.
A student may appeal the decision of the center assessment committee, following the college's "Student Academic Appeals Policy and Procedures."
Approved July 31, 2008
What follows is a discussion of educational planning at Empire State College. It includes a statement about the relationship between individual degree design and the college's core values, guidelines to good practice in educational planning, and the articulation of policies and procedures relevant to the construction and approval of Empire State College educational plans.
Individually planned degrees are a hallmark of Empire State College's academic program. The college was founded in 1971 as an experimenting institution, designed to pioneer innovative ways for adults to gain access to a college degree. Individualized degree planning is a key element of this mission for innovation and access, and reflects the college's commitment to empowering adults to define and pursue their own educational goals.
At most colleges, students complete pre-structured degree requirements in the major and general education, regardless of the knowledge and experience they may bring to their studies. The structure of, rationale for and relationships among studies are often not clear to students. Learning may be fragmented and duplicative, especially for adults who attended more than one institution, experienced interruptions in their studies, and/or already have college-level knowledge acquired outside of a college classroom.
In contrast, Empire State College's individually tailored degrees enable adults to create a coherent educational plan, incorporate credit for their existing knowledge, plan new learning that builds on that base and pursue studies of greatest interest and value to them. This flexible approach can reduce the time and resources needed to complete the degree, and is at the core of how the college affords adults genuine access to a college degree that responds to their personal, professional and academic goals.
Individually tailored degrees afford adult learners the opportunity to:
The college awards undergraduate degrees in eleven broad "areas of study," which are registered by the NYS Education Department (NYSED). Each student designs an individually tailored degree, with a concentration within one of the areas of study, which builds upon the student's prior college-level learning. NYSED's approval of broad registered areas of study is predicated on the college's individualized degree planning model. The alternative at other public colleges is to submit pre-structured curricula in each degree field for approval by the State University of New York and NYSED.
With the flexibility of an individual degree comes a special responsibility for the student and for the college. A curriculum that is pre-defined by the faculty of a college is ordinarily approved in advance by faculty curriculum committees, academic administrators and external regulators. Empire State College students must firmly ground their individually tailored degrees by identifying their existing knowledge and skills, degree goals and learning needs and interests, and by carefully researching their fields of study. Faculty mentors actively guide and collaborate with students in the educational planning process. Ultimately, a faculty committee must approve each individual degree program proposal, and the Office of College-wide Academic Review conducts a final technical review.
Academic study in educational planning, guided by a faculty mentor, is a learning experience that serves as the student's pathway to an individualized degree. Through this study or series of studies, the student creates a degree program proposal that is tailored to her/his own background, goals and learning needs.
As a matter of context, it may be useful to think of educational planning as a learning experience that begins before and extends beyond the formal educational planning study. There are also connections among students' experiences in orientation, programs to develop and assess skills, and educational planning.
At its best, the learning that takes place in educational planning lays a foundation for student success in later studies. The student and mentor identify and plan ways to meet the student's unique learning needs during the remainder of the degree, including the need to build academic skills early on. This may be a student's first opportunity to actively develop the skills of an independent learner. Among other things, this means the student learns what topics and modes of learning are available and how they might be incorporated in the student's individual program.
Educational planning is the core undergraduate degree requirement* at Empire State College, and students must complete from 4 to 8 college credits in this topic. The college recognizes a range of learning modes and activities, mentoring styles and student needs and preferences for educational planning. There are also varied enrollment models (e.g., 4 credit studies, 2+2 or 4+2 models, other more modular approaches).
Within educational planning as a formal academic study, the primary mentor guides the student through substantive academic work, including reading, research and writing assignments that relate directly to the program design itself and to broader professional and intellectual issues.
Educational planning activities and outcomes reflect the student's goals and background. The student designs his/her individualized degree program proposal, with support and consultation from the mentor. The degree program proposal and the process of developing it should be neither mechanistic nor formulaic. Ideally, learning activities should respond to a particular student's interest and needs, and support a more reflective, transformative process.
One result of educational planning is the preparation of a degree program proposal and portfolio. Educational planning may be completed in a single study or through a more modular approach. Preparation of the degree program proposal and portfolio is normally expected for credit to be earned in the study or module designed for that purpose.
When the student's educational exploration leads to a decision not to pursue a degree at Empire State College, the mentor may award credit based on alternative assignments and the student's achievement of expected learning outcomes.
The following learning activities and anticipated outcomes in educational planning studies may help students develop the degree program proposal and portfolio and the skills needed for independent learning. During educational planning, students may:
*With the exception of a very few pre-structured programs.
The designation of an educational planning study as to level of study and liberal arts and sciences status is based on the same considerations as for any other study at Empire State College. Whether an educational planning study meets expectations for liberal arts and sciences credit depends on the actual learning activities and outcomes included in the study. (See the college Policy on Individualized Program Design for further discussion of the distinctions between introductory and advanced level studies and between liberal arts and sciences and non-liberal-arts studies.)
Just as in any other study, the criteria for awarding credit in educational planning are established by the mentor in the learning contract or course guide. However, there is one generally expected college-wide outcome for the educational planning component designed for this purpose, in addition to other academic expectations for this learning experience, and that is the degree program portfolio.
It is often beneficial for students to engage in educational planning over two or more studies rather than in a single enrollment. If the student enrolls in educational planning over more than one term in smaller "modules," each learning contract or course clearly states the criteria for earning credit in that segment of educational planning. One of the student's educational planning studies should include completion of the degree portfolio as an expected outcome.
Students who have completed all elements of the degree program proposal and portfolio when the mentor awards credit for educational planning are more likely to secure timely college approval of the degree plan and complete the degree itself. The college cannot approve the student's degree program proposal and portfolio until the student completes all requests for individualized prior learning assessment (PLA) and evaluators complete their recommendations. And, the student benefits from having an approved plan of study to follow. Therefore, the college strongly encourages students to prepare all of their PLA requests (rather than just brief descriptions) within educational planning if possible, and within the next term if necessary.
The student normally completes the degree portfolio, as defined below, in order to earn credit in the appropriate educational planning study. The mentor awards credit for that educational planning study when s/he is satisfied that the student has completed acceptable drafts of the expected elements of the degree portfolio and has met all other academic expectations for the study, as specified in the learning contract or course materials. The expected elements of the degree portfolio include the following:
To ensure timely evaluation of requests for individualized prior learning assessment (PLA), the student should submit all PLA requests to the mentor for transmittal to the center Office of Academic Review at the earlier possible date. Only completed PLA requests can be evaluated for recommendation of credit. The mentor's award of academic credit for educational planning is distinct from submission of a complete portfolio to the center Office of Academic Review, and from college approval of the student's program design and portfolio. To ensure timely college approval of the program and completion of the degree, the student should submit the complete portfolio to the center Office of Academic Review at the earliest possible date.
College policy on awarding incompletes in educational planning studies is the same as for other academic studies.
Students are responsible for having official documentation for transfer credit and "generic" (pre-evaluated) prior learning components sent to the college Admissions Office. Instructions are included in the Student Planning Guide for Degree Programs and Portfolios , which is available online and in print. Students, mentors, center Office of Academic Review (OAR) staff and committees may work from student copies of such documents during the initial planning stages. However, official copies must be included in the portfolio before the center OAR can forward the degree program proposal and portfolio to the Office of College-wide Academic Review (OCAR) for final college concurrence (approval). Until all official documents are received and reviewed, a student's program cannot be officially approved.
Within the first 24 credits of enrollment, matriculated students normally enroll in an educational planning study or series of studies that includes preparation of the degree program proposal and portfolio as an expected outcome. The student must complete this study before registering for the final 16 credits in the degree.
This means that if the student expects be within 16 credits of completing the degree during the first 24 credits of enrollment, then the student must enroll in and complete the relevant educational planning very early in her/his work with the college.
Preliminary Titles for Empire State College Studies. There may be some areas of future contract study for which the student has not yet determined a precise title; in this case the student may include a broad label for the degree component rather than a specific study title. For example, the degree program proposal might label a future study "Advanced Literature Study," rather than include a specific title like "Major Women Poets of the Twentieth Century." If a planned study has no specific role in the program design (e.g., as a general education study), the preliminary title can simply be "Elective." This provides some flexibility in selecting or designing studies later in the program, so that later study choices can build on the student's learning as s/he progresses through the program.
Associate-Bachelor's Degree Sequence. Students who enter the college with little or no prior college study or potential prior learning credit may benefit from exploring various fields of study before deciding on a primary field of study (concentration) for a bachelor's degree. These students might design an initial associate degree within the first 3 terms of enrollment that provides a broad foundation for further study at the bachelor's level. An interdisciplinary, liberal arts or "one-column" associate degree may be most appropriate. The student may then design the bachelor's degree as s/he nears completion of the associate degree.
Degree Program Amendments. Students may make substitutions or amendments in approved degree programs, as provided in the Policy and Procedures for Degree Program Review and Approval.
In exceptional cases where students have the knowledge and skills involved in educational planning before they come to Empire State College, students may request advanced standing credit toward the educational planning requirement through prior learning assessment or transcript credit.
Approved July 31, 2008
300.019 - Individual Prior Learning Assessment Policy and Procedures
300.002 - Degree Program Rationale