Board of Governors approves policy revisions to student transfers and general education requirements


Oct. 13, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Board of Governors of Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education has approved a trio of policy revisions that will make it easier for students to transfer to and among any of the State System universities; will update and strengthen the universities' general education requirements; and will require that all academic programs are regularly reviewed to ensure they comply with accreditation standards and continue to meet student and employer needs.

Frank Brogan


"We worked closely with university faculty and leaders on these critically important changes as we continue to modernize the State System. Most important, these changes will directly benefit our students," said Chancellor Frank Brogan. "They will help to ease students' arrival on campus, enhance their overall learning experience, keep them on track toward timely graduation and help to ensure the relevancy of their degrees."

The revisions to the State System's student transfer policy were designed to facilitate the transfer of both undergraduate and graduate students and their prior learning experiences and to ensure no unnecessary duplication of coursework as transfer students pursue a bachelor's or graduate degree.

"With more than a quarter of our new student population being transfer students, recognizing the integrity of their prior learning experience is the right thing to do, especially for adult learners and our military affiliated students and veterans," said Kathleen Howley, deputy vice chancellor for academic and student affairs.

The revised policy also formalizes the "reverse transfer" agreement signed earlier this year among the State System universities and community colleges. The agreement enables students who earned college-level credits from a Pennsylvania community college before transferring to a State System university to earn an associate degree or other credential by "reverse transferring" their current State System university credits back to their community college. Under the policy, students who already have earned an associate degree at a Pennsylvania community college are guaranteed admission to a State System university.

The policy revisions will take effect no later than fall 2017.

The revised general education requirements, which will take effect in fall 2018, reaffirm the significance and value of general education and align with standards established by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the State System universities' main accrediting agency. Students seeking a bachelor's degree will be required to complete from 40 to 48 general education credits, while those seeking an associate degree must complete up to 30 credits.

The revised policy will focus on essential student learning outcomes and employability skills rather than on a menu of specific courses. The requirements are intended to ensure students acquire and demonstrate a variety of essential skills, including oral and written communication; scientific and quantitative reasoning; critical analysis and reasoning; technological competency; information literacy; intercultural knowledge and competency; and values, ethics and diverse perspectives.

The revisions to the program review policy were developed primarily to align with the recent changes to the regional accreditation standards and to continue to "assure deliberate and continuous attention to the quality" of all academic programs offered by the State System universities. All academic programs are subject to review at least once every five years.

Board receives latest additions to Workforce Intelligence Toolkit

The BOG has received the latest additions to the Workforce Intelligence Toolkit, which was developed to provide the universities with resources and services they can use to help them align their programming with the Commonwealth's workforce needs and to ensure every State System student has a career-plan as they go through college.

Two sets of reports have been added to the toolkit, providing detailed information on current workforce characteristics in each of five sub-regions of Pennsylvania as well as projections for the future. The reports include a variety of key data, including each area's population, unemployment and poverty rates, educational attainment level, employment level and projected job growth, by industry and occupation. The universities will be able to use the projections as well as the accompanying supply/demand analysis as they plan their academic offerings, while students will be able to use them to identify majors with the greatest potential for career success.

The reports indicate that for Pennsylvania and its five regions, new job growth combined with the need to replace workers who will retire or otherwise leave the workforce will create nearly 1 million skilled job openings in the state through 2024. Those occupations where the demand will be highest include accountants and auditors, registered nurses, computer systems analysts and general and operations managers.

The healthcare field, in general, will continue to generate high demand. Occupational therapy aides are projected to grow fast in every region. Other fast-growing healthcare occupations will include exercise physiologists, podiatrists, nurse midwives, physical therapy assistants and chiropractors.

The greatest gaps in the workforce--the shortage between the kinds of skilled workers employers need and the number of graduates in those areas that colleges and universities in the state are producing--are in the areas of healthcare and technical and support operations, specifically registered nurses, accountants and auditors, dental hygienists, sales representatives, computer systems analysts, healthcare social workers, software developers, physical therapists and civil engineers.

A separate tool being developed for students is Career Coach, currently being piloted at four State System universities--Bloomsburg, California, Edinboro and Millersville. Career Coach allows students to tailor their academic program to match specific career opportunities. The pilot programs are being funded through a grant from the Walmart Foundation's Pennsylvania State Giving Program.

Pichini named chairman emeritus

Guido Pichini, who served as chair of the BOG for five years, has been named chairman emeritus by his Board colleagues.

Pichini, who first was appointed to the board in June 2005, was elected chair in July 2011 and was subsequently re-elected to four additional terms. A graduate of what was then Kutztown State College, he was the first State System alumnus to serve as board chair.

In a resolution honoring his service as chair, Pichini was described as a "tireless advocate for Pennsylvania's public universities and all of higher education" who has demonstrated "unrivaled passion for the State System; the universities; and, most important, students."

Pichini, who continues to serve on the board, is the third board chair to receive emeriti status, following F. Eugene Dixon Jr. and Kenneth Jarin.

MEDIA CONTACT: Kenn Marshall | 717.720.4045 |