Thursday, March 17, 2016
Reverse Transfer and Expiration Dates
We have a notion of "catalog rights": students can graduate under any set of rules from the time they enter until the time they graduate—they need to specify which set of rules they are using when they apply to graduate. Students who come as junior transfers can extend the catalog rights two years earlier (so that changes that happened just before they transferred don't mess them up).
Catalog rights don't last forever, though—they expire after 10 years, so students who stop out and then return years later may have to meet more recent requirements.
The biggest problem with catalog rights is that courses required in one catalog may be discontinued, in which case workaround replacements need to be devised. This substitution is generally the responsibility of the undergraduate director for the individual program. I know I spend a lot of time thinking about how to handle students' catalog rights every time we modify the requirements or discontinue a course.
In the interim, we pushed it off to curriculum without a specific policy, telling them that they needed to have grandfathering/substitution courses identified any time a new course or course sequence was invented by the always inventive faculty. I was told that it also helped clarify the intent and need for the curricular changes. I'm sure it also provided guidance to deans. (See below.)
But this seems to be a minor problem at a CC and (in your case) possibly a result of something we got rid of at my college. We no longer have "AA X" majors, because our accrediting agency wanted massive documentation for each of those, as much as we had for the basic AA major. (Paperwork nightmare.) We already allow deans to override some weird technical violation in some local requirement (by a course substitution) or change the catalog of record to a later one that fixes the problem (that is in policy). You might simply allow a change from "AA X" to a plain "AA" by putting it in policy.
More useful is a generic degree program - we called it a Bachelor of General Studies. BGS. This degree gave us a kind of safety net to help stranded students graduate rather than drop out. There are issues with the solution - mostly concerns that we were graduating students who were weaker than the rest and that the degree was hard to market to employers.
But, on balance, I prefer that option to the alternatives. It also gives programs permission to be consistent elsewhere. If a student has a choice to graduate without making their program current, or a reasonable approximation of that, they have a choice. 'No alternatives' leads to compromised administrative decisions.