Principles Underlying the PD 2009-05 Guidelines

The continuing California budget situation has required CSU to turn away many eligible students. Fairness requires that students complete degrees efficiently to allow the University to accept other students and to afford them the opportunity to earn a degree. We interpret the state's support for university education under the Master Plan to mean that as many qualified students as possible should have a fair opportunity to obtain at least a single baccalaureate or master's degree.

State funding is apportioned to the campus based on a target number of full time equivalent students (one FTES = 1 undergraduate student taking 15 units or 1 graduate student taking 12 units). For 2009-10 we were funded by the state to offer no more than 22,460 FTES; if the campus had exceeded its funded limits, it would have received a subsequent penalty budget reduction in the 2010-11 fiscal year. For this reason, credit units need to be rationed in fairness to all. For 2010-11 the CSU has reduced our state-funded target even further--to 20,027 FTES. This significant reduction creates the pressure to graduate students efficiently to make room for new students to enter the university.

The principle governing rationing of credit units is based on ensuring that the overall number of state-supported units a student can take be kept as close as possible to the total number of units needed to meet state and campus graduation requirements for the specific major or graduate degree chosen. Most undergraduate majors require 120 units. A few majors require more units. Graduate programs at a minimum require 30 units. A few graduate programs require more units.

These guidelines assume that the intention of the State is that every student admitted should be guaranteed enough units each term to complete the graduation requirements for a baccalaureate degree in a reasonable period of time. At the same time, budget reductions to the campus (and the fixed number of credit units we can offer) mean that when students accumulate more units than required for their chosen degree, they are in fact taking away opportunities for other students to earn their degrees.

We conducted research in 2008-09 and learned that a significant number of students (over 5000) had already accumulated over 120 unitsÑhundreds had accumulated over 165 unitsÑwithout even filing to graduate. It is imperative that we help these students complete their graduation requirements as quickly as possible to make room for new students. During the first year of the PD (2009-10), we took aggressive measures to reduce these numbers significantly. Appendix B provides comparison data for both Spring 2009 and Spring 2010 that demonstrate our progress to date.

The budget reality remains that a student in a 120-unit major who has accumulated 165 units has taken 45 units more than required. In funding terms, this student has been a full-time equivalent student for three semesters longer than required or envisioned by the State-funding model. This student has, in effect, prevented three other students from being served for a semester.

There are many reasons students accumulate more units than required. One prominent factor is that students frequently change their minds about their program late in their academic careers. Perhaps they are not doing well in the major with which they started; perhaps they have come to believe a different major would be more interesting or promising for them. In some cases, students simply want to enrich their educational experience to prepare themselves better for career advancement. These are all laudable goals, but in this budget climate, such late additions or changes come increasingly at the expense of other students.

Therefore, these guidelines set up a system to identify students at the time they apply for graduation and monitor their progress to degree thereafter. Students should apply for graduation two semesters in advance of completing their degrees or during the term in which they earn 120 units, whichever comes first. The more units a student has earned, the more we need to help the student stay on a focused course to graduation. We will achieve these aims by careful examination of student records, proactive advising, and selective prohibitions and holds that help students make efficient and direct academic progress toward their degrees in the fewest state-supported units possible. In some cases, we will have to limit a student's ability to make program changes after 90 units if the proposed changes will require so many additional units that the academic progress of other students will be compromised.

We understand that students make reasonable choices to amend their programs as they learn about new opportunities or encounter unexpected difficulties in the course of their studies. For our purposes, we will generally interpret “fewest state-supported units possible” to include one semester (15 units) above the number of units required in the student's declared major. Proposed program changes that would exceed this number of units will be carefully evaluated according to the procedures articulated in these guidelines. A student has a right to appeal a decision (see Guideline 7.0 below).

In principle, we want first to work with students through proactive advising and specification of a course of action that will lead to timely completion of the degree. Because of the urgency of the enrollment pressures we face, however, students who fail to comply with the advising requirements for their approved program will be placed on a contract and be permitted to enroll only in courses specified in the contract. In cases where a student has met all requirements for a degree, the President has the authority to confer the degree and declare the student graduated, thus ending enrollment at the university.