Policy and Procedures for Degree Program and Portfolio Review and Approval
|July 31, 2008
|Policy and Procedures for Degree Program and Portfolio Review and Approval
Undergraduate students at Empire State University 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 university must approve the individual student's program and portfolio before the university can award the degree. Specific steps in this process are outlined below.
This document presents the university'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 university 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.
Elements of the Degree Program Proposal and Portfolio
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:
- Degree program proposal.
- Degree program rationale.
- General education grid.
- Official copies* of college transcripts for prior college courses included in the degree.
- Official copies* of documentation for other, generic prior learning sources.
- Student requests for individualized prior learning assessment (PLA). Mentor and student may agree that a brief description can be substituted for each request not ready for submission.
* 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.
Timing of Degree Program Proposal and Portfolio Submission
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.)
Steps in Review and Approval
Degree program review and approval involves careful analysis of the degree program proposal, rationale essay and any supporting documents by university 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 university 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 university 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 university 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 university 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 university'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 university 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.
- Conditional center-level approval of the degree program and portfolio. In this case, the committee specifies the conditions that must be met for center-level approval. Examples include:
- Revision of the rationale essay.
- Submission of an addendum that explains some aspect of the program design.
- Substantive changes in the program design (e.g., changes in specific degree program components, the concentration title or the area of study).
- Receipt of official documentation for one or more transcripts or prior learning components.
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.
- Deferral of center-level approval of the degree program proposal and portfolio. Deferral means that the student needs to make substantial changes in consultation with the mentor. The degree program proposal and portfolio need to be resubmitted to the center OAR, for review by either the original or a new center assessment committee. In this case, the action statement from the original committee specifies the issues that must be addressed.
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:
- Provide conditional center-level approval of the degree program proposal and portfolio pending receipt of the specified documents, and delegate final center-level review and approval to the DAR, or
- Provide conditional center-level approval of the degree program proposal and portfolio pending receipt of the specified documents, and require that either the committee chair and/or first reader, or the full committee, review and approve the documentation when it is received, or
- Determine that full documentation is needed before the portfolio can be reviewed, in which case the outcome is a deferral.
It is essential that the student respond to the action statement, as needed, in a timely way, in order to complete the university'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.
Technical Review and Approval by the Office of College-wide Academic Review (OCAR)
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 university-approved degree program and portfolio to the 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 university 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 Earning More Than One Degree at Empire State University
Students who plan to earn two degrees from Empire State University(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 university 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 University study including 4 new credits for Educational Planning. See sections 907 and 908 in the Empire State University Advanced Standing: Resources and Criteria for the Assessment and Program Review .
Completion of the University-Approved Degree Program
The student is responsible for making enrollment choices each term, in consultation with the mentor, which are consistent with her/his university-approved degree program. The university-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 University Studies
Students, with the advice of the primary mentor who consults with the DAR as appropriate, may make substitutions for Empire State University studies so long as they do not change the structure or substance of the degree or bring it out of compliance with university policies. Some examples:
- A student's university-approved degree program calls for an advanced-level study in "American Folk Art." The student and mentor could substitute an advanced-level study of "Guatemalan Art and Culture." If the original study was to be at the introductory level, or if this student's university-approved degree program calls for an advanced-level study in "American Folk Art." The student and mentor could substitute an advanced-level study of "Guatemalan Art and Culture." If the original study was to be at the introductory level, or if this study does not need to be at the advanced level for the student's program to meet university requirements, the substitution could be at the introductory level. If the student is using this component to meet the SUNY general education requirement in the Arts, the substitution could be in music, theatre or some other studio, performing or art history area, but not in another field like literature.
- A student's university-approved degree program calls for an Empire State University study in accounting as part of a concentration in "Business Administration." The student has no other learning in accounting. Since the university's Business, Management and Economics faculty define accounting as essential to a concentration in "Business Administration," the student cannot simply substitute a study in "Strategic Planning." Either the student needs to include an accounting study, or the concentration title needs to be changed. To change the title, the student needs to request a degree program amendment.
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 University 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 university-approved degree program should consult with her/his mentor and may consult the DAR, to determine whether a degree program amendment is needed.
Academic Clearance for Graduation
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 University studies with the student's university-approved degree program.
- If the student and mentor have made substitutions that are consistent with the structure and substance of the university-approved program, center OAR staff amend the degree program and provide center-level academic clearance for graduation. Center staff within or outside the center OAR also make technical corrections to contract evaluations as needed, based on the program reconciliation.
- If the student and mentor have made substitutions that depart from the structure and substance of the university-approved program, which bring into question whether the program as completed meets university policy, the DAR notifies the mentor and may consult the dean. If the issues cannot be resolved, the DAR notifies the student and mentor that the student must amend the degree program and/or complete additional studies to bring the program into compliance with university policy.
The center OAR notifies the Registrar once the center academically clears the student for graduation. The Registrar completes the final academic clearance for graduation.
A student may appeal the decision of the center assessment committee, following the university's "Student Academic Appeals Policy and Procedures."
Approved July 31, 2008