Proposed Policies on the Recognition of Undergraduate Academic Certificate Programs on Official University Transcripts (D 6128-6130
Professor Lawler reported that this proposed motion was unanimously approved by the Educational Policy Committee and addresses a long-term concern at UT Austin of certificate programs being unrecognized on official student transcripts. He said the initial requests regarding this issue had come from specific programs, but the committee members thought it would be best to provide a general response that would apply to any future programs that might want such recognition. Professor Lawler said an important area of the proposal appears in part A where these programs are identified by the comprehensive descriptive term, “transcript recognized undergraduate academic certificate program” (TRUC).
Professor Lawler then briefly introduced the major parts of the proposed motion, which are the following: minimum criteria for certificate recognition on the transcript, the approval process for TRUC programs, and the certification process for students completing the requirements. He said the stipulation that students pursuing an integrated undergraduate/graduate program must complete the requirements for the certificate while they are undergraduates was included to address specific issues applying to a pharmacy program. Other requirements included in the proposed motion pertained to the number of hours of certificate coursework, residency minimums at UT Austin, how certificate programs interface with majors and other degree/general education requirements, and application procedures. Professor Lawler said the committee wanted the certificate status to reflect something extra outside of the major but not to require an excessive number of hours of coursework for its completion.
Professor Tess Moon (mechanical engineering) said, in her role as the Business Foundations advisor for mechanical engineering students, she had observed that many of the students needed two additional courses after they had completed their undergraduate degrees to meet the Business Foundation certificate requirements. At present, the students in this situation have been allowed to complete the certificate after they have received their B.S. degrees. She asked if the wording in the motion would preclude such students from doing this in the future and what the rationale had been for choosing this particular wording. Professor Lawler said the committee had recognized this as a difficult issue, but the members had wanted to prevent problems that might occur with students returning to UT long after their graduation to pursue a certificate and then requesting that their undergraduate transcripts be updated to show they had earned certification. The current wording of the proposal allows a graduate to earn the certificate, but it does not provide for recognition of that status on the student’s transcript unless the certification requirements were met when the student received his/her degree. Professor Lawler said under the current wording of the proposal, the students described by Professor Moon would have to delay their graduation by a semester while they completed the two classes if they wanted the certification to be noted on their transcripts. Professor Moon responded that she would like the committee to consider changing the wording because many students literally do not have time to complete the requirements for the certificate given the demands of their regular degree requirements. She recommended that some reasonable period of time, such as one year, following a student’s graduation be allowed for completion of the certificate and amendment of the transcript to reflect this additional work. Professor Lawler said he had experienced a similar situation when an engineering graduate student was one course short of earning the business foundations certificate at his graduation. When he mentioned this example to the committee, the committee members essentially said the certification should only be associated with undergraduate degrees. Professor Lawler said he would ask the committee to revisit this issue and would also check with the registrar as well to determine if a time limit on adding new information to a transcript posed any major problems.
Professor Robert Koons (philosophy) said the Educational Policy Committee wanted to have the transcript recognize the work that had been completed during the undergraduate’s program of study and did not think it was appropriate to allow later work to be added. He said he thought the situation that Professor Lawler had noted would be a matter to be addressed by the Graduate Assembly since it involved a graduate student.
Chair Burger asked if the propriety of amending transcripts after graduation or the difficulty of implementing a tracking and updating system for an arbitrary time period following a student’s graduation had been equally weighted in the committee’s deliberations regarding this matter or if one had been of greater concern than the other to the committee? Professor Lawler said both issues had been discussed, and he could not say which was more influential for each individual on the committee. He perceived that there was a great deal of concern that the certificate programs should be regarded as part of the undergraduate curriculum and therefore should be associated with the undergraduate degrees and transcripts.
Dr. Karrol Kitt (human ecology) asked how many certificate programs were now available at UT Austin. Professor Lawler said he did not have the information available with him, but he had received an email from the registrar’s office that listed several that are included in the current catalog. However, he noted that some of the programs identified in the catalog did not meet the required number of credit hours stipulated in the proposed motion. He said three different programs were cited in the proposal that did meet the proposed requirements, and he expected that some of the ones that currently have fewer hours than required might be upgraded to meet the requirements if this legislation were approved and implemented.
Professor Moon said she thought many students and their families could not afford the economic hardship of delaying graduation for an additional semester; however, she thought there was great benefit to engineering students who wanted to take the extra business foundations courses, especially if they were thinking they might later want to pursue a M.B.A. degree. She said she thought the benefits to the students were extremely valuable, but she did not see what value was added in restricting the certification notation on the transcript because all the requirements had not been completed at exactly the same time as a student’s completion of his or her undergraduate degree. Professor Lawler said he did not follow the cost part of Professor Moon’s argument. He said he thought the additional educational cost would be the same if the student finished the coursework after graduating as it would be if the student delayed his or her graduation date by one semester. Professor Moon responded that some of the courses were available online so students would not have to stay in residence at the University to complete the certificate requirements. Professor Lawler repeated that he would have the committee take up this issue again.
Professor Hillis asked how fields of study would be operationally defined or differentiated. He asked if the rule that a student could not receive a certificate in the same area of study as his or her degree meant the certificate and degree could not have the same identical title or name. After pointing out that many of the certificate programs are interdisciplinary, he said he would like to know how this tightly constrained this requirement would be actually be regulated. For example, he asked if a biology major would be ineligible to earn a certificate in computational biology? Professor Lawler said he would have to call upon the registrar to help answer the question given that the catalog specifies fields of study. He said the committee had acknowledged this issue in its deliberations and expected that gray areas might emerge where the expertise of the registrar would be needed. When Professor Hillis repeated his question by asking if this just meant a student could not get a certificate under the same title as his/her major, Professor Lawler answered “yes.”
When Dr. Linda Gerber (marketing) asked if transcripts were ever modified after degrees were completed, Professor Lawler said he thought the record was a permanent one that remained unchanged. Registrar Shelby Stanfield answered that the transcript was only changed if there were a correction to the student’s academic record.
Professor Lawler concluded his presentation by asking Council members to give further consideration to the proposed motion during the next few weeks and to come to the April meeting prepared to vote on it.