Points of Consensus

Approved February 6, 1997


Maryland Intersegmental Chief Academic Officers






General Principles
General Education Categories
"Grandfathering" Guidelines
Non-Traditional Credit
List of Appendices


These principles have been developed by the CAO’s of Maryland’s higher education institutions in conjunction with the development and implementation in 1996 of the General Education and Transfer regulations. Our purpose is to provide direction for those seeking to interpret the requirements as they are applied across institutions. These principles are neither binding nor regulatory but do provide the best thinking of a large and diverse group charged with defining the new relationship among all institutions implicit in the General Education regulations. It is expected that these principles will be amended as necessary, clarified as institutions require and otherwise edited as the CAO’s see fit--always with the goal of facilitating the General Education and Transfer regulations.

Title 13B, Maryland Higher Education Commission, Subtitle 02 Academic Regulations, Subtitle 06 General Education and Transfer, .02 Definitions

"... (7) "General education" means the foundation of the higher education curriculum providing a coherent intellectual experience for all students.

(8) "General education program" means a program that is designed to introduce undergraduates to the fundamental knowledge, skills, and values that are essential to the study of academic disciplines, to encourage the pursuit of life-long learning, and to foster the development of educated members of the community and the world."


A. Courses

  1. Every course designated as a general education course by any Maryland public institution must satisfy all criteria for general education courses set forth in the MHEC regulations. General education courses in the five specified areas shall provide sufficient breadth and depth in fundamental core knowledge and skills to introduce students to "ways of thinking" in that discipline.
  2. Statewide faculty groups representing the two- and four-year public institutions will be encouraged to develop and recommend broad guidelines for the standards of general education courses in the five specified areas. The recommendations from these groups will be forwarded to the CAO group for agreement, implementation, and inclusion in the Guiding Principles.
  3. In a given discipline, there may be multiple courses that can satisfy all criteria for general education courses and therefore any one of which can be used to satisfy a general education requirement for that discipline/area. Specific general education courses within a discipline may fulfill both general education and major requirements simultaneously. NOTE: In the case where a student changes majors, s/he may be required to complete additional courses for the major. In some cases, these courses may also be applicable to general education and therefore give the false perception that the student is being required to complete additional general education requirements. All institutions are encouraged to communicate to the student that these courses are required for completion of the new major, not the imposition of additional general education requirements.
  4. At a given institution, if a course is designated as a general education requirement for students in one major, then the course will satisfy the general education requirement for any student irrespective of that student's major or degree program. These courses must satisfy the conditions outlined in items 1, 2, and 3 above.
  5. One of the intentions of the general education regulations is to ensure that students are not required to duplicate course work unnecessarily. However, it is recognized that each institution retains the autonomy to define its general education requirements within the parameters of the regulations.
  6. Each course applied towards fulfillment of the five mandatory general education categories must carry a minimum of three semester hours, except in the case of quarter hours, where 4 quarter hours is equivalent to 2.67 semester hours. In such cases, a minimum of 2.67 semester hours will apply towards fulfillment of a general education course requirement. Where courses carry three quarter hours (equivalent to two semester hours), two quarters of a course sequence may be combined to fulfill one course requirement. In such cases, two quarters of a course sequence would be combined to be "equivalent" to one four semester hour course.
  7. Any course applied towards fulfillment of requirements in the optional category, "Interdisciplinary and Emerging Issues" need not carry a minimum number of semester hours.

B. General Education Categories

  1. In cases where the student exceeds the number of general education courses required in a given category by the sending institution, the receiving institution may apply the excess course(s) towards general education if appropriate to its general education requirements. For example, a student completes 3 general education courses in the social science category, where the sending institution requires only 2 but the receiving institution requires three. The receiving institution may apply the excess course towards the social science general education category if it meets the distribution of and is appropriate to the general education requirements as defined by receiving institution.
  2. The intent of the Interdisciplinary and Emerging Issues category is to provide institutions with flexible academic approaches to general education. Interdisciplinary courses need not integrate knowledge and skills from all five core general education areas.
  3. Courses will transfer into categories as designated by the sending institution. If the receiving institution has no emerging issues category, these transferred courses will be placed in the most appropriate category as determined by the receiving institution.

C. Distribution

  1. The distribution of two courses in the Arts and Humanities category may be met by any two disciplines within the Arts and/or Humanities. It is not required that there be one course in an Arts discipline and one course in a Humanities discipline.

D. Definitions

  1. Definition of Continuous Enrollment (degree-seeking students):

In order to be considered continuously enrolled, degree-seeking students must, a.) be, or have been, enrolled at a Maryland public institution of higher education, and, b.) have had no more than two sequential years of non-enrollment. The maximum time-to-degree allowed shall be determined by the receiving institution. For the purpose of this definition, "degree-seeking students" refers to any student taking credit courses that will contribute to the student obtaining an approved degree or certificate award, or refers to students specifically defined as "degree-seeking students" by the sending institution.

E. "Grandfathering" Guidelines

  1. Effective fall 1996, all new first-time students entering two and four-year public institutions will be required to complete the new general education requirements.
  2. All current or continuing students have two choices:

    (a) Change to the fall 1996 catalog requirements and complete new program and new general education requirements. Previously completed, transferable general education courses will continue to apply and additional general education courses must be completed from the fall 1996 list.

    (b) Complete the degree requirements of the catalog under which they first enrolled. Minimum distribution requirements in effect prior to fall 1996 for English, behavioral/social science, arts and humanities, mathematics and science must be met. Previously completed, transferable general education courses from the pre-fall 1996 list will continue to fulfill general education requirements. Students anticipating transfer will be encouraged to select remaining general education courses from the 1996 general education list in order to maximize transferability.

  3. Effective immediately (fall 1995), all foreign language and speech courses designated as general education by sending institutions will be applied toward the general education requirements in accordance with the new general education policy, regardless of date completed or transferred.

F. Non-traditional Credit

  1. The assignment of credit for non-traditional coursework equivalency, e.g. AP, CLEP, IB, or, other nationally recognized standard examination scores, and credit for experiential learning, presented by transfer students will be determined as follows:

If not identified as meeting general education requirements at the sending institution, the evaluation will be in accordance with the same standards applied to "native" students at the receiving institution.

If designated as meeting general education requirements by the sending institution, and used by the individual student to fulfill these requirements, the credit earned at the sending institution will be accepted by the receiving institution and applied to its general education program.

  1. In an effort to facilitate the transfer of non-traditional credits used to satisfy general education requirements, faculty discipline groups, using the ACE recommendations, current practices at Maryland public institutions, and recommendations formulated by the subcommittee on Non-traditional Credit as a start, will be convened to agree upon and recommend the appropriate minimum level of performance for acceptance of AP, CLEP, and other nationally recognized standard examination scores.

In the future, faculty discipline groups must also be convened to make recommendations on the general education transferrability and appropriateness of other non-traditional and experiential coursework and equivalencies. The faculty will also be asked to make recommendations to the CAOs for consideration of the issue of requiring a grade of "C" or better for general education coursework.

February 9, 1996
Revised February 28, 1996
Revised March 14, 1996
Revised April 8, 1996
Revised November 7, 1996
Revised December 5, 1996
Approved February 6, 1997
Revised November 24, 1998

List of Appendices

  1. Statement of Expectations: Freshman Writing

  2. English Composition: Standards for a "C" Paper

  3. Special Attributes of General Education Mathematics Courses

  4. Recommendations of the Arts & Humanities Area Group

  5. Standards for General Education Speech Communication Courses

  6. Recommendations of the Biological & Physical Sciences Area Group

  7. Recommendations of the Social & Behavioral Sciences Area Group

  8. Recommendations of the Interdisciplinary & Emerging Issues Area Group

  9. General Education Requirement Substitution: Best Practices
    (Guidelines for application of policy for students with disabilities)