The Status of Statewide Core Curricula in the Eleven States Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
Type of DegreeDissertation
DepartmentCurriculum and Teaching
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The eleven states that belong to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) have each adopted a statewide core curriculum or its functional equivalent (transfer blocks, transfer modules, or a series of statewide articulation agreements). By addressing a 50-question survey to representatives of the eleven SACS states, I found that the primary reason for the adoption of statewide core curricula was to reduce articulation difficulties for students transferring from two-year colleges to four-year institutions. A secondary purpose was to ensure the quality of general education. Statewide core curricula vary from state to state, both in administration and in policy. Some cover only state-supported two-year institutions, while others apply to both two-year and four-year state colleges and universities. The SACS states’ core curricula or transfer blocks range from 33 semester hours to 60 semester hours. For the most part, statewide cores include survey courses that would count toward a major in that field. Interdisciplinary courses, capstone courses, and courses intended for non-majors are not included in statewide core curricula. Statewide core curricula have been designed to help students doing all kinds of transfer--traditional vertical transfers, horizontal transfers, reverse transfers, and --Y΄upside down‘ transfers. All eleven SACS states have concluded or assumed that having statewide cores has reduced articulation difficulties for transferring students. For example, research in the state of Florida has found that the difference between the number of semester hours transferring students and native students require to earn a baccalaureate degree is now less than one three-hour course. The most likely reason for improved articulation is Florida’s imposition of a statewide core curriculum. My research indicated that the SACS states have indeed moved towards effective transfer policies, flexible core programs, and means of assessing student performance. Such policies and programs should increase the number and percentage of students who complete two-year and four-year degrees. They are likely to reduce the cost of higher education to students and taxpayers. Core curricula have helped colleges and universities to provide equity to a more diverse student population. They have made the transfer process more efficient. At this point, the SACS states need empirical data showing that core curricula improve the educational experiences of all their students.