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4.4 Program Length

The institution demonstrates that program length is appropriate for each of its educational programs.

Judgment of Compliance

PVAMU SACS Accreditation - Judgement Compliance

Narrative of Compliance

Prairie View A&M University documents and justifies degree program length through a variety of measures including approved curriculum, catalogs, accreditation manuals, and comparisons with similar programs at other universities. Each degree at Prairie View A&M has been approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board [1] as appropriate.

According to Section 61.0515 of the Texas Higher Education Code, "a student may not be required by a general academic teaching institution to complete more than the minimum number of semester credit hours required for the degree by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools or its successor unless the institution determines that there is a compelling academic reason for requiring completion of additional semester credit hours for the degree" [2]. By statute, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board decreed that starting in Fall 2008, no baccalaureate degree could exceed 120 hours without just cause [3].

As shown in the response for Core Requirement 2.7.1, many undergraduate degrees require no more than 120 semester credit hours [4] including the university core of 42 hours, discussed in Core Requirement 2.7.3. To comply with state requirements, the lengths of several programs, particularly in the College of Arts and Sciences, were reduced for 2008 after careful study of degree plans by faculty committees. For example, the history faculty, who are interested in preparing more students for graduate school, lowered the foreign language requirement and unrestricted electives but increased the major requirements in history classes to move from 123 to 120 hours [5]. Students majoring in the College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology now take just 3 hours of free electives instead of 7 in programs that were reduced from 124 to 120 hours [6]. The Department of Mathematics made a minor optional for its majors starting in Fall 2008, which reduces the program to 120 credit hours without compromising any math classes or support area requirements and still allows for 9 hours of free electives [7]; the Department of Chemistry also eliminated a mandatory minor [8]. In these cases, the integrity of study in major fields has been ensured while moving students towards graduation more quickly.

For most degree programs, accreditation requirements, licensing standards, preparation for competitive graduate and professional schools, and employment conditions require coursework beyond the suggested maximum of 120 semester credit hours.

Accreditation and Undergraduate Program Length
Programs in Architecture, Business, Computer Science, Dietetics, Engineering, Engineering Technology, Social Work, Teacher Education, and Nursing exceed 120 semester credit hours to comply with accreditation requirements in the field [9]. The program length rationales for Architecture and Business are presented as examples:

In 2002, the Texas High Education Coordinating Board approved a five-year combined professional degree (a four-year B.S. and one-year M. Arch.) in Architecture. According to the National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB) Conditions of Accreditation, "accredited degree programs awarding the M. Arch degree must require a minimum of 168 credit hours" [10]. Therefore in 2005, the School of Architecture petitioned the University Academic Council for permission to add an additional 2 semester credit hours to the B.S. in Architecture, bringing it to 132 hours; coupled with the 36-hour master's program, minimum field accreditation standards are met. The program length allows Prairie View A&M to offer one of just 151 NAAB-approved professional programs in the United States.

The College of Business offers the Bachelor of Business Administration in five concentrations, four of which are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The AACSB asks institutions to show that its course requirements reinforce "ethical and global issues; the influence of political, social, legal and regulatory, environmental and technological issues; and the impact of demographic diversity on organizations," plus four skill sets and five business foundations . It also expects that 50% of a student's coursework comes from general education [11]. Therefore all business students complete a 21 hour general education supplement in mathematics, ethics, economics, and courses related to their major, as well as 33 hours of college requirements, increased in 2007 from 30 to add business law and/or business communication to classes in basic accounting, business law, business communication, management information systems, finance, management, and marketing to ensure a strong and wide foundation in business practices. The degree program for marketing serves as an example [12].

The Electrical Engineering program receives accreditation through ABET. For electrical engineering programs, ABET requires "knowledge of probability and statistics, including applications appropriate to the program name and objectives; and knowledge of mathematics through differential and integral calculus, basic sciences, computer science, and engineering sciences necessary to analyze and design complex electrical and electronic devices, software, and systems containing hardware and software components, as appropriate to program objectives…a knowledge of advanced mathematics, typically including differential equations, linear algebra, complex variables, and discrete mathematics" [13]. In order to provide students with a firm foundation in these areas, 130 semester credit hours are required; similar rationales apply to the other nine programs in the College of Engineering [14] [15].

Licensure and Undergraduate Program Length
Others undergraduate degree programs at Prairie View A&M determine program length based on specific licensure statutes in Texas. Under the Texas Public Accountancy Act of 1991, individuals must present a minimum of 150 semester credit hours in order to sit for the Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination, including 30 hours of accounting and 20 hours of accounting-related business administration classes [16]. Prairie View's Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting, at 126 hours [17], combined with the Master of Science in Accounting, at 30 hours, satisfies this state requirement.

Prairie View A&M's teacher education programs are accredited by the Texas State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) and therefore adhere to the general guidelines set forth in Rules 228.30 and 228.35 of the Texas Education Code [18] [19]. In order to prepare students to master all seventeen subject matter areas, to pass the TExES / ExCET certification exams and to create a rich classroom environment, the college created the Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with supplementary coursework in science laboratories, human performance, literature, art, and music in addition to education and reading instruction classes [20].

Preparation for Careers and Graduate School and Undergraduate Program Length
Other degree programs are not responding to accreditation demands but rather seek to prepare students for graduate school and highly trained specialist employment. For example, the Bachelor of Arts in Music requires between 127 and 132 semester credit hours, primarily due to multiple courses in musical ensemble (eight semesters), foreign language diction, and/or piano [21]. Because the program's goal is to equip students for professional careers as musicians and graduate study, these classes are necessary to give students the background they need to succeed.

In the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences, students interested in concentrations in Agricultural Economics, Agronomy, and Animal Science (with preparation for admission to veterinary school) are advised that "additional semester credit hours may be required for specialized job requirements" [22]. For this reason, the three primary degree programs in the College range from 128 (Family and Community Services) to 130 semester credit hours (the Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition and Food, accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education).

Master Degree Program Lengths
Unlike the case with undergraduate education, the Texas Education Code only dictates a minimum standard—30 semester credit hours—for programs leading to the master degree. At Prairie View A&M University, just two programs, in chemistry and accounting, require the minimum of 30 hours. Master degree programs at this institution typically require 36 semester credit hours not only from core theory and research classes but also in electives to allow students to tailor the degree to their interests. Additionally, as with undergraduate programs, many master programs prepare graduates for professional licensure. The Master of Science in Biology and Master of Arts in English provide different degree plans and total required hours for thesis and non-thesis options [23] [24], while several Master of Education degrees require research and/or practicum hours to assist students in passing the National Counselor Exam, required to receive a Texas Professional Counseling license [25].

The three master of science in nursing degrees offered in the College of Nursing require between 41 and 53 semester credit hours, plus hours of clinical practice for Family Nurse Practitioner and teaching practicum for Nurse Education, because they prepare students to pass various national certification exams as indicated in the attached description from the Graduate Catalog [26].

Doctoral Degree Progam Lengths
Prairie View A&M offers four Ph.D. programs. The length of each varies according to the area of specialization, program mission, and potential board certification after graduation. All doctoral programs compare favorably in length with similar degrees offered at other institutions.

The Ph.D. in Educational Leadership requires 69 hours to meet its four educational objectives. Students must complete a 30-hour core in organizational development, leadership, strategic planning, and diversity; concentration courses in either administration or human resources; research courses; 12 semester credit hours for the dissertation; and an internship [27]. Similar programs at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs require 70 hours, 30 from dissertation [28], and 54 to 60 hours past the master degree at Arizona State University [29]. Prairie View A&M's focus on targeted coursework and research resulted in 120 student publications in the first three years the doctorate in Educational Leadership was offered [30].

Electrical Engineering requires 53 hours beyond the master degree for a doctorate. This exceeds the requirements at the University of Central Florida (42 SCH beyond the master degree) [31]. Because one of the program's educational objectives is "to produce competent engineering researchers who can communicate new and innovative research findings to engineers and scientists" and candidates must submit at least two papers to refereed journals before any degree is conferred [32], the length of the Electrical Engineering Ph.D. is appropriate to allow students the opportunity to develop as researchers. By 2007, the first student graduated from the program, doctoral students had published a total of 6 journal articles, and two won research presentation honors in a Texas A&M System symposium [33].

When inaugurated in 2001, the doctorate in Juvenile Justice was the first of its kind in the nation with the aim of "producing scholars to teach in criminal justice and criminology departments in colleges and universities and researchers to work in federal, state, and large local agencies" [34]. It currently asks for 61 hours beyond the master degree, including required classes in research, statistics, and delinquency theory; electives; and dissertation to meet this goal.

The doctorate in Clinical Adolescent Psychology is intended "to give students broad exposure to theoretical models, clinical skills, and professional roles that prepare students for current and future practice of psychology" [34]. As such, the degree requires 76 semester credits including three years of core coursework, five practicums, a year of internships (required for specialty certification in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology) and dissertation hours. It also contains curriculum needed for graduates to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology towards becoming Licensed Psychologists [35]. As with the other doctoral programs, its focus on research has served students well; in the first three years of the program, students published six articles; two students advanced to full candidacy and both received APA-approved internships [36].

All Ph.D. programs fall well below the 100 hours that trigger non-resident tuition and fees for doctoral students under Senate Bill 961 (1997) [37], which amended section 61.059 of the Texas Education Code.

Supporting Documentation and Links


Federal Requirements 4.4

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