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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Catalog Rights - by Kelli Turpin

Many of the terms that you hear from City's faculty and staff are unfamiliar.  In order to be sure that you've completed all the requirements for an associate degree, you need to know a) what your major is, and b) what your catalog year is.  This post aims to help you understand your catalog rights and how to determine catalog year.  (What if you don't know what your major is?  Stay tuned.  I have a feeling that we're going to cover that at some point in the near future.)

First, some background:

An associate degree requires 60 units, or 20 classes.  A well-prepared full-time student usually takes 12 (or more) units (4 classes) each semester and finishes in 5 (or fewer) semesters (approximately 2 ½ years).  If a student cannot take 12 units a semester, then the same degree will take longer to finish.  (For those of you who like numbers: If our hypothetical student takes one class a semester, then that student will take 20 semesters to finish a degree.  Given the lack of summer school in our district, that translates into 10 years.  Two classes a semester = 10 semesters = 5 years.)
The requirements for each degree program are published in the College Catalog each academic year.  The catalog is the official document that establishes each program’s requirements.  Each department has the responsibility to update and revise its section of the catalog each year.  When technology, employment needs, or transfer requirements change, the affected departments change their programs accordingly.
graphic design work by Emmanuel Cloix
Consider for a moment the field of Graphic Design.  What are the chances that the technology involved in the graphic design industry will change in the next ten years?  Pretty good, right?  And the curriculum at the community college needs to change with technology, or it risks becoming obsolete. 
Here’s the problem with that: if a student starts a degree program now, takes a single class a semester and plans to finish in 10 years, then the degree program changes, s/he may not be able to finish in good time.  This student would be required to take extra classes to complete new requirements. 
In order to keep this from happening, the District has established a practice called “Catalog Rights.”  This practice guarantees that a student will be able to graduate under the degree requirements established in the catalog in force at the time they began their studies within the District (this is the student’s “Catalog Year”).  The one requirement is that the student maintain “continuous enrollment,” which is defined as “attendance in one semester (or two quarters) within a calendar year in either the CSU, UC, or California Community College System” (2012-2013 San Diego City College Catalog, p. 85).
Consider the following as an example:
Fall 2008 – English 48
Summer 2009 – English 49
Fall 2010 – English 101
Spring 2011 – Psychology 101
Spring 2012 – Biology 107
Because the student took at least one class per calendar year, s/he would be held to the requirements for the 2008/2009 catalog year. 
What if a student wants to follow the most current program requirements?  Students may opt to graduate with the requirements in force either the year they started or the year they finished.

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