General Education for California Community College Students

ASCCC President
ASCCC Vice President

On October 6, 2021, Governor Newsom signed AB 928 (Berman, 2021 [1]),  the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act of 2021, into law. One of the mandates of this legislation requires the Intersegmental Committee of Academic Senates (ICAS) [2]  to “establish a singular lower division general education pathway that meets the academic requirements necessary for transfer admission to both the California State University and University of California.” Near the same time, the California Community Colleges Curriculum Committee drafted revisions to the language of the Title 5 regulations for the associate degree (§§55060-55064) but did not amend specific requirements for general education.

At least twenty years have passed since the last thorough and holistic review and update of associate degree general education requirements, and recent legislation such as AB 705 (Irwin, 2017), AB 927 (Medina, 2021), and AB 928 (Berman, 2021) has had impacts on general education. Conversations about these topics at the 2022 Academic Senate for California Community Colleges Curriculum Institute indicated a need for a thorough review of existing general education requirements for associate and baccalaureate degrees, and students are asking for clearer general education pathways. For all of these reasons, the time has come to examine and update the California community colleges’ general education requirements in order to align, where feasible, lower division general education requirements for local associate degrees and community college baccalaureate degrees with the singular lower division general education pathway required by AB 928.

Since Title 5 §53200 places the responsibility for recommendations regarding policy development and implementation matters on degree and certificate requirements with the academic senate, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) has initiated processes for developing proposals for lower division general education pathways for both the local associate degree and the California community college baccalaureate degree. Initial proposals were shared broadly, webinars on the proposals took place, and surveys for feedback were disseminated in late summer and early fall of 2022. Based on feedback, the proposed pathways were modified. During the 2022 ASCCC Fall Plenary Session, the plenary delegates will have an opportunity to consider directing the ASCCC to work with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office to amend Title 5 regulations based on the proposed general education pathways through the consultative processes already in existence.

Proposing the California General Education Transfer Curriculum (CalGETC) Pathway

With the signing of AB 928, ICAS set up a plan for establishing the lower division general education pathway for transfer. The legislation is clear that if the intersegmental academic senate representatives of ICAS are unable to come to an agreement on the general education pathway by May 31, 2023, the administrative bodies of the three segments are required to establish the general education pathway by December 31, 2023. The mandated parameters of the general education pathway include the following:

  • It is to be “the only lower division general education pathway used to determine…eligibility and … preparation for transfer admission to the California State University and the University of California”; and
  • It cannot “include more units than the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum as of July 31, 2021.” ICAS received clarification from Assemblymember Berman’s office that the unit threshold for this general education pathway is 34 semester units.

Part of the plan developed by ICAS included the formation of a special committee on AB 928, which included nine voting members—three faculty from each segment serving on ICAS—and numerous advisory members: articulation officers, students, respective system-level administrators, and executive directors for each of the academic senates. The special committee’s task was to create and recommend a general education pathway requiring no more than 34 semester units for consideration by ICAS. The committee affirmed the importance of including students in the discussions and acknowledged that all three segments would need to compromise in order to create a general education pathway in compliance with the law. In just three meetings in early 2022, consensus was reached on a pathway to recommend to ICAS. On April 25, 2022, ICAS voted unanimously to recommend the proposed pathway for vetting by faculty in all three systems. In addition, the title of CalGETC for the pathway, recommended by student leaders from the three systems, was approved. CalGETC is the acronym for California General Education Transfer Curriculum.

Table 1

The proposed CalGETC pathway is presented through the table above for easy comparison to the current IGETC and California State University General Education Breadth patterns. Key differences between the current general education patterns and the proposed CalGETC pathway include the following:

  • Oral communication was not previously included in IGETC but is included in CalGETC;
  • The arts and humanities requirement is reduced from three courses to two courses;
  • The social and behavioral sciences requirement is reduced from three courses to two courses;
  • Lifelong learning and self-development will be removed as CSU lower division GE requirements, as they are not included in CalGETC; and
  • Ethnic studies will fall in a new, separate area.

The academic senates from all three segments are vetting the proposed CalGETC pathway during fall 2022 and will provide recommendations regarding endorsement or support of the proposed CalGETC to ICAS as a result of the vetting within each system. The special committee on AB 928 will reconvene to consider this feedback and make a recommendation to ICAS in February 2023 on a final CalGETC pathway.

Proposing Local Associate Degree and CCC Baccalaureate Degree Lower Division General Education Pathways

Anyone who has explored the multiple existing general education patterns—CSU GE Breadth, IGETC, and associate degree general education and additional requirements in Title 5 §55063—will likely agree that they can be confusing, as they have different identified areas and different guidelines for course approval. These patterns can be especially confusing for students. To help reduce confusion, efforts are underway to align all general education patterns using the same structural framework. Starting with the proposed CalGETC pathway, a proposed local associate degree general education pathway was created and then modified based on California community college faculty feedback. The proposed general education pathway for the associate degree aligns with the proposed CalGETC pathway and remains consistent with the current associate degree requirements as stated in Title 5 §55063. Following the approval of the ethnic studies requirement [3] for the associate degree by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors in July 2021, Title 5 §55063 was amended, yet it still has not been chaptered by the Secretary of State; therefore, Title 5 language encountered though a search with is inconsistent with the Board of Governors approved revisions.

Aligning the structure of associate degree general education requirements with the proposed CalGETC pathway while utilizing guidance similar to current Title 5 §55063 requirements will allow colleges to identify courses within each area that meet local general education requirements in addition to those approved for a CalGETC pathway. Students will in many cases have more local course choices for each area of the proposed associate degree general education pathway framework than for the areas of CalGETC; this situation is consistent with course approvals for existing associate degree general education patterns, CSU GE Breadth, and IGETC based on differing guidance developed by the California Community Colleges system, the CSU, and the UC for each pattern, but tracking courses across the consistently identified areas or categories will be easier than it is now with different area frameworks for each pattern.

California community colleges currently offering baccalaureate degrees have been frustrated that students must take either 34 (IGETC) or 39 (CSU GE Breadth) semester units of lower division general education even though the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) only requires 27 lower division general education units. This difference, combined with the realization that IGETC and CSU GE Breadth will be obsolete once CalGETC goes into effect, influenced ASCCC Resolution 09.03 S22 [4],  which calls for the ASCCC to work with the Chancellor’s Office to develop a pathway specific to CCC baccalaureate programs. Aligning the baccalaureate degree lower division general education framework with the proposed CalGETC and associate degree general education frameworks makes sense, as does overlapping the baccalaureate lower division general education requirements with associate degree general education requirements as much as possible. The result is an aligned framework that includes an additional six units beyond the 21 required for associate degrees—to reach the ACCJC required minimum of 27 lower division general education units for baccalaureate degrees—to be taken from any of the general education areas.

In considering these pathways, one should keep in mind that the singular lower division general education pathway required by AB 928 must be established and can include no more than 34 required semester units. The proposed CalGETC pathway is being vetted by the academic senates in each system through 2022. The May 31, 2023 ICAS deadline functionally only allows for minor adjustments, as substantive or major adjustments would necessitate additional vetting, which would require additional time. Without time for any additional vetting that would be necessary for agreement by the three system academic senates, the administrative bodies of the CCC, CSU, and UC systems would be required to establish the pathway by December 31, 2023, completely taking the development and recommendation of curriculum out of the hands of faculty. This situation is not something the ASCCC would find acceptable.
In addition, the proposed general education pathways for local degrees, just like the current general education requirements, are the minimum requirements for local general education in the California community colleges. Colleges have the autonomy to include additional general education requirements for local degrees, and they often do so to meet the educational and professional needs of students and the surrounding community in order to provide high quality programs.
Considering a complete revision of the general education patterns used by students in California community colleges may seem somewhat overwhelming. Even more overwhelming may be consideration of what processes for approving courses within each of the proposed pathways will look like once changes are approved. However, such changes have been needed for many years and will go a long way in reducing confusion for students. For the benefit of students, these efforts are necessary and will be worthwhile.
Finally, students have shared their concerns about unclear educational pathways. Aligning general education pathways where feasible is a first step to eliminating some of the confusion around general education requirements.

Table 4

[1] The text of AB 928 may be found at….
[2] The Intersegmental Committee of Academic Senates consists of representatives from the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, the Academic Senate of California State University, and the University of California Academic Senate. The full ICAS membership can be found at
[3] The Title 5 §55063 language as approved by the Board of Governors July 2021 can be found at$file/….
[4] ASCCC Resolution 09.03 S22 can be found at….