TBR approves cut to 120 hours on most TTU programs

Some Tennessee Tech University students may be shaving a semester off their undergraduate studies as early as this fall semester, becoming among the first in the state to graduate under new 120-hour programs instead of 132 — or more in a few cases.

The Tennessee Board of Regents has approved TTU's plans to streamline its academic programs and standardize the general education core system-wide — efforts based on mandates, including the TBR's "Defining Our Future" strategic plan.

"Defining Our Future," submitted to the state legislature last year, is an attempt by the TBR colleges and universities to work within ever-shrinking budgets based on state appropriations. Reducing the number of hours students need to earn their associate's and bachelor's degrees is anticipated to save taxpayer dollars at Tennessee Tech and other state colleges and universities.

But the move to reduce baccalaureate requirements by as much as 12 hours didn't come without controversy. Campus faculty worried that the reduction would dilute the strength of a degree from TTU.

Rebecca Tolbert, associate vice president for Enrollment Management, says faculty members worked hard to make sure that didn't happen.

"You look at educating a person to obtain certain outcomes, not a certain number of credits," she said. "Our programs started the process by looking at the core knowledge each graduate needs instead of just lopping off classes.

"One good thing that's come out of this effort is that people looked at the total curricula and tried to make changes for the best."

Cutting most programs to 120 hours — Engineering and Music Education dropped to 128 — started in department curriculum committees and moved through the college level and on to the University Curriculum Committee. The majority of TTU's revised programs have been approved by the university; only a handful remain to be changed and approved, and those will be complete in September.

Those committees faced another challenge: Coinciding with the mandate to drop to 120 hours was the Tennessee Higher Education Commission's call to standardize general education core courses across the system, making transfer from one school to another seamless.

The new general education core of 41 hours includes work in communication, humanities/fine arts, social/behavioral sciences, American history, natural sciences and mathematics. The core is flexible; within each of those requirements is a range of classes from which students can choose.

Many of TTU's revised programs are ready to begin this fall. Advisors, said Tolbert, are likely to face a host of questions from new and returning students, who, in this transition period, can choose which catalog to graduate under. New curriculum sheets are being developed in departments, and the undergraduate catalog is continually being updated online (visit www.tntech.edu/ugcat).

Students who will fulfill the new requirements this fall may be graduating as early as December.
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