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4.4 Program length

Program length is appropriate for each of the institution’s educational programs. (Program length)

Judgment of Compliance

Sam Houston State University (SHSU) has developed and maintains programs for each of its educational programs that are appropriate in length and content. As stated in Core Requirement 2.7.1, all undergraduate programs at Sam Houston State University, prior to the Fall of 2008, required a minimum of 128 hours [1].  Effective Fall 2008, the minimum number of semester hours for a baccalaureate degree was reduced to 120 hours [2]. As evidenced in the 2007-2009 Graduate Catalog, all graduate programs required at least 30 hours [3]. Sam Houston State University does not offer any associate degrees. All programs are expressed in semester credit hours. New programs are proposed at the departmental level and reviewed by the departmental curriculum committee, college curriculum committee, and university curriculum committee prior to submission to the Academic Affairs Council, the Provost, the President, the Board of Regents of The Texas State University System, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, as outlined in Core Requirement 2.5. The curriculum cycle requires a justification for the length of the program. Although no program may be less than the minimum University and SACS standard, this process allows a faculty to present compelling reasons for longer programs.

The faculty in each discipline recommend the requirements for the degree program. These recommendations are reviewed by the respective departmental, college and university committee and the Board of Regents of The Texas State University System. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) gives final approval to all academic programs. The THECB’s approval ensures the use of commonly accepted standards and practices for each reviewed degree program. THECB, in its review, demands that the curriculum be up-to-date and consistent with current academic theory [4].

Undergraduate Programs
All baccalaureate degree programs consist of general education requirements, and requirements related to specific degrees, majors, and minors. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has specific guidelines for general education to include length [5]. The University, with approval by the Texas State University System, dictates degree (e.g., Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, etc.), major, and minor requirements.

SHSU has defined a general education core curriculum that complies with the standards put forth in THECB’S rule 4.28 [5]. Prior to Fall 2008, the core curriculum at Sam Houston State University contained 45 semester credit hours, encompassing six component areas. With the reduction of programs to 120 semester hours, the core curriculum was reduced to 42 hours. Majors contain a minimum of 30 semester hours with minors requiring at least 18 semester hours. Some departments have created composite majors that do not require a minor. However, these composite majors contain at least 48 semester hours.

Effective Fall 2008, the Texas Legislature mandated that all baccalaureate degree programs may not require “more than the minimum number of semester credit hours required by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools…" unless there is a compelling reason (e.g., hours required for accreditation, standards of the discipline, etc. [6]. In response to this change, Sam Houston State University required all degree programs to reduce their requirements to 120 hours to be compliant unless the discipline had a compelling reason to exceed this limit. The transition from 128 semester hours to 120 semester hours required the input of each department. Faculty town hall meetings were held to discuss options for reducing the length of the degree. Departments were asked how to arrive at a 120-hour degree with and without reducing the general education requirements [7]. Faculty input was sought as to whether or not the core curriculum would be reduced from 45 semester hours to 42 semester hours [8]. Each department was instructed to examine their degree programs and determine where changes could best be made. Degree programs that require more than 120 hours had to document a “compelling reason” and cite trends within their disciplines or accrediting agencies to justify the hours in excess of 120 hours. The Undergraduate Catalog details the requirements for each program [9].

Effective Fall 2008, SHSU will offer 75 undergraduate degree programs. The minimum semester hours for these degree programs range from 120 semester hours to 138 hours. Of the 75 degree programs, 8 require more than 123 semester hours. Most of the degree programs requiring more than 123 hours were either in the area of teacher preparation or were composite programs.

Baccalaureate Programs Requiring More than 123 Semester Hours

Arts and Sciences BA Geography
Arts and Sciences BS Environmental Science
Humanities and Social Sciences BS Interior Design
Education BS Interdisciplinary Studies (Education)
Arts and Sciences BS Forensic Chemistry
Arts and Sciences BM Music Therapy
Education BA Interdisciplinary Studies (Education)
Arts and Sciences BFA Musical Theater

Graduate Programs
Sam Houston State University offers 50 master’s level degree programs and 5 doctoral degrees. All graduate degree programs at Sam Houston State University have at least 30 semester hours. The University’s general graduate degree requirements and academic guidelines are available in the Graduate Catalog [3]. The Graduate Catalog details the courses required for each program.

The published standards follow the guidelines of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and standard practice for such academic programs as determined by external accrediting agencies [4] [10]. The approval process through the Texas Higher Education Coordinator Board ensures that all approved programs conform to commonly accepted standards and practices.

At the master’s level, most programs require between 30 and 36 hours. Those programs that require more than 36 hours need to justify the extra hours based on the norms of their discipline. For example, most programs requiring an internship will exceed the 36-hour norm. Additionally, accreditation requirements may also demand additional hours. For example, the master’s program in school psychology program requires 60 hours. However these requirements are consistent with national accrediting standards as dictated by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the National Association of School Psychologists [11]. Similarly, most Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs fall in the 48 to 60-semester hour range. Again this is consistent with national standards.

At the master’s level, 36 of 50 degree programs fall within the 30-36 semester hour range. The following 14 programs exceed 36 hours:

Industrial Technology
Family and Consumer Science
Criminal Justice and Criminology
Computer Science
Public Administration
Forensic Science
Clinical Psychology
Counselor Education
School Psychology

All doctoral programs require a minimum of 58 semester hours beyond the masters. The Texas Higher Education Board does not fund any doctoral program hours beyond 99 semester-credit hours unless special approval is granted. Some doctoral programs, like Clinical Psychology are granted funding exemptions because of the practicum and internship demands of the discipline and the demands of the discipline’s accrediting agencies. As part of the justification for exemption, the department must demonstrate that the requirements are consistent with educational norms of the discipline.

The five doctoral programs range from 58 to 108 semester hours beyond the masters’.

Hours Beyond Masters
Clinical Psychology
Counselor Education
Criminal Justice
Educational Leadership


Supporting Documentation
Documentation Reference
Document Title
[1] Minimum Hours, Undergraduate Degree Programs, Undergraduate Catalog, 2006-2008
[2] Minimum Hours, Undergraduate Degree Programs, Undergraduate Catalog, 2008-2010
[3] Graduate Catalog, 2007-2009
[4] Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Rules and Regulations, Chapter 5, Subchapter C, Section 5.45, Subsection 6
[5] Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Rules and Regulations, Chapter 4, Subchapter B, Section 4.28
[6] Texas Statutes Education Code, Chapter 61, Section 61.0515
[7] Core Reduction Recommendations Memo from Core Curriculum and 120-Hour Review Ad Hoc Committee to Council of Academic Deans
[8] Core Reduction Final Recommendations Memo from Provost to Academic Affairs Council
[9] Undergraduate Catalog, 2006-2008
[10] Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Rules and Regulations, Chapter 5, Subchapter C, Section 5.46(13)
[11] National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Standards - Hour Requirements

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Sam Houston State University
Huntsville, TX 77341
(936) 294-1111