Curricular Procedures and Guidelines

To locate the necessary forms and other information governing  Penn State Altoona's and Penn State University's curricular procedures, see the links shown below.

Contents of this site



Curricular Development Procedures

Penn State Altoona
Revised: Aug. 2006

Process for Program Development and Review

Proposals for new degree programs at Penn State Altoona generally emerge from the faculty in the discipline(s). As the proposal is developed, the faculty should discuss their idea with the Division Head in order to gauge the likelihood of support. The Division Head will also request a market assessment from the Director of Planning and Program Development. The market assessment should be considered as the key evidence for the viability of the proposed new program. If the proposing faculty or the Division Head believe that the assessment unfairly represents the market for the proposed new program, they can provide suggestions for additional research or data sources for the Director of Planning and Program Development to consider in the market assessment. However, the Director of Planning and Program Development is to provide an independent review of the market for the proposed program.

The first level of review for a new program will be conducted at the divisional level with either the division as a whole or its representatives in a curricular affairs committee reviewing and providing a recommendation about the proposed new program. If the program is interdisciplinary, then the relevant divisions or their curricular affairs committees will each review the proposal and make a recommendation about the program. This recommendation should be based on the five criteria discussed below, and should explicitly reference the criteria in its final recommendation. The recommendation should be described as a high priority, low priority, or a non-recommendation. Note: Recommendations that do not reference the criteria in their summary will be returned to the division for further review, and will not be accepted until the proposal is analyzed using the criteria below.

The Division Head will bring the program proposal, the market assessment, and the recommendation of the division(s) to Academic Affairs. If there multiple divisions are involved, then each divisional review should be presented to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will examine the proposal based on the four criteria noted below, and will make a recommendation of high priority, low priority, or a non-recommendation. The recommendation must reference the criteria below, and especially consider the general balance of programmatic development at the college and the directions outlined in the college's strategic plan. If the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs supports the proposal, they will suggest a likely starting date for the program based on the availability of resources, and the timing of the approval process and its impact on student recruitment.

The recommendations of the division(s) and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will be taken to the Chancellor for consideration. The Chancellor will make the final determination about whether or not to move a program proposal into the consultation and approval processes, as well as suggest a timetable for start-up. Once the Chancellor approves, the proposal can begin to make its way through the consultation and approval processes.

Criteria for Program Development

Criteria to be used in determining the recommendation for new degree programs by the division, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and the Chancellor include the quality of the proposed program, the viability of the program (can the program attract and/or recruit students and is there a market for graduates in the program ?), the feasibility of the program (do we have the resources ?), the impact on the direction of the college, and whether or not the program contributes to curricular alignment across the university.

Program Quality
The quality of the proposed new program should be of paramount importance. First, the program should be based on high standards for the field of study, and should plan to pursue specialized accreditation, where appropriate, and should develop a plan for assessing student learning. Second, the program should emphasize the use of full-time faculty and the most advanced technology and techniques employed in the field. Finally, the proposed program should include a solid foundation in general education, a thorough understanding of the history, theory, and methodology of the field, appropriate, well-grounded applied educational activities (internship, research, performance, etc.), and a clearly identified capstone experience. The capstone is required by Altoona College Faculty Senate legislation and should have a strong writing component.

The first issue is to resolve is the nature of the market for the degree program under consideration. Can the program attract and retain students ? Can it provide job opportunities for its graduates ? To answer these questions, the Director of Planning and Program Development will produce a market assessment report that will be circulated for comment to the faculty proposing the program, the appropriate division head(s), the Associate Dean, and the Chancellor.

Some measure of student interest in the degree will be gauged by local surveys, Penn State and national enrollment trends, and national surveys. Student interest is the primary element in determining the market. An ancillary issue in the determination is the availability of employment for graduates in our service area and beyond.

The second criterion to be addressed by proposals for new degree programs is the resource requirements for the program. These include faculty, staff, space requirements, as well as the on-going operational budget. The operational budget includes fees for speakers, special activities, fields trips, etc. The proposal will need to indicate the number of additional faculty and staff necessary to run the program, both at start-up and as it grows to its full size. The proposal will also need to identify how the facilities needs can be met, either through conversion of current space or the addition of new space. In either case (conversion or addition), the proposal will need to indicate the cost of these changes or additions to the college's facilities, and how these costs can be met. Faculty are strongly encouraged to consider the University Classroom Improvement Fund, outside funding sources, as well as temporary funds in determining how to meet the facilities requirements.  Based on a formula developed by the Financial Officer and the Director of Planning and Program Developments, an assessment of the program's feasibility will be conducted using the attached tables.

Impact on the College
The impact of the proposed new program on the college and its array of programs also needs to be considered. First, the proposed new program should have limited impact on enrollments in current degree programs, yet provide for continued growth in enrollment. In the case of programs that are complementary to existing programs, an assessment will be made as to how the addition of the new program(s) will impact the overall enrollment of the College. There may be circumstances in the future when new programs are added that shift students away from existing programs, yet enhance or otherwise complement the overall array of academic programs offered by the College. In these circumstances, additional care should be taken in planning the new program, including assessing the potential impact on current students, faculty, and staff.

Second, the mix of current programs needs to be considered in evaluating proposals for new degrees. Proposals for new programs should strive either to create competitive niches, or complement existing programs, or build on existing resources. Of special concern is developing an appropriate balance between the liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs, and between traditional and innovative programs. This criterion asks the reviewers of program proposals to weigh also the larger vision and direction of Penn State Altoona.

Curricular Alignment
The program should also be reviewed on how it contributes to curricular alignment within the University. Transfers of existing Penn State degree programs obviously contribute to curricular alignment. Proposals for new programs will require additional consultation across the colleges and locations which offer similar degrees. For new programs, a strong case will need to be made for how this new program is significantly different from existing degrees, and how it adds value to the array of programs offered at the University. Proposing faculty should be aware that proposals for new programs, especially those similar to existing degree programs, will face additional scrutiny at every level of review, and may be less likely to be supported.

Program Development Process

  1. Proposal Development
    Before preparing a proposal for a major, option, or minor at Penn State Altoona, program faculty should meet with their division head and the Director of Planning and Program Development. The Director of Planning and Program Development can advise faculty on requirements for proposals, as well as the associated processes. Faculty should also review: Proposing faculty are responsible for developing a preliminary proposal, which should include:
    1. Rationale for program and link to strategic plan, college mission, etc.
      Note: This is often best done last, because it draws on other elements in the program proposal, including focus on program, faculty and staff resources, etc.
    2. Program Description (Blue Book). This should include:
      • Brief description of program and list of any new courses
      • Catalog copy of program (If existing Penn State program, catalog can be found at:
      • Options and minor, if appropriate
      • Capstone experience (required by Penn State Altoona Senate)
    3. Schedules. This should include:
      • Matrix of Course Offerings for 2-4 cycle-which should indicate which are new courses and which are replacement for other offering.
      • Sample student schedule for each option (Or BA and BS)
    4. Faculty and Staff Resources. This should include:
      • Listing of current faculty with areas of teaching and research expertise
      • Identify program coordinator or professor-in-charge (minor)
      • Indicate new faculty needs with areas of expertise (link to course matrix)
      • List current staff support and indicate new needs for staff (FT, PT, and wage)
    5. Facilities Assessment. This should include:
      • Listing/analysis of current facilities
      • Indication of new facilities needed to offer program (this should be explicitly linked to course offerings as indicated by Course matrix [#3]).
      • Indicate plans for developing new resources (grants, college support, etc.)
      Proposing faculty or Division Head may request a market scan or market assessment from Director of Planning and Program Development.
  2. Divisional Review - (2 weeks)
    Division Head requests market assessment from Director of Planning and Program Development. If draft assessment or market scan prepared earlier, Division Head should request update or final version. Proposal is completed, and presented to Division or divisional curricular affairs committee by Division Head. Division or curricular affairs committee makes recommendation of high priority, low priority, or a non-recommendation to Division Head. If this is an interdisciplinary program, then each division impacted by the program should conduct a review and provide a recommendation. Division Head will work with Director of Planning and Program Development to prepare costing analysis forms, and add these to the proposal for submission to Academic Affairs.
  3. Academic Affairs Review - (2 weeks)
    Division Head(s) bring proposal and divisional recommendation to Academic Affairs. For interdisciplinary proposals, each effected division should have its recommendation presented to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. If the proposal is recommended by Academic Affairs, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will take recommendations from Academic Affairs and Division(s) to the Chancellor for determination on whether or not to move the proposal forward into the consultation and approval processes.
  4. ACUE
    Program Prospectus is filled out by Division Head and submitted to Associate Dean. Associate Dean submits to ACUE for review. If approval is granted, the proposal moves on to next steps.
  5. Consultation - (1 month)
    While program prospectus is under review by ACUE, the Director of Planning will request letters of support from Admissions, Library, Career Services, and Information Technology (Computing Center and/or Strategic Planning Committee for Information Technology).  If the prospectus is approved byACUE, the Director of Planning will prepare the proposal for consultation and approval processes, and add internal letters of consultation. The proposal will be posted on the Senate Curricular Proposal website (pdf preferred format). The Director of Planning will then send email to ACUE listserve with link to proposal for consultation. All consultative comments will be gathered into a single record. Any concerns or negative comments will be forwarded to the appropriate Division Head(s) for response, in consultation with the proposing faculty.
  6. Altoona College Faculty Senate - (1 month)
    Once the consultation period is concluded, the Director of Planning will repost updated proposal with university-wide consultation. Emails will be sent to the Curricular Affairs Committee of the Senate requesting review, and to the faculty listserve for any comments to be sent to Division Head and Curricular Affairs Committee Chair. Curricular Affairs Committee will review proposal and make recommendation to the Senate to support, support with recommendations, support with reservations, or not support.Senate will review proposal and approve or not approve proposal.
  7. Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses (VPCC) - (per Working Paper, Oct. 26, 2005)
    If proposal is supported by Chancellor, the Associate Dean will submit proposal to Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses for review and approval. Proposal should be sent to Gail Gilchrest ( The VPCC review will be based on:
    • Content Clarity
    • Rational & Campus Mission
    • Curricular Alignment & Course Duplication Issues
    • Regional Complementarity
    • Fiscal resources required to deliver the Program(in-place & new resources)
    • Market Demand & Enrollment Projection
    • Faculty Resources (in-place and new resources needed)
    • Equipment and Lab resources
    • Library resources
  8. A. University Faculty Senate - (depends on timing of meeting, usually 1 month, unless new Gen Ed courses are included)
    If proposal is for a new program in the University and is approved by the Altoona College Faculty Senate, the Director of Planning will prepare forms for signature by Division Head, Faculty Senate Rep to Curricular Affairs, and Chancellor.  25 copies of proposal and consultation record submitted to University Faculty Senate Curriculum Coordinator. Proposal posted on Curricular Blue Sheets for comment. If approved by Curricular Affairs, proposal will be sent to Provost's Office for Administrative review.
  1. B. P-3 Transfer
    If proposal is to transfer an existing program to Altoona from another college within the University, the Associate Dean will prepare a memo of agreement for transfer to be signed by the Chancellor and submitted to Dean of the College which currently houses the program.  Dean of home college submits proposal to Provost's Office for review.
  2. Administrative Review
    The Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and International Programs processes undergraduate academic program proposals and administrative authorizations. The University Provost reviews academic program proposals and administratively authorizes their implementation. This step includes:
    • consideration of the proposal supporting materials, including identification of proposed offering sites;
    • confirmation of consultations with affected academic program areas and academic support units--library, academic computing, instructional facilities;
    • costing by the Office of Budget and Resource Analysis (for new majors/options/minors);
    • approval by the Executive Vice President and Provost; and
    • review by the Board of Trustees.
    Note: Administratively authorized new programs or changes in names of programs are to be implemented only after review by the Board of Trustees.

    Typically, a new program or transfer proposal takes 6 months to be approved, after Divisional approval. New programs should be approved by Oct.-Nov. of the year before it is to start in order to allow for recruitment of junior class, and for promotion through admissions for an incoming freshmen class.

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Expedited Review Procedures

An Expedited Review can be used for any proposal of MINOR revisions to an existing course, degree program, or minor. Examples include changes to a course name, change in the prerequisites for a course, and the substitution of a comparable course for another course to meet program requirements.  [Note: All certificate programs can receive an Expedited Review.]

The process for an Expedited Review is as follows:

  1. Submit the proposal and follow consultation process as described in Detailed Procedures.
  2. The Director of Planning will post the proposal to the Faculty Senate web site and ask for comments to be sent to the Chair of Curricular Affairs within one week.
  3. Rather than requiring a full vote of the Faculty Senate, the proposal can be approved by the Curricular Affairs Committee (upon the vote of at least five members), which will report on its approval to the Senate.

Following is the Penn State University's definition of an EXPEDITED REVIEW


  • Limited changes in name or number (without substantive change in course content)
  • Prerequisite changes affecting only courses within a department
  • Updated course descriptions of a limited nature
  • New 400-level courses, which do not affect courses in other majors
  • Course drops affecting only majors in the department


  • Changes in requirements for a major in response to a name and/or number change with no substantive content change.
  • Changes in requirements for a major in response to another curricular change where there is some actual change in content. (Example: A program changes the content of an introductory course, so all other majors requiring the content of the old course may have to reevaluate the prerequisites.)
  • Addition or subtraction of a course to a selections list for a major due to changes previously approved. These proposals should include a letter of consultation from the relevant department.

It is the responsibility of the Curricular Affairs Committee to determine, by a majority vote, whether the proposed change(s) is sufficiently minor to justify an expedited review; if not, the Curricular Affairs Committee will present the proposed change(s) for full Senate review and approval.

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Capstone Requirement

Every degree offered by the Penn State Altoona College requires a Capstone experience.  This experience would take place during the senior year - preferably the spring semester. This experience should provide:

  1. a synthesis of the learning which has been delivered in the program;
  2. a significant writing component;
  3. the student with an opportunity to place himself/herself in a scholarly or professional context;
  4. for a transition to post graduation goals, be these academic or vocational;
  5. a class size small enough to ensure significant individual interaction between student and professor.

The exact form of this experience and the number of credits assigned to it would be determined by the unit designing the degree.  Thus directed internships, projects courses, student teaching experiences, clinical experiences, and traditional classes would be potentially acceptable means of delivering the Capstone experience.  The program approval process will allow the Altoona Curricular Affairs Committee to ensure that any proposed experience would meet the goals stated above and that some uniformity across programs occurs in terms of expectations of, and demands upon, the students.

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Curricular Affairs Committee Actions

Once a proposal has been posted on Penn State Altoona's Faculty Senate website for a minimum of 10 working days and at least 10 working days have passed since faculty notification via the faculty listserv, the Curricular Affairs Commitee will meet to review the proposal and will either A) approve it; or B) reject it; or C) send it back to the Director of Planning and/or the faculty authors with a request for additional information.

If A): The Chair of Curricular Affairs will notify the Penn State Altoona Faculty Senate Chair and the Penn State Altoona Director of Planning that the Committee has approved the proposal.  The Director of Planning will notify the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and the appropriate division head.  The Chair will request that the Faculty Senate Chair place the proposal on the agenda for the next Penn State Altoona Faculty Senate meeting.  At the Senate meeting, the Committe Chair will report the Committee's approval and request a call for a vote.

If B): The Committee Chair will notify the Director of Planning and the Faculty Senate Chair of the reasons the proposal was rejected.

If C): The Committee Chair will contact the Director of Planning and/or the faculty authors of the proposal and request the additional information needed. The Committee will then meet again to consider the proposal.

[NOTE: The Curricular Affairs Committee reserves the right to request any additional information it considers necessary to review a proposal.]

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Helpful Points to Keep in Mind

What is provided here are just a few helpful points to keep in mind when putting together a proposal.

  • Majors are required to have at least 15 credits of courses at the 400-level.
  • Upper-level courses should have at least one prerequisite.

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