General Education

At the April 28, 2015, plenary meeting, the University Faculty Senate ratified a legislative report entitled “Revision to General Education Curriculum,” which was brought forward by the General Education Planning and Oversight Task Force. The Faculty Senate approved six recommendations pertaining to the General Education Curriculum. The Senate Report and curriculum changes are presented at What Is General Education?. On March 15, 2016, the Faculty Senate approved an implementation plan for the new integrative studies requirement in General Education, which will impact first-year students beginning summer and fall 2018. Until the revised General Education curriculum is implemented, all baccalaureate degree programs include the General Education requirements described below.

In the Undergraduate Degree Programs Bulletin, What Is General Education? describes the goals of General Education, details the components, and provides descriptions of the requirements. This section also presents information on the First-Year Engagement Program and requirements for United States Cultures, International Cultures, and Writing Across the Curriculum. Students can use a General Education Worksheet to work on plans and track their progress toward fulfilling these requirements.

In LionPATH, use Search for Classes (tutorial: Searching for Classes) to find General Education courses offered in a semester or session at a specified campus and location. Select Additional Search Criteria, choose General Education as the Course Attribute, and select an area of General Education as the Course Attribute Value (along with other desired criteria).

In Schedule Builder (tutorials: Accessing Schedule Builder and Overview of Schedule Builder), advisers and students can find General Education courses by choosing Add Course, then Search by Course Attribute, and then an area of General Education as the Attribute. It is possible to search for multiple attributes and to further refine the search with Section Attributes as shown below:

Example of course search using multiple attributes


General Education requirements.
Area Credits (45 total) Code
Skills (15 Credits)
Writing/Speaking 9 (GWS)
Quantification* 6 (GQ)
Knowledge Domains (30 credits)
Health and Physical Activity 3 (GHA)
Natural Sciences 9 (GN)
Arts 6 (GA)
Humanities 6 (GH)
Social & Behavioral Sciences 6 (GS)

*No more than 3 credits may be taken in computer science (CMPSC/CSE) or symbolic logic (PHIL) to fulfill the GQ requirement.

Satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading may not be used for courses taken to satisfy General Education.

Alternatives for Earning Health and Physical Activity Credit

Alternatives may exist for earning credit in health and physical activity (GHA). Veterans, reservists, and national guardsmen who are degree candidates and who have completed basic training may request an evaluation of their training for the awarding of GHA credits. Based on the American Council on Education's Transfer Guide, Undergraduate Admissions determines whether credits have been earned. Credits earned are processed as transfer credits.

At campuses other than University Park, a student may be eligible to receive credit for participation in a varsity sport. Student-athletes at other campuses should ask their team coaches about earning GHA credits for their experiences.

Selecting Courses

General Education courses are meant to help students explore and integrate information beyond the specific focus of their majors. Therefore, in most cases students may not meet the General Education requirements by taking courses in the department or program identical to that of their major. For example, a student majoring in history may not satisfy General Education requirements with history courses. This policy applies to combined section classes as well. For example, a student majoring in History may not use CAMS 5 to fulfill General Education Humanities (GH) because CAMS 5 is a combined section class with HIST 5.

However, requirements for certain majors include General Education courses. They are identified in the section describing each major in the Undergraduate Degree Programs Bulletin. For example, for the Environmental Resource Management major, the bulletin lists the following:

(27 of these 45 credits are included in the REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MAJOR)
(See description of General Education in this bulletin.)

(This includes 27 credits of General Education courses: 9 credits of GN courses; 6 credits of GQ courses; 6 credits of GS courses; 9 credits of GWS courses.)

If a student in this major selected the specified courses in GWS, GQ, GN, and GS, then part of his/her General Education requirements and major requirements would be satisfied. When a course is used to satisfy more than one requirement, the credits in the course are counted only once toward graduation.

When selecting General Education courses, students may want to develop a theme, meet requirements for a minor or a concurrent major, or satisfy a prerequisite for an education abroad program.

Flexibility in General Education

Ideally students should develop their plans to use flexibility in General Education with an adviser. However, prior approval is not required.

Substitution of Higher Level Courses

With the approval of the student's adviser and appropriate dean's representative, a student may substitute 200- to 499-level courses for courses on the General Education list if they are in the same area of General Education. For example, a student might take PHIL 432, substituting it for a lower-level General Education humanities (GH) course.

Developing a Sequence (3-6-9)

In consultation with an adviser and the student's appropriate dean's representative, a sequence of 9 credits may be developed in the arts, humanities, or social and behavioral sciences by substituting 3 credits from one of the other two areas. For example, a student might develop a 9-credit sequence of courses in social sciences (GS) with SOC 1 (GS), PSYCH 100 (GS), and HDFS 249 (GS) and deduct 3 credits from arts (GA). In other words, this student's 3 credits in GA, 6 credits in humanities (GH), and 9 credits in GS would fulfill requirements in these areas.

World Language Substitution

With the permission of his/her adviser and the appropriate dean's representative, a baccalaureate degree candidate may make one of the following world language substitutions:

  1. If the student is enrolled in a major that does not require the 12th-credit level of proficiency in a world language, he/she may substitute 3 credits in a world language at the 12th-credit level (or higher) for 3 credits in any of the categories of General Education (with the exception of GHA, health and physical activity). For example, a student majoring in nursing might substitute SPAN 3 for 3 credits in the arts (GA).
  2. If the student is enrolled in a major that does require the 12th-credit level of proficiency in a world language, he/she may substitute 3 credits in a world language beyond the requirement of his/her degree program for 3 credits in any of the categories of General Education (with the exception of GHA, health and physical activity). For example, a student majoring in philosophy might substitute GER 201 for 3 credits in social science (GS).

If a student has demonstrated proficiency in one world language and elects to study another world language, he/she can use the level of the language as a world language substitution. For example, an international student from China who elects to study French can use FR 3 for 3 credits in humanities (GH).

Students may not eliminate any General Education area by using world language substitution and/or the option to develop a three-course sequence in arts, humanities, or social sciences (described above).

After a student completes a course that could take advantage of any of the General Education provisions above, the student submits a request for the substitution in his/her department or college. When approved, the student's degree audit will show that the substitution has been made.

A student who wants to take advantage of flexibility in General Education should talk to his/her academic adviser or contact the appropriate Academic Advising Center.

Last Update: May 2016

Reference(s): University Faculty Senate Policies and Rules for Undergraduate Students, Appendix A.1

University Faculty Senate Guide to Curricular Procedures, Section One: Baccalaureate Degree Curriculum G: General Education