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Required High School Curriculum Policy

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In November 2012, the USG formed a Policy Review Task Force to review system-level policies

through the lens of college completion and recommend policy updates, changes and additions. The task force met through March 2013 and produced a policy review recommendations report.   A recommendation in the report states that the USG should clarify and communicate the purpose of the USG Required High School Curriculum (RHSC) policy concerning deficiencies and seek approval avenues for institutional flexibility for addressing these deficiencies in a small number of cases.

The task force was charged with developing an agenda for policy change and recommending next steps, rather than crafting specific changes to policy. To determine the precise policy and procedural changes necessary, the USG formed the RHSC Deficiency policy working group. The aim of the group was not to change the RHSC but to ensure that students can satisfy any RHSC deficiencies they may have in a manner that does not impede progression and completion. The working group conducted an in-depth analysis of the current RHSC policy and associated procedures from this perspective.

The working group met February 2014 through April 2014.



The USG defines the Required High School Curriculum (RHSC) in the Academic and Student Affairs Handbook:

“Students are expected to meet the USG’s RHSC requirements. Students gradu- ating from high school in 2012 must present 17 specified RHSC units of credit. Students graduating from high school prior to 2012 must present 16 RHSC units.

  • 4 units of mathematics
  • 4 units of English
  • 3 units of science (Students who graduate in 2012 or later must have 4 units.)
  • 3 units of social science, including one course focusing on world studies.
  • 2 units in the same foreign language (2 units of American Sign Language may be used to satisfy this requirement.)

The Office of Student Affairs maintains a complete list of courses (Staying the Course) that can be used to satisfy the RHSC requirements.”

Students applying to research, regional and state universities at the USG have to meet these requirements. Those applying to state colleges can be considered for Limited Admissions if they have not met these requirements.

Those who have not met these requirements and are admitted to a USG institution as Limited Ad- missions, must satisfy these deficiencies by subject area. Students can use college credit courses to address deficiencies in science, social science and foreign language but the courses will not count towards the student’s degree program.

In Fall 2011, 6.7 percent or 2,747 USG students had at least one RHSC deficiency in English, math, science, social science and/or foreign language.[1]


Students should be expected to meet the RHSC requirements as part of their admission to a USG institution. By completing the curriculum, the hope is that these students will be prepared to begin collegiate coursework. College readiness is a key focus area of Complete College Georgia (CCG), a statewide initiative to increase the number of Georgia residents with postsecondary credentials.

While we want policies in place that ensure students are prepared, there should also be flexibility for cases in which circumstances prohibit qualified students from meeting these requirements.

Under current procedure, students can address their RHSC deficiencies two ways. Those with deficiencies in English or mathematics must take the COMPASS or a comparable placement examination. The student satisfies the deficiency by either exempting Learning Support or by successfully completing the Learning Support course. Those with a deficiency in science, social science and/or foreign language can satisfy the deficiency with collegiate coursework.[2] Any college credit course- work used to satisfy a RHSC deficiency does not count towards the degree program.

Failure to allow these credits to count towards a degree program could potentially lengthen the amount of time it takes for a student to complete their degree requirements and graduate. This is important as CCG also focuses on shortening the amount of time it takes for a student to earn a degree.  Strategies for this include awarding credit for prior learning, improving transfer and articulation agreements and encouraging students to enroll in at least 15 credits hours per semester for on-time completion. The longer it takes for a student to complete a degree, the more often life circumstances can arise that diminish the likelihood of the student finishing.[3]   With the understanding that the more barriers a student faces, the longer it will take that student to graduate, the aim is to ensure that those who need to satisfy a RHSC deficiency can do so effectively and efficiently.

The current policies and procedures are also limited in that they do not explicitly address how out-of-state students, whose home state may have a different required high school curriculum, can address these deficiencies. Outstanding out-of-state students, who are likely to be successful but who are from a state with different requirements, may face additional barriers to applying and being accepted to a USG institution.


The RHSC Deficiency policy working group reviewed policies and procedures concerning the methods through which a student can address a RHSC deficiency. The group focused on:

  • Identifying and eliminating unintentional barriers to college completion
  • Refining areas of USG policy and procedure in need of clarification
  • Providing institutional flexibility for addressing RHSC deficiencies


To facilitate the review process, we developed an analytical framework for analyzing policy using selected criteria. The purpose of the framework is to standardize the review process and to ensure transparency.

The group adopted a four-step process, which included:

  • Identifying and defining the underlying issues
  • Determining the options for addressing each of the identified issues
  • Assessing those options using the developed criteria
  • Deciding which options are ideal and drafting recommendations

The group identified a number of issues concerning how students can address RHSC deficiencies. The issues discussed included:

Consideration of out-of-state students: Students who have completed the required high school coursework in their home state but, due to differences in high school requirements, may have a deficiency.

Waivers: Providing waivers to students who come from other states and those students who have taken terminal courses in a subject area.

Comparisons between students with deficiencies and dual enrollment high school students: High school students who are dually enrolled in high school and at a USG institution receive high school and collegiate credit. Yet, under current procedure, USG students who have a RHSC deficiency and successfully complete a collegiate course will only satisfy the deficiency and not receive credit towards their degree.

Role of standardized tests as a means for students to demonstrate competency: The use of standardized tests to assess a student’s knowledge as opposed to focusing solely on courses as a method for demonstrating knowledge.

Advisement: Ensure that high school guidance counselors are aware of the USG RHSC and can advise students on which courses are necessary for admission to a USG institution.

The group used the following criteria to assess the issues:

  • Impact on completion
  • Distribution and equity
  • Implementation feasibility
  • Implications and risk

From the discussion, it was clear that issues could be categorized into two policy levers. A student should be able to address RHSC deficiencies:

  • Prior to enrollment
  • Waivers for out-of-state students
  • Provide waivers for terminal courses
  • Use of standardized tests
  • Students take coursework prior to matriculation that addresses the deficiency (i.e., over the summer)

After enrollment

  • Students with deficiencies earn dual credit for collegiate courses (address the deficiency and receive credit towards their degree program)
  • Students should successfully satisfy deficiencies within the first 30 credit hours


Maintaining the dual lever approach, the group developed the following recommendations.


Recommendation One: Provide an exemption to out-of-state students who can demonstrate competency in the deficient area(s).

Recommendation Two: Allow students to demonstrate subject matter proficiency through the following standardized tests:

  • SAT and ACT
  • SAT II Subject Tests
  • CLEP and DSST
  • Board of Regents approved examinations

Recommendation Three: Allow students to demonstrate subject matter proficiency through approved coursework and completion of terminal courses.


Recommendation Four: Students who successfully complete collegiate courses addressing their deficiencies within the first 30 credit hours should be considered as having satisfied the deficiency. These courses should address both the deficiency and count towards a student’s degree program.


In addition to these recommendations, the group discussed related issues that did not necessarily call for a policy or procedural change but are still critical for the successful implementation of revised policy and procedures.  The group recognizes the need for improved communication with high school guidance counselors. High school students may not be aware of which courses are needed to meet USG RHSC requirements. Therefore, it is critical that guidance counselors are well informed about these requirements and can relay this information to students.


[1] The University System of Georgia Research and Policy Analysis

[2] See Academic and Student Affairs handbook procedure 3.2.6 Addressing RHSC Deficiencies