In a previous column, I delved into the world of community college compliance and the various mandates of state, regional and federal agencies. This month, I will build upon that theme by introducing readers to our academic instructional bible and will explain the important role it serves for colleges across Texas. This catalog of academic courses is known as the Lower Division Academic Course Guide Manual and is commonly referred to as the ACGM.
In the simplest of terms, the ACGM is an inventory of courses for all community, state and technical colleges in Texas that have been approved and qualify for state funding. This is important because all state institutions receive funding based in part on their course offerings and enrollment. If a college offers a course that is not approved, it likely will not receive state funding for that course. The ACGM Advisory Committee provides oversight of this course inventory and has equal representation from public two-year colleges and public universities and meets at least annually to make recommendations to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The ACGM is designed to be a dynamic document with courses periodically being added, deleted or modified.
The advisory committee ensures the course offerings are relevant and provide the necessary rigor. This standardized listing of course offerings is extremely important because it helps maintain a continuity in course offerings between different colleges and universities and ensures the transfer of courses between these institutions. It is critical that a student taking a class at CBC has the same educational experience as a student taking the same class at any other institution of higher education. This concept also applies to the career and technical area that oversees fields such as welding, nursing, dental hygiene and cosmetology. For this area of instruction there is the Workforce Education Course Manual (WECM) that essentially serves the same purpose as the ACGM. A student learning a trade must know the foundational skill set of their targeted occupation, regardless of where they go to school.
Course inventories are just one tool used in preparing a student for a successful academic or workforce experience. These inventories list and define the courses, but it is up to the institution to put them in a coherent, relevant sequence that produces an optimal educational experience. Just like chords on a guitar, a proper sequence will produce a beautiful melody, whereas the wrong sequence is just so much noise. At CBC we like the sound of success, and next time I will focus on the importance of a well-orchestrated degree plan.