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Brief History of Texas Core Curriculum

Texas Legislation

In 1987, the 70th Texas Legislature passed House Bill (HB) 2183, which established the first core curriculum legislation with a general intent to ensure quality in higher education. The legislation provided for the adoption and evaluation of general education core curricula by Texas public colleges and universities.

Since 1987, every student who received a baccalaureate degree from a Texas public institution of higher education, regardless of the student's academic discipline or major has been required to complete the state's general education core curriculum. The Texas Core Curriculum (TCC) is defined by the Texas Education Code (TEC) Section 61.821 as

... the curriculum in liberal arts, humanities, and sciences and political, social, and cultural history that all undergraduate students of an institution of higher education are required to complete before receiving an academic undergraduate degree.

Senate Bill (SB) 148, passed by the 75th Texas Legislature in January 1997, repealed all earlier legislation concerning either lower-division transfer or core curriculum and sought to resolve concerns regarding the transfer of lower-division course credit among Texas public colleges and universities, while maintaining the core curriculum as one of the fundamental components of a high-quality undergraduate educational experience. More recent sessions of the Texas Legislature have fine-tuned the existing laws regarding core curriculum, but the essentials of the statutes have not changed since 1997.

The 1999 document Core Curriculum: Assumptions and Defining Characteristics describes the elements of the core curriculum and related exemplary educational objectives that were in use up to academic year 2014 and includes a copy of Coordinating Board rules prior to October 2011.  

The current statute, Texas Education Code (TEC) Chapter 61, Subchapter S, Sections 61.821-61.832, continues the state-level focus on excellence in undergraduate education, while facilitating the transfer of lower-division course credit among public colleges, universities and health science centers throughout the state.

One of the most important provisions of the core curriculum is that it allows students who successfully complete a 42 semester credit hour (SCH) core curriculum at one institution to transfer the entire set of completed courses to another Texas higher education institution without having to repeat any core courses. Students who transfer without completing the entire 42-SCH core curriculum also receive credit for each of the core courses they successfully complete. Although the courses included in the core curriculum may vary by institution, every Texas higher education institution's core curriculum must include the following foundational component areas and semester credit hours:

  • Communication (6 SCH)
  • Mathematics (3 SCH)
  • Life and Physical Sciences (6 SCH)
  • Language, Philosophy and Culture (3 SCH)
  • Creative Arts (3 SCH)
  • American History (6 SCH)
  • Government/Political Science (6 SCH)
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences (6 SCH)
  • The Component Area Option (6 SCH)

The government/political science requirement was first adopted by the Texas Legislature in 1929, through TEC Section 51.301. The American history requirement was first adopted by the Texas Legislature in 1955, through TEC Section 51.302.

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Rules

The Coordinating Board was required by law to adopt rules that include "a statement of the content, component areas, and objectives of the core curriculum" - a framework for a consistent statewide curriculum.

Each institution selects the specific courses it will offer to fulfill that framework in a way that takes into account the individual role and mission of the college, university, or health science center. The TCC implementation at each institution must receive approval from the Coordinating Board and institutions must evaluate the effectiveness of their TCC at regular intervals.

The Coordinating Board relied on advice and recommendations from faculty and administrators at Texas public colleges and universities regarding the content, component areas, and objectives of the TCC. Two advisory committees were convened, one between 1987 and 1989, and the next between 1997 and 1999, and each committee made recommendations to the Commissioner of Higher Education and the Coordinating Board.

The Coordinating Board revised its rules for the Texas Core Curriculum (TCC) at its regular quarterly meeting of the Board on October 27, 2011. Implementation of the revised rules began with the fall 2014 semester. The Coordinating Board based its revisions on recommendations by its Undergraduate Education Advisory Committee (UEAC):

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