GS Eliminating B.S. Option

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School of General Studies just announced that starting this term, they will only be offering Bachelor of Arts degrees. In an email to GS students, Dean Peter Awn described the rationale of the change as having to do with GS becoming “a fully integrated liberal arts college.”

The change seems likely because of the amount of work done in liberal arts areas due to the rigorous Core requirements, which are almost the same as CC’s; one of the factors affecting the change is NY Department of Education’s concern because of NY regulations for degree conferral (basically again, the amount of work in liberal arts).¬†The GS degree page has already been updated with the change, but check out the¬†full list of GS majors¬†in which you can now only get a B.A.

 The full email:

Dear Students,

After much thought and consideration, the School of General Studies will offer only the Bachelor of Arts degree starting with the May 2014 graduating class.

At this point in our history, the academic program of GS is fully and completely integrated with that of Columbia College, and the degree GS awards should reflect that evolution. The Bachelor of Science degree has become a vestige of a time when GS was not fully a liberal arts college of the University.

The history of GS is one of dynamic and positive evolution.  To understand our origins, one must go back to the turn of the 20thcentury, when President Nicholas Murray Butler established the University Extension Program to engage the New York City community, especially working men and women.  In 1921, the Trustees agreed to authorize the granting of the B.S. degree through University Extension.

A B.S. degree presumes that the academic program for which the degree is awarded is comprised predominantly of non-liberal arts courses.  In this early period, it was common for University Extension students to pursue mainly pre-professional coursework in accounting, business, stenography, and the like, in addition to some coursework in the liberal arts.  The B.S. degree was, therefore, the appropriate degree to award.

With the formal establishment of the School of General Studies in 1947, however, the academic program began to evolve at a rapid pace.  The increasing emphasis on the liberal arts at GS began to mirror more and more the academic program at Columbia College, where only the B.A. is awarded, regardless of major.  In 1968, the Trustees agreed to allow GS to grant the B.A. degree, in recognition of the changes that had already occurred in the GS academic program.

It is important to note as well, that the New York State Department of Education has raised serious concerns about our granting the B.S. degree.

In order to highlight the reality that GS is now a fully integrated liberal arts college, GS will no longer award the B.S. degree, but only the B.A. degree, thus conforming to what is already the reality at Columbia College and Barnard College.

Once again, the new policy will be in effect beginning with the May 2014 graduates.

Please contact your academic advisor with any questions or concerns.

Best wishes,

Professor Peter J. Awn

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  1. GS BS Feb '14

    Damn that sucks. Though I think Awn is kind of off the mark on this point: "A B.S. degree presumes that the academic program for which the degree is awarded is comprised predominantly of non-liberal arts courses." My biochemistry degree was somewhere between 70 and 80 credits. The total number of credits for the degree is 124. Predominantly means mostly. If over half of your courses are sciences, I'd say that's predominantly.

    • academia nerd  

      @GS BS Feb '14: I think you're misunderstanding what "liberal arts" means. It does not mean humanities. It does not mean social "science". It does not mean natural science. Liberal arts means academic as distinct from professional, as Dean Awn's email reflects. To my knowledge, with the possible exception of the Barnard Education Program, all courses offered at Columbia University‚ÄĒespecially at the undergraduate level‚ÄĒare liberal arts courses. That said, the term liberal arts is horrendously misused colloquially, and if you do a quick internet search, you will find sources that contradict me. These sources are simply wrong.

  2. Wouldn't it be nice  

    if they had told people that before they spent tens of thousands of dollars on tuition, rather than in their last semester at the school?

  3. Anonymous  

    Anyone know which majors this actually affects? I know most sciences were BA already...

  4. Anonymous  

    That's what the CS dept says, but you're right that some students online say BS CS GS.

  5. Let me say that this is...

    complete BS!

  6. curious

    why does it actually matter? Is it not enough that you're graduating with an undergraduate degree from Columbia University? I'm a CC math major, and during the employment process no one batted an eye at my BA, even though most of the people in my field have a BS in math.

    Not trying to be combative, but I'm just genuinely curious.

    • Alum

      Rightly or wrongly, there are people, businesses, government agencies, etc. who presume that a B.A. degree in a technical field involved fewer technical requirements than a B.S. degree.

  7. GS Student  

    Don't worry, there will always be plenty of BS for GSers to deal with!

  8. Anon  

    Do GS students still qualify for the combined plan with SEAS?

  9. GS'14  

    If it's not too much to ask, can you to magically change my Mickey Mouse degree to econ while you're at it?

  10. Anonymous

    That is correct. A BA degree is generally considered a " higher" degree. A
    "liberal arts" degree means a more academic scholarly thinking degree. It has nothing to do with the connotation of the humanities at all. It is liberal in the sense of vast, and arts in the sense of scholarly. The sciences are liberal arts. A BS degree connotes a more technical and narrower degree as in learning a trade or profession for the sole purpose of a job as opposed to going to school to be "educated" and scholarly to gain knowledge.

    • Anonymous

      Chapter I of Title 8 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York
      Section 3.47. Requirements for Earned Degrees and Section 3.50. Registered Degrees

      Undergraduate degrees shall be distinguished, as follows, by the minimum amount of liberal arts content required for each degree.

      Bachelor of Arts (A.B. or B.A.) -- Three-quarters of the work for the degree shall be in the liberal arts and sciences and one-quarter specialized study.

      Bachelor of Science (B.S.) -- One-half of the work for the degree shall be in the liberal arts and sciences and one-half specialized study.

      The required liberal arts core shall not be directed toward specialized study or specific occupational or professional objectives.

  11. CC '14  

    are we talking about GS?

  12. but...  

    seas offers a be, not a bs.

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