Virginia Highlands Community College   Faculty & Staff Manual
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Section 5

Section 1 - Introduction

Section 2 - Organization & Responsibility

Section 3 - Personnel

Section 4 - Administrative Rules and Regulations

Section 5 - Educational Programs

Section 6 - Student Development Services

Section 7 - Miscellaneous Information

5.2 Curricula

5.2 Contents

5.2.0 Curricular Design for Degrees

The State Board establishes minimum standards and authorizes community colleges to award appropriate associate degrees, diplomas, certificates, and career studies certificates, to individuals who satisfactorily complete course and program requirements. Curricular Design page top

The curricular design for degree programs throughout the VCCS consolidates all present and currently anticipated curricula into five degrees. VHCC adheres to this model with degrees organized into College Transfer and Career/Technical programs as outlined below:

College Transfer Education

Associate of Arts (AA)
Associate of Science (AS)
Associate of Arts and Sciences (AA&S)

Career/Technical Education

Associate of Applied Arts (AAA)
Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

  • Agricultural & Natural Resources Technology
  • Arts & Design Technology
  • Business Technology
  • Engineering & Industrial Technology
  • Health Technology
  • Public Service Technology

Degrees include one or more "Majors," some of which may be further divided into appropriate "Specializations." The minimum requirements for associate degrees are outlined in Table 5-1A and Table 5-1B. Definitions of Degree Programs, Majors, and Specializations are as follows:

Degree Program: A degree program is a broadly structured curriculum leading to the award of an associate's degree; is identified by a six-digit CIP code used for reporting purposes to external agencies; and is listed on the student's diploma.

Major: A major is a grouping of 100- and 200-level courses that define a discipline or interdisciplinary specialty; listed under a common CIP code; and identified by a VCCS curriculum code.  All curricula under a CIP code share a common core of courses, defined at 25% of total credits required for the degree, excluding the general education core.

Specialization: A specialization is an area of concentration within an approved major, varying from the parent major by 9-15 credit hours. General Education page top

General education is that portion of the collegiate experience that addresses the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values characteristic of educated persons.  It is unbounded by disciplines and honors the connections among bodies of knowledge.  VCCS degree graduates will demonstrate competency in the following general education areas:

  • Communication
  • Critical Thinking
  • Cultural and Social Understanding
  • Information Literacy
  • Personal Development
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Scientific Reasoning

The associate degree programs within the Virginia Community College System support a collegiate experience that focuses on the above definition and attendant areas.  The general education outcomes shall be included in the catalog of each college. Computer Competency Requirements

Each college must ensure that students are able to demonstrate college entry-level computer skills necessary for academic success and discipline-specific skills necessary for successful transfer or employment.

5.2.1 Diploma and Certificate Programs

VHCC may offer diploma, certificate and career studies certificate programs. Diploma and certificate curricula differ from associate degree curricula in that they are presented at a different educational level. Definitions of diploma, certificate, and career studies certificate programs are as follows:

Diploma Program: A diploma program is defined as a two-year curriculum of study that consists of a minimum of 60 and a maximum of 72 semester hours with an emphasis in a career/technical area. Exceptions to credit hour limits must be justified on the basis of documented business and industry requirements or standards.  Diploma curricula may include any appropriate courses numbered 10-299. A minimum of fifteen percent (15%) of a diploma’s credit hour requirement shall be in general education. The general education requirements must include one (1) three (3) credit hour English class. Existing programs (as of 2009) that exceed the 72 semester hour maximum are grandfathered in at their current length.

Certificate Program: A certificate program is defined as a curriculum of study less than two years in length that consists of a minimum of 30 and a maximum of 59 semester credit hours. Certificate curricula may include any appropriate courses numbered 10-299. A minimum of fifteen percent (15%) of a certificate’s credit hour requirement shall be in general education. The general education requirements must include one (1) three (3) credit hour English class.

Career Studies Certificate Program: A career studies certificate program is a program of study of not less than 9 nor more than 29 semester credit hours which may include courses numbered l0 299. Career studies certificate programs are not required to include general education.

Table 5.2 from VCCS Policy Manual

5.2.2 Graduation Requirements page top

VHCC ensures that students who receive associate degrees, diplomas, certificates or career studies certificates have completed the established graduation requirements.

To be eligible for graduation with an associate degree, diploma, certificate, or career studies certificate, students must:

  • Fulfill all of the course and credit hour requirements of the curriculum with at least 25% of credit semester hours acquired at the college;
  • Be certified by an appropriate college official for graduation;
  • Earn a grade point average of at least 2.0 in all studies attempted which are applicable toward graduation in their curricula;
  • Demonstrate computer competency if the program requires 45 or more credit hours;
  • Meet any other competency requirements established by the College;
  • File an application for graduation; and
  • Resolve all financial obligations to the College and return all library and College materials. Credits Applicable to Second Degree, Diploma, or Certificate

In awarding students an additional degree, diploma, certificate, or career studies certificate, the College grants credit for all completed applicable courses which are requirements of the additional degree, diploma, certificate, or career studies certificate. However, the awards must differ from one another by at least 25% of the credits.

5.2.3 Graduation Honors page top

Students who have fulfilled the requirements of degree, diploma, or certificate programs (with the exception of career studies certificates), are eligible for graduation honors.

Appropriate honors based upon scholastic achievements are recorded on the student's permanent record as listed below:


Minimum Cumulative
Grade Point Average


Cum laude (with honor)
3.5 Magma cum laude (with high honor)
3.8 Summa cum laude ( with highest honor)

5.2.4 Signatures on Awards

The signatures of the Chancellor of the VCCS, the President of the College, the Chair of the State Board, and the Chair of the College Board appear on the degrees, diplomas, certificates, and career studies certificates awarded to students.

5.2.5 Honorary Degrees page top

The State Board authorizes the College to award honorary associate degrees in humane letters to individuals who have contributed significantly to VHCC or the VCCS.  Individuals are not eligible for this award if they are currently employed by the college, serving on the local college Foundation Board, serving on the local College Board, or serving on the State Board for Community Colleges at any time between the date of the local College Board approval and the actual receipt of this award.  A separation from such employment or service of at least one month is a prerequisite for eligibility.  Recommendations for such honorary degrees shall be made to the Chancellor and to the State Board and approval granted by the Chancellor and State Board prior to the award being made. The College Board is charged with making recommendations for honorary degrees through its Distinguished Service Award Committee.

5.2.6 Posthumous Degrees page top

The College has approved the following guidelines for awarding Posthumous Degrees

  1. The recommendation should come from the faculty to the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services who will consult with the Academic Deans. Factors to be considered include: current enrollment at the college, progress toward completion of degree (e.g. 75% completed), good academic standing, good character, support and approval of family
  2. Exceptions or other recommendations could be made by the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services.
  3. The actual presentation of the degree should be left to the discretion of the family. The degree could be presented to a family member at graduation or mailed.

5.2.7 Reissuance of Diplomas

Diplomas will be reissued upon the graduate’s request provided the graduate does not have any outstanding debt to the college, in which case, no diplomas will be re-issued until the debt is fully satisfied. However, if a bankruptcy court has issued an automatic stay preventing the collection of pre-bankruptcy petition debts at that time, or has discharged a student loan that the graduate had, then the outstanding debt will not be used as a basis for denying the request for a diploma reissuance. (In case of bankruptcy, the College will consult with System counsel). The Admissions Office should be contacted to request reissuance of a diploma.