Degree Program Rationale Policy

Degree Program Rationale Policy


Academic Affairs


Provost, Academic Affairs





Effective Date:


Implementation History:

Approved by the college Senate 5/19/2006. Effective July 1, 2006. Replaces section 109 in Resources and Criteria. Delete section 1008 (redundant with section 109) and delete reference to section 1008 in section 907.


Rationale, Degree Program Rationale

Background Information:


The rationale essay is the student’s explanation of the purposes, design and significance of her/his individual degree plan (from Policy statements, below). This policy outlines the expected components and outcomes of the rationale essay.



Degree Program Rationale

The rationale essay is the student’s explanation of the purposes, design and significance of her/his individual degree plan. It is likely that most students will develop their rationale early in their degree studies. Therefore, the rationale should be perceived as a planning (or prospective) document. In the rationale, each student:

  • outlines her/his own educational and professional experience, goals and learning needs
  • discusses how the proposed degree plan reflects her/his own background and purposes
  • discusses how the degree plan reflects the educational expectations of the university (i.e., SUNY general educational requirements, level and breadth of learning and integration and progression of learning)
  • discusses how the student’s learning reflects, or may depart from, the Empire State University area of study and concentration guidelines for the degree
  • reflects the student’s awareness of external professional expectations, where applicable.

The rationale essay accompanies and explains the student’s individual degree plan and is a key result of the required study in educational planning. Therefore, the essay is an important piece of writing in which the student should be able to take pride. Although not included in official transcripts from the university, the rationale is a part of the student’s permanent academic record.

  • This means that the final draft that accompanies the student’s portfolio should meet college-level writing expectations in terms of substance, presentation and academic integrity.
  • Since every component included in the degree plan represents the student’s own choice from among a number of possible studies, the rationale should be individualized.

The rationale essay should reflect the work the student did to meet the learning objectives in the educational planning study. The rationale is not an autobiography, nor is it a listing of degree components or courses. The student’s discussion of the degree design may vary in length depending on the complexity of the degree program. The student may submit one rationale for an associate and a bachelor’s degree program designed at the same time as long as the essay discusses both degrees. For students submitting two bachelor’s degrees simultaneously, a separate rationale has to be submitted for each degree. The rationale should be generally consistent with the degree program. The student should submit a revised rationale when there are significant revisions to the degree plan, such as in the title or design of the concentration or the substance of advanced standing.

The center portfolio review committee may require the student to revise the rationale essay to meet the expectations (for both substance and presentation) outlined above, as a condition for program approval.

Applicable Legislation and Regulations

Related References, Policies, Procedures, Forms and Appendices

Related Policies: Advanced Standing Credit: Transcript Credit; Policy and Procedures for Degree Program and Portfolio Review and Approval; Policy on Educational Planning Studies; Individual Prior Learning Assessment Policy and Procedures; Breadth of Degree Programs and SUNY General Education Requirements; Individualized Program Design: Bachelor’s Degrees; Individualized Program Design: Associate Degrees