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What is the purpose of PCAS?

The Program and Curriculum Approval System (PCAS) was designed to do four things:

  1. PCAS is a comprehensive database of all the requirements needed to complete each undergraduate degree program offered on the five University of Minnesota campuses. Graduate programs are also documented in PCAS, though in some cases with less detail than the undergraduate programs.

  2. PCAS is a web-based approval system that automatically routes all new programs, and any changes to existing programs, to the correct approvers and approval levels.

  3. Degree requirements entered and approved in PCAS are used to build the degree audits in both APAS and GPAS.

  4. PCAS also is a resource for the undergraduate focused Graduation Planner, the University's application that supports students' timely progress toward graduation. PCAS includes information about timing of course-taking (i.e., when students must/should take each course in order to graduate in four years). This information is used in Graduation Planner to help students plan their degree programs.

All University catalogs, both print and online, use data from PCAS. Degree requirements for University majors and minors are automatically generated from PCAS for display in the online catalog and this same information is downloaded as needed for print catalogs.’’

How does PCAS link to other University information management programs such as ECAS, APAS, GPAS, and PeopleSoft?

Courses entered in PCAS with a designator and course number are linked to the ECAS system. PCAS is able to draw additional information about courses (e.g., number of credits, title, when it is offered, prerequisites, etc) from the ECAS database. For this reason, courses that are used in PCAS must first be entered into ECAS, and changes to courses in ECAS will be automatically displayed in PCAS.

PCAS uses information about colleges, departments, and term dates pulled from PeopleSoft. PCAS does not actually write program information to PeopleSoft directly; program information is entered in PeopleSoft by ASR staff once programs have received the necessary approvals. APAS/GPAS staff will update degree audits when program changes have been approved in PCAS.

How do I know when changes are needed to a PCAS program?

The University Catalog website is a good place to review your current published program requirements. If any courses have been inactivated in ECAS, they will show in red. Curriculum experts for the program may use this as a starting point to indicate for the PCAS editor where changes should be made.

Once the editor has started a PCAS proposal, he or she may use the Draft Catalog Display (in Step 8) to preview how the updated program will appear in the catalog before actually submitting the proposal.

If a program is in Completely Approved status, can it be changed?

Once a degree program has been completely approved, it may not be changed. When PCAS editors click the Update link on a Completely Approved program row, they are not supplanting that term’s version of the program. Rather, they are copying that version into a new proposal, where they can indicate the new term for which changes go into effect.

What is the difference between an update for current and future students, and an update for future students only?

An update for ‘future students only’ is a change that goes into effect for a future term and year. It is similar in concept to the old idea of a "new bulletin year." The vast majority of PCAS updates are for ‘future students only’.

An update for ‘current and future students’ affects all students currently in the degree program, as well as those who have not begun the program. The effective term remains the same and the changes are effective as soon as it is approved. Updates for ‘current and future students’ are fewer and, generally speaking, cosmetic in nature.

Many more fields in PCAS are editable for ‘future students only’ updates than are for ‘current and future students’. This is because we do not change degree completion requirements for students once they’ve begun a program. Examples of fields that CAN be changed on a ‘current and future students’ update are: program description, program contact information, and course group descriptions. Examples of things that can only be changed in a ‘future student only’ update are: program title, the addition or deletion of courses, and the addition of sub-plans.

What are the rules around earliest, latest, and recommended semesters?

  • Earliest, latest and recommended semesters are not required for graduate programs.
  • The recommended semester for any course must fall between the earliest semester and latest semester.
  • Recommended semester is not required for courses in "OR" course groups or subgroups, or for courses in course lists or sublists. A recommended semester may be entered for these courses, but it will not display in the checkpoint chart.
  • The recommended semester in PCAS may not conflict with the course’s "term most frequently offered" data in ECAS. For example, if a course is set up in ECAS to be offered only in fall, you may not choose spring as the recommended semester in PCAS unless you first update the course in ECAS.
  • Courses are pulled into the sample plan that PCAS generates (Step 6) based on their recommended semester. Courses can be moved within the sample plan into any term that is within the Earliest - Latest semester range.

*Note: changing the earliest, latest and recommended semesters in steps 3, 4, and 5 will not update the course on a sample plan that has already been generated.

What is the difference between a sub-plan and a focus course group?

Academic sub-plans are formal "tracks" that have a sub-plan code assigned in PeopleSoft. The name of each sub-plan a student completes prints on his or her transcript.

Focus course groups are sets of choices within the main body of a program. They are not defined tracks and do not have a sub-plan code in PeopleSoft. They may occur anywhere in the program, including at the lower division level. A good example of a lower division focus is the Introductory Biology focus - students have the choice of focus course groups called "Sequence A" and "Sequence B" - but regardless of their focus choice, students are completing the same Biology core program.

What is the difference between different types of sub-plans?

Optional sub-plans are a choice. Students may complete the program with or without completing a sub-plan.

If a sub-plan is required, the "sub-plan required" button in PCAS must be set to YES, and at least one sub-plan must be marked in PCAS Step 5 as "fulfilling the sub-plan required requirement." In order to graduate in a program that requires a sub-plan, students must complete one of the sub-plans marked as "fulfilling the sub-plan required requirement."

What are Checkpoint requirements?

The Checkpoint chart (Step 7) is a tool to help undergraduate students visualize and plan ahead for courses that must be taken at specific times in the degree program so that the program can be completed in four years. Not all requirements in the degree program will show up in the Checkpoint Chart. Checkpoint requirements are those requirements that are critical in terms of timing for students. These requirements must be taken in specific sequence, and early enough to allow timely completion of the degree.

The Checkpoint Chart is a display of requirements matched to a grid that shows earliest, latest, and recommended semesters for completion. The grid is divided into years and semesters. The chart is automatically generated from the course groups and subgroups users designate as "checkpoint" in steps 3, 4, or 5. To change the Checkpoint Chart's display, information must be changed in the step in which the requirement course group is entered.

*Note: Earliest, latest and recommended semesters, and therefore checkpoint charts, are not required for graduate programs.

What changes can be made during update that will only have to go to the college for approval (and won't have to go any further)?

Very few changes stop at the college without continuing on to the catalog editors. These changes include: changes in the order of course groups in a step, or the order of courses within a course group, changes to the number of terms of second language that are required, and all changes to sample plans other than changes to the sample plan names.