CSU Issues Statement on Intermediate Algebra Policy and Articulation

April 2013

When community college faculty consider developing an accelerated math pathway, one of the first questions to arise is whether it would jeopardize articulation of their transfer-level math course. Pre-statistics courses and other redesigned pathways provide alternatives to the traditional algebra sequence, but under current policy, intermediate algebra is a required prerequisite for any transferable math/quantitative reasoning courses in both the CSU and UC systems (though UC’s policy is more open, including the language “intermediate algebra or equivalent”).

In the last month, the CSU Chancellor’s Office issued a statement clarifying this issue. The statement makes clear that while the current policy remains in effect, community colleges have the purview under Title 5 regulations to develop alternative approaches to remediation without risk to their transfer articulation.

On April 9, the following statement was issued on the statewide articulation officers list-serve by Ken O’Donnell, Senior Director of Student Engagement and Academic Initiatives & Partnerships for the CSU Office of the Chancellor:

Dear California Articulation Officers,

This email updates one that Karen Simpson-Alisca and I sent last fall on the subject of Quantitative Reasoning in the CSU  (below, for your reference).  The second half of the message reminded readers that we look for an explicit prerequisite of intermediate algebra, as traditionally understood, for courses to qualify for use toward our GE and admission requirement in Quantitative Reasoning (Area B4 in GE Breadth).

In the months since sending it, I’ve been asked to elaborate on the ways community colleges can meet the requirement.  Attached is an excerpt from California Code of Regulations Title 5, which permits students who can succeed right away in a given course to challenge its prerequisite.  Some California Community Colleges are using this as a way to test accelerated remediation:  the transferable math course keeps its published prerequisite for the sake of preserving its articulation with the CSU, but students may challenge that prerequisite after they finish an accelerated remediation sequence.

The CSU Chancellor’s General Education Advisory Committee has looked into this use of the prerequisite challenge process, and determined that it has no grounds to comment.  How community colleges meet curricular requirements that are below baccalaureate level is up to the colleges, and not up to the receiving transfer institutions.  In other words, community colleges may participate in initiatives like Acceleration in Context and the California Acceleration Project without jeopardizing articulation, because the transferable B4 course is unchanged; only the intermediate algebra prerequisite is challenged.

Note that this is a critical difference from Statway, where both the prerequisite and the subsequent, college-transferable course in statistics are modified.  For that reason, the CSU will continue to recognize B4 credit for Statway only on a limited, pilot basis, and only from certain community college districts.  (See the second attachment for details.)

Finally, we recognize that resorting to the challenge process isn’t an ideal solution.  The CSU is encouraging community colleges who experiment with accelerated math remediation to share with us what they learn, to inform any later reconsiderations of our current policy.  In the meantime, we continue to expect B4 courses to carry intermediate algebra as a prerequisite.

Thank you for your work on behalf of our students.


O’Donnell attached the relevant sections of Title 5 to the post, with the following portions highlighted in yellow: “(p) Any prerequisite or corequisite may be challenged by a student on one or more of the grounds listed below…(4) The student has the knowledge or ability to succeed in the course or program despite not meeting the prerequisite or corequisite”.

Areas of Impact