General Education Requirements

The Preamble to the General Education section of the 2015-16 University of Montana Catalog (emphases added) states:

The University of Montana-Missoula's General Education Program provides a broad academic base that supports both undergraduate learning at The University of Montana-Missoula and continued learning following graduation. While the General Education Program offers students considerable flexibility in selecting courses, it has a set of common educational objectives for all students.

In accordance with the mission of The University of Montana- Missoula, these objectives are to develop competent and humane individuals who are informed, ethical, literate, and engaged citizens of local and global communities. Students should become acquainted with issues facing contemporary society, participate in the creative arts, develop an understanding of science and technology, cultivate an appreciation of the humanities, and examine the history of different American and global cultures. Upon completion of the general education requirements students should be able to articulate ideas orally and in writing, understand and critically evaluate tangible and abstract concepts, and employ mathematical and other related skills appropriate to a technologically focused society.

In summary, the General Education Program is designed to provide a high quality intellectual foundation that accommodates all UM students whether in liberal arts or professional programs. This foundation will be reinforced, expanded, and refined as students continue through their course of study. Students are encouraged to prepare for productive roles in their chosen fields by cultivating civic awareness vital to the greater community and a democratic society. The acquired skills will allow students to examine critically the human experience and achieve genuine confidence in their knowledge and abilities. For the General Education Program to accomplish its goals, students must assume primary responsibility for their growth and education.

Some students will benefit from having an academic advisor discuss the importance and relevance of the General Education Requirements (GERs).The GERs are sometimes perceived as extra requirements, quite separate from the important work of the major. Students select what they consider the “least objectionable” option from a list of course names; the decision sometimes relates more to the day, time and professor than the actual subject matter. Other students will sometimes comment that they don’t have a major yet, so they’ll just take Gen Eds. Left to their own devices, two years down the road those students could have completed their GERs and still have no idea about a major.

Students will typically follow your lead when you discuss the GERs. If you present them as an added burden, students will view the GERs as exactly that. On the other hand, if you talk about GERs as a mechanism for gaining skill sets needed for a competitive job market, that same student will enthusiastically engage in the academic planning process. Conversations about GERS can often be a platform for a broader discussion of a student’s goals for their undergraduate experience.

Encourage your students to keep track of their credits - how many they need, how many they’ve attempted, and whether any restrictions apply (repeatability, technical attribute credits, activity/skills course limits). All baccalaureate students need a minimum of 120 credits to graduate; some will need more.

All students are required to complete the general education requirements (GERs) detailed in the governing catalog in effect at their original matriculation date. Caveats and fine print:
  • If a new set is adopted after their initial enrollment, the student may elect to follow the newer requirements but they may not use a combination of two systems of GERs.
  • Students may use different catalogs for their major and GERs only if the original date of matriculation is prior to 201370.
  • The course must be listed in the catalog corresponding to the year in which the course was taken, not the student’s catalog year, in order to meet a General Education Requirement.
  • If a student’s enrollment is not continuous, they may follow the catalog in effect at the time of their original enrollment, provided they can graduate within six academic years of that catalog’s publication.
  • Transfer students may use a governing catalog in effect during any semester they were previously enrolled at any higher education institution, provided they can graduate within six academic years of that catalog’s publication. Transfer students using a set of requirements other than that of their original matriculation date to UM should work with Admissions Evaluations (406-243-2251) to make sure their catalog designation is correctly reflected in Banner.
  • The Faculty Senate passed a motion to allow students transferring to UM from a quarter or trimester institution to “round” credits for the purposes of satisfying General Education requirements. The motion reads as follows:
    • In order to determine if transfer course work satisfies GERs, the credits for each course are rounded. For example, if a student transfers in two N-courses each worth 2.66 credits, each course counts as 3 N-credits towards the Group XI requirement. On the other hand, an L-course worth 2.49 credits does not satisfy the Group V requirement of 3 L-credits.
    • Students bringing in a course worth 2.66 credits in a Gen Ed area will no longer need to take additional course work in that area or submit a Graduation Appeal in order to satisfy the 3 credit requirement.
  • Coursework used to satisfy the Upper Division requirement may be taken for Cr/NCr and must earn a passing grade.

Generally speaking, all coursework to be applied towards the GERs must be taken for a traditional letter grade; the earned grade must be a “C-“ or higher. Exceptions:

  • AP, IB, and CLEP credits listed as “Cr*” (see appendices D, E, and F for lists of all AP, IB, and CLEP credits awarded at UM).
  • Coursework taken at an institution that uses Cr/NCr instead of a traditional letter grading system AND a grade of “Cr” is equivalent to a C- or higher.
  • The student has been granted an exception by the Graduation Appeals Committee.

The three broad areas in which a student must demonstrate proficiency are Writing, Math and Modern and Classical Languages/Symbolic Systems. They require demonstrated skill rather than a specific number of credits.

Writing - The writing requirement consists of three components, Introductory College Writing, Intermediate College Writing, and Advanced College Writing, usually within the major. Some of the trickier aspects of this series include:

  • WRIT 101 was formerly known as ENEX 101. A student with a grade of C- or higher in ENEX 101 does not need to retake WRIT 101.
  • A transferred course of fewer than 3 credits will satisfy the requirement if it is posted to the UM transcript with an equivalent of WRIT 101.
  • Intermediate Writing Courses must be taken at UM. Courses taken elsewhere may transfer for degree credit, but will not satisfy the writing requirement without authorization from the Writing Committee (see Appendix G for detailed information).
  • Transfer students who enter UM with MORE THAN 27 degree credits are exempt from the Intermediate Writing requirement. If the student attended UM, left and did 28 credits somewhere else before returning to UM, he or she needs to complete the Intermediate Writing Requirement.
  • Students may not use a course from the Advanced College Writing Requirement list to satisfy the Intermediate College Writing requirement.
  • Some of the courses listed as “Intermediate Writing” are upper division (300 or higher) but do not meet the Advanced Writing Requirement.

Mathematics - All students, irrespective of major, must earn a grade of C- or higher in one of the following: M 104, 105, 115, 118, 121, 122, 135, 151, or a 3-credit math course for which one of the listed courses is a pre-requisite. Students may also use various CLEP or AP tests, or the Mathematical Literacy Examination administered by the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Some of the finer details:

  • The ALEKs placement test is for placement only and does not exempt a student from the math requirement.
  • If a student enters UM with a course posted as an equivalent to one of the math courses listed above, or with a designation of “M TR1M,” the math requirement has been met irrespective of the number of credits (e.g., 2.66 credits of TR1 M is sufficient).
  • Math skills tend to erode quickly if not used regularly. It is in a student’s best interest to satisfy the math requirement early in his or her college career. University policy dictates that:

“Students must complete the mathematical literacy requirement by the time they have earned 30 credits; if not, they must register for a mathematical sciences course every semester until they have completed the requirement. Because many other courses at the university assume some mathematical literacy, it is strongly recommended that all students complete their mathematical literacy requirement as soon as possible.”

Modern and Classical Languages/Symbolic Systems - Students entering UM prior to Autumn 2009 could elect to take either a foreign language (FL) or symbolic system (SS) to satisfy this General Education Requirement (note this is the GER only, and does not consider major requirements). Beginning Autumn 2009, individual majors are designated as either “FL” or “SS.” Specific courses or course sequences are listed in the catalog. Items of note:

  • FL majors must complete the second semester of a language (third if the language is Irish) or demonstrate equivalent skill in any of the languages listed in the student’s governing catalog.
  • Passing a proficiency test administered by the Modern and Classical Languages Department does not result in degree credit.
  • If a student completes two majors, the FL or SS requirement is determined by the first major unless the second major requires completion of FL or SS as a part of the major requirements. For example, if a student double majors in Psychology and English, the student will need both FL and SS coursework.
  • Some majors require completion of a FL and courses typically used for SS (e.g., Physics and Communicative Sciences and Disorders).

The FL/SS requirement changed effective autumn 2015. All students will need to demonstrate foreign language proficiency unless their major requires more than 48 credits (exclusive of General Education Requirements) and has been granted an exception by the Faculty Senate. Some additional notes:

  • Majors that now require a foreign language (previously on the SS list) for all students matriculating autumn 2015 or later include Anthropology, Communication Studies, Economics, Environmental Studies, Geography, Psychology, and Sociology.
  • Change does not impact students matriculating prior to Fall 2015, regardless of when major is declared.
  • Transfer students may elect to use a catalog in effect while they were matriculating students at another institution.
  • Encourage students with prior experience with the language to take the placement test (offered on the first day of each Orientation).

These are minimum requirements. Many students will benefit greatly from additional writing, math and language study. For example, additional language fluencies can increase students’ options for international study and/or employment, and their competitiveness for scholarships and graduate/professional study. Ideally, the advisor will work with students to determine educational and professional goals to develop comprehensive academic plans.

Perspectives give breadth to the undergraduate experience. They expose a student to fields of study beyond the major and help achieve our goal of educating “informed, ethical, literate and engaged citizens of local and global communities” (taken from the Preamble referenced earlier). There are eight categories; students need a minimum of 3 credits in all but the Natural Sciences, where six credits (including a lab) are needed. Some courses may satisfy more than one Perspective.

The worksheets are designed for the student to track their GER progress.

Autumn 2009-present (

Autumn 2005-Summer 2009 (

Autumn 2000- Summer 2005 (

Course designations change over time. The course must be listed as meeting a particular GER attribute in the catalog in effect when the course was taken. The catalog year begins with the autumn semester and ends with the following summer. A grade of C- or higher is required on all GERs. A grade of “Cr” cannot be used unless the course was taken at an institution where the course was only offered on a Cr/NCr basis.

Every advisor has his or her unique “best practices” for transcript review. A unit’s documentation practices can also influence how reviews are done, if a student receives a copy, or whether a copy is retained by the unit. If your unit doesn’t have the authorization to print transcripts, ask the student to print a copy from CyberBear before the scheduled appointment. Some key elements include:

  • For transfer students, check to see if there is an “AA Degree- Lower Div GEN ED Met” notation. This will simplify the process considerably. If notation is missing but the student has 60+ credits from a two year school, ask if the AA was awarded. The student should speak to Admissions-Evaluations in Griz Central to have the degree posted.
  • Grade check. Did the student earn a C- or better? If the course is in progress, a reminder that C- is the minimum grade is in order.
  • Repeatable and non-repeatable courses. Cross-listed courses can be the most difficult to identify.
  • Credit limits. Although we do not limit the number of Activity courses a student can take, only 4 credits may be applied to the 120 credits needed for graduation. All credit limits are listed on the back-side of the GER Worksheets.
  • Count total credits and upper division credits (300-level and above). Calculate how many credits are still needed in each category.

Majors, minors and options are noted on a student’s transcript, specializations are not. Talk with students about what they hope to accomplish by having additional credentials. The student may also need to speak with a financial aid specialist about the implications of additional credits or semesters.

Students attending Montana University System campuses have three options for transferring general education core requirements: (1) complete all lower-division general education requirements for one specific campus, (2) complete the Montana University System Core transferable general education curriculum (also known as the MUS Transfer Core or the MUS Core), or (3) obtain in an A.A. or A.S. transferable degree.

*Eligible transfer students who elect to use the MUS Transfer Core to satisfy UM general education requirements should alert their academic advisor of this decision as soon as possible. See Appendix H for detailed information on the MUS Transfer Core.

The Graduation Appeals Committee (GAC) is a standing subcommittee of the Academic Standards and Curriculum Review Committee (ASCRC), which derives its authority from the By-laws of the Faculty Senate.

Section III. 3.c.1 of the Faculty Senate By-laws gives the GAC the authority to “grant exceptions to the faculty rules for graduation, admission, and readmission.” Its function is stated as: “Petitions for exceptions to the rules governing admission, graduation, retention, and readmission shall be reviewed and acted upon by the subcommittee."

The committee primarily deals with University requirements for graduation, including general education requirements, academic policies and procedures, minimum credits for graduation, and residency requirements.

The underlying operating assumption of the Graduation Appeals Committee is that the University policy governing the particular issue will be followed unless there are compelling reasons to set it aside. Students should understand that any petition that is submitted is a request for an exception to requirements that the rest of the student population has to fulfill. In fairness to students who (sometimes with substantial inconvenience) fulfill all requirements, exceptions will not be granted for reasons of simple inconvenience, student mistakes, or other weak reasons.

See Appendix I for the Graduation Appeals Form, which details the procedure for filing graduation appeals.