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Ask Edward


What is the CCNY Residency Requirement?
Do I really need 120 credits to graduate?
How do I figure out which classes I need to take?
Are there exemption exams for the Speech and Foreign Language requirements?
Why do I have to take so many composition classes?
How does my AAS degree fit into my BA degree here at CCNY?
What am I supposed to do after I run out of required courses?


I am a transfer student that arrived at City College with 90 credits which included all of my core requirements and six English courses. I took six more English classes, as the major is made up of 36 credits total, and now I am being told that I cannot graduate because I haven't taken enough English classes. In total among all of my schools I have taken 139 credits, 36 of which are English courses--I don't see why I am not being allowed to graduate.


Dear Over-credited--

From what I can tell, you have yet to meet  the CCNY Residency requirement. Transfer students are required to take 60% of their program requirements at CCNY in order to qualify for a degree from the school. In addition, students who transfer large numbers of credits into the school must also take their final 30 credits here at CCNY. Unfortunately, these requirements do not allow exemptions. According to my count, you will need to take two more English classes to meet the Residency requirement, but you should visit an advisor in the English department to be sure.


Dear Edward--

I just received word that I won't be able to graduate this term because I will only have 117 credits. Are there really no exceptions to this rule?                                                                                

--One Short

Dear One Short--

It's true, there are no exceptions to this rule, and this is one of many requirements that some students fail to meet in their final semester. I would encourage you to check again over your CCNY record to be sure that this is the only requirement that you have failed to meet--you don't want to find out after taking an elective course that the three credits you were missing were your United States Society Perspective requirement. Also, please remember that you will need to re-apply for graduation in the term in which you complete your requirements.

You didn't mention it but I wonder if you are leaving town this May. One possibility, if you will be moving away, is to complete your final credits using a Non-CUNY Permit form. If this is something that would be convenient for you, please meet with your advisor to discuss this possibility.

And finally, don't let this stop you from participating in commencement this term. As a graduation applicant, you will be invited to each of the ceremonies as well as the other activities scheduled for graduates.



Hi Edward,

I’m a second-semester Economics student with a Spanish Minor, I would like to know how many elective credits I will need to take in order to graduate.

--Planning Ahead

Dear Planning Ahead,

Elective credits can be sort of tricky to figure out because the number can vary depending on the different programs a student may be in. Generally, it is a function of subtraction. Every student must meet the 120-credit minimum in order to graduate, so take that number and subtract from it the number of credits that it will take you to complete your General Education requirements, the number of credits required for your major, the number of credits required for your minor, and the number of prerequisite credits you will have to complete to get into your required classes. The final result is the number of elective credits you would need. From what you have told me I will illustrate this with an example.

120 (minimum)
-42 (General Education)
-43 (Economics courses)
-15 (Spanish minor)
=10 remaining elective credits

Keep in mind that there may be some overlap between some of these categories which may result in extra elective courses to be taken later on.
Recently, all of the academic departments at City College have been working to provide students with four-year plans for graduation that can serve as a map for successful completion of one's graduation requirements. Using the four-year plan for Economics, you would only need to replace five of the suggested elective courses with Spanish courses as described by the requirements of the Spanish minor.

The best way to figure this out would be to meet with your major advisor and find out how many courses you have left to complete in Economics, and then go to your general education advisor in the Division of Social Science and discuss strategies for completing any elective credits that remain.



Dear Edward,

Is it true that I can perform a monologue and be exempt from taking Speech 111? If this is so, what are the requirements for the monologue? Thanks.

--Inquiring mind

Hello Inquiring mind--

There is a Speech Proficiency Exam that is given by the Department of Theatre and Speech that will meet the Speech requirement. You would be required to give a 5-minute speech that you have written on a topic of your choice. For more information contact the Office of Theatre and Speech directly. They are located in Compton-Goethals Hall, Room 311 and their phone number is 212.650.6666.

A placement examination is also available in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, which is offered most days before 3pm in the North Academic Center, Room 5/223 (212-650-6731), as well as in the Department of Mathematics, which can be arranged through the departmental office in the North Academic Center, Room 8/133 (212-650-5346).



Dear Edward,

Can you please explain to me why, if the foreign language requirement is about to be abolished in 2013, do I have to suffer through Spanish 3 for a degree in Public Administration?

--¿Por qué?

Dear Por qué,

First of all, the Foreign Language requirement isn't going anywhere--people are talking a lot about the Pathways initiative but in the end it isn't going to do too much to the General Education requirements here at City. Students will still need at least three semesters of Foreign Language study to meet graduation requirements for the BA degree, even in 2013.

Second, Public Administration seems to me a field where knowledge of at least one foreign language would be quite helpful, possibly even necessary. Do you think that everyone you run into over the course of your career will speak English? Granted, not all of these people will be Spanish speakers but in a place like New York, it is likely that that some will. Not to mention that a working knowledge of Spanish is a helpful tool for everyday life here in New York as well as across the country and the world.

Third, there will be many other situations in life where you will need to do things that you would prefer not to do or feel are not worth doing. In my experience, these are the situations in which you will learn the most.



Dear Edward,

I really enjoy music classes and I am hoping to get into the Sonic Arts program, but I am perplexed as to why I need take Writing about Music. I just want to be an Audio Engineer.

--Too Much Writing

Dear Too Much,

The short answer to your question is that you have to take that course to prepare you for your later Music History courses, of which Sonic Arts majors must take two. The Sonic Arts major is more than an instruction manual for the different technologies that you will come across on the job—it is a multifaceted degree program that introduces you to music theory, musicianship, performance, and the history of music, in order to ensure that you have a well-rounded understanding of all of the necessary aspects of music to become a successful Audio Engineer. An understanding of the history of your field, and of music itself, plays a critical role in determining where the future of this field lies, and Writing about Music is a prerequisite to these later courses.

The long answer, which I have here abbreviated into another short answer, is that writing is one of the most important parts of a Liberal Arts education. The ability to write well shows an intimate understanding of the ways in which people communicate. The ability to formulate your ideas on a page illustrates not only argumentative skill but also critical thinking skills, thoughtfulness, and determination. Writing is not easy but it is a skill that you must learn if you want to be successful in and out of school.


Dear Edward,

I am a transfer student from LaGuardia Community College, where I received an AAS in Commercial Photography: Fine Arts Photography Option. Even though I was told that my credits have been transferred, my advisors at the Dean's office tell me that I need to do more required general courses. I have been to all the advisors and they tell me the same thing. I am really interested in Art and want to be a photographer, but I am frustrated to have to do science and math classes.

--Struggling through Math and Bio

Dear Struggling—

The agreement among CUNY schools regarding transferring with an Associate degree is tricky. First of all, there are three types of Associate degree: Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), and Associate of Applied Science (AAS). AA and AS degrees are more generalized, often including the same courses that fulfill general education requirements at most four-year colleges, while AAS degrees usually focus on a specialized topic and may only include a few courses that could be considered general education courses.  Due to this difference, students entering CCNY with an AA or an AS from another CUNY school are exempt from the CLAS Core requirements, while students entering with AAS degrees must fulfill the remaining requirements. One way to look at it is that those who have AA or AS degrees have spent most of their first two years studying general requirements while those entering with AAS degrees have already gotten to spend much more time in their major. Since all students with CUNY Associate degree receive 60 transfer credits, you are no further ahead or behind those with AA or AS degrees—often these students will have yet to begin their majors—you have only applied yourselves differently.



Dear Edward,

I am an upper junior who has already completed my general education and Economics major requirements. Apparently, I still need 32 more credits to meet the 120-credit minimum needed to graduate. That's 11 more courses. What am I supposed to do?

--Eleven Elective Courses?

Dear Eleven,

One of the benefits of a Liberal Arts education is that you get to take a number of classes outside of your major concentration to make you a more well-rounded, worldly citizen. Some students use their elective credits to complete other programs, such as Minors or Dual Majors, others use their elective credits to build up necessary skills in which they are lacking, such as composition or public speaking, while others use these credits to pursue previously unrealized interests. All three methods are perfectly acceptable.

Economics students should take as much Math as possible, also any History courses that might deal with any of the places and time periods you may have dealt with in your Economics curriculum. Economics is a discipline that reaches into every aspect of life and therefore every academic discipline—minors or dual majors that match well with Economics include: Philosophy, Sociology, Math, History, International Relations, and Psychology.

Although you most likely took a FIQWS course, and possibly Writing for the Social Sciences, there are a number of other courses offered by the English department that can help you further improve your writing skills, namely, Prose Writing Workshop and Advanced Grammar, as well as others that you could learn about if you were to meet with an advisor in the English department. Similarly, the Department of Theatre and Speech offers Voice & Diction and Speech for the Stage, in addition to the Speech Foundations course that you have already taken, which will help you get over any stage-fright that you may have.

But even if you take a minor and a couple composition and speech courses, you may still have a few electives left over. Popular elective courses include Acting, Creative Writing, and Foreign Languages, but as an Economics student, you are welcome to take any classes in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as long as you have the necessary prerequisites.

You've done what you had to do—now you get a chance to do what you want to do. My only suggestion is to challenge yourself—there is no real benefit in taking a class because it is easy.