Academic News

Memorandum to CUNY Chief Academic Officers Regarding Pathways Waivers for STEM Courses

June 11, 2012

(This is the text of a memorandum that was distributed to CUNY’s Chief Academic Officers (CAOs) on May 25, 2012.)

Dear Colleagues:

There has been some confusion about policies regarding waivers for STEM courses in the Pathways Common Core, and there has also been some inconsistency in the policies themselves, as has been pointed out by representatives from several colleges.

This memo clarifies these policies.

STEM waivers are available for courses in the “Life and Physical Sciences,” “Mathematics and Quantitative Reasoning,” and “Scientific World” areas of the Common Core. More specifically, STEM waiver math courses may fulfill requirements in the “Mathematics and Quantitative Reasoning” and “Scientific World” areas and STEM waiver science courses may fulfill them in the “Life and Physical Sciences” and “Scientific World” areas.


  • Colleges may make STEM waiver courses of at least three credits/three contact hours available to students in math and science fields; in addition, STEM waiver courses could be made available in such fields as business, computer science, economics, health-related fields, and teacher education programs preparing candidates to offer instruction in math or science.
  • While STEM waiver courses will be available to all students who wish to enroll in them and meet the necessary prerequisites where they exist, they are intended primarily for students in fields which require STEM courses and have extensive credit requirements.
  • Special consideration for STEM courses is authorized by the Board of Trustees Resolution of June 27, 2011.

Requirements for colleges

  • Colleges must have sufficient numbers of 3 credit/3 contact hour courses available for all students who want to take them in each of these areas.
  • Colleges may request waivers for other math and science courses in these areas that are at least 3 credits/3 contact hours and that satisfy major requirements.

Special procedures for STEM waiver courses

  • STEM waiver courses substitute for regular Common Core courses and have already been reviewed and approved as courses for STEM majors. As such, STEM waiver courses do not need to be submitted to the CUNY Common Core Course Review Committee.

Procedure to follow in requesting waivers

  • Colleges should send to a list of the STEM courses of at least  3 credits and 3 contact hours the colleges wish to make available to students as part of the Common Core, putting “STEM waiver” in the subject line, and appending any explanatory material that the college wishes, including 1) the area of the Common Core to which each course is to be assigned, and 2) the major degree requirement that each course satisfies.
  • Colleges must insure that STEM waiver courses are clearly coded in DegreeWorks and other university systems as meeting Common Core requirements.

Finally, please note that we are still investigating whether or not a given STEM waiver course can be used by different students for different areas of the Common Core (e.g., whether or not one student could use Bio 101 for the Life and Physical Sciences area, and another student for the Scientific World area).  The alternative is to confine the possible use of any particular STEM waiver course to only one of the Common Core areas.  There are complex technical, as well as conceptual, issues involved in allowing a STEM waiver course to be used for more than one Common Core area.  A definitive policy will be issued as soon as possible.

If you have any questions about any matters related to this email, please send them to, or call Erin Croke, University Academic Affairs Director, 212-794-5773, or Julia Wrigley, Associate University Provost, 212-794-5658.  Thank you.


Alexandra W. Logue
Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost
The City University of New York