Learn about the history of the Texas Common Course Numbering System, naming rubric, and board members.
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Perhaps the most surprising aspects of the Texas Common Course Numbering System during the development process was that it was completely
voluntary and not mandated by state government in Texas. TCCNS arose as a grass-roots cooperative effort among junior/community colleges
and universities. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and its staff have provided advisory support as TCCNS grew from an idea
in the mid-1970s to a regional consortium in the late 1980s to a statewide organization in the early 1990s, but colleges and universities
themselves are principally responsible for the emergence of the TCCNS.
1973-1975: TACRAO's Uniform Course Numbering Model
The idea which has evolved into the TCCNS began in November 1973 when the Texas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (TACRAO) appointed a committee to study the feasibility of a uniform course numbering system for all postsecondary institutions in Texas.
The committee, chaired by UT-Arlington registrar Zack Prince, proposed a course taxonomy consisting of a 2-, 3-, or 4-character alphabetic prefix designating academic discipline and a 4- or 5-digit course number designating level, credit value, and sequence.
In November 1975 Dr. Bevington Reed, then Commissioner of Higher Education, forwarded a copy of the committee's final report to the president of each institution in Texas and requested comments. Response, however, indicated that implementation of such a system on a statewide basis was not feasible at that time.
Nevertheless, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, many institutions changed their course numbering systems in response to growing course inventories and computerization of student records. In the process, many adopted the general form of the proposed TACRAO model, though without coordinating their course numbers with those of other institutions.
1987-1989: The Gulf Coast Consortium
Recognizing a high rate of student transfer among their campuses, the presidents of the nine junior/community colleges in the Texas Gulf Coast Community College Consortium appointed a committee to develop a shared numbering system for their institutions.
The work of the GCCC committee, chaired by Don Pugh of Brazosport College, spanned the two-year period from August 1987 through October 1989.
The committee looked at a number of possible course numbering and articulation arrangements, including the California and Florida models. They finally settled on the basic numbering structure previously proposed by TACRAO, but tied the new course designations to the Coordinating Board's Academic Course Guide Manual to provide a common point of reference for course content, credit value, and sequencing. By 1989, all nine junior/community colleges in the Gulf Coast Consortium had committed to the new numbering system.
1990-1992: The Coordinating Board & TACRAO
In 1990 the Coordinating Board appointed a committee to revise the ACGM. Part of the committee's charge was "to review the feasibility of establishing a common numbering system for the first two years of lower-division coursework in junior/community colleges and universities." The committee recommended that a common course numbering system or a state equivalency table should be developed covering freshman and sophomore level coursework at both junior/community colleges and universities.
The Coordinating Board accepted the committee's report in January 1991 and Dr. Kenneth Ashworth, Commissioner of Higher Education, asked TACRAO president John Edwards for assistance in determining the feasibility of a statewide common course numbering system. Dr. Edwards appointed a Task Force, co-chaired by Dale Hardgrove of San Jacinto College and Zack Prince of UT-Arlington, to work on the project.
In a parallel action, Texas A&M University-Commerce (formerly East Texas State University) hosted a Common Course Numbering Conference in April 1991, bringing together representatives from 15 junior/community colleges and 5 universities in north and northeast Texas. Representatives from the Gulf Coast Consortium shared their experience with the group. As a result of this and a subsequent meeting in June, most of the junior/community colleges in the region chose to convert their course numbers to what was renamed the Texas Common Course Numbering System. Additionally, Texas A&M University-Commerce and Stephen F. Austin State University agreed to list Common Numbers parenthetically in their catalogs alongside their regular course numbers.
The success of these first meetings in east Texas prompted similar meetings in other regions of the state. The Texas Public Community/Junior College Association discussed the project at their summer 1991 conference; as a result, further regional meetings were set up under joint TACRAO and TPCJCA sponsorship throughout the state hosted at Victoria College, Texas Tech University, McLennan Community College, Tarrant County Junior College, and San Jacinto College.
These regional meetings succeeded in persuading institutions to join the project, owing mostly, perhaps, to two factors. First, no commitment was asked of institutional representatives up front; they were asked merely to consider Common Numbering as a possibility. Second, when representatives arrived at the regional meetings they found much of their potential work had already been done for them: the TACRAO Task Force had already drawn up equivalency tables for the lower-division courses offered at the representatives' institutions. While these tables were only speculative on the part of the Task Force and would require scrutiny and approval from the participating institutions, they were a tangible demonstration that Common Numbering could be accomplished.
1992-1993: Statewide Acceptance of TCCNS & Independent Status of TCCNS
The work of the TACRAO Task Force, combined with the regional meetings, provided an impetus for rapid statewide growth of Common Numbering. To date, 118 institutions participate in the TCCNS . This number includes all public junior/community college districts, all public universities, all state technical college campuses, 21 private institutions, and three health science education institutions.
In November 1992 the Task Force recommended to the TACRAO Executive Committee that an independent governing board be established for the ongoing management and operation of the TCCNS . The recommendation was approved and the newly-constituted TCCNS Board convened for the first time in February 1993. In October of that year the Board published the first Course Matrix, the master list of all Common Courses offered at participating TCCNS institutions statewide.
In the Texas Common Course Numbering System each course is identified by a four-character "rubric" (i.e. prefix or department abbreviation) and a four-digit
The rubric is always four upper-case alphabetic characters.
The first digit of the course number denotes the academic level of the course; the second digit denotes the credit value of the course in semester hours; and the third and fourth digits establish course sequencing and/or distinguish the course from others of the same level, credit value, and rubric.
All rubric/number combinations correspond to course descriptions listed in the Academic Course Guide Manual (ACGM), published by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The ACGM is the official list of courses for which state funding is provided to community colleges; in effect, the ACGM comprises the academic (in contrast to occupational/technical) courses Texas public community colleges may offer without obtaining special permission from the Coordinating Board.
Texas Common Course Numbering System Board Members (2013-2014)
Suzanne Carter, Chair
Director of Admissions Services
Tarrant County College
Debbie Hermann Henry
University of Houston
Dean of Academics
Lee Ann Nutt
Vice-President of Instruction
Lone Star College - Tomball
Director of Transfer and Transition Services
Southern Methodist University
Provost & VP for Academic Affairs
Texas A&M University - Texarkana
Provost & Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
The University of Texas at Tyler
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Resource Contributors
Workforce, Academic Affairs and Research Division
TCCNS Database Coordinator
Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions & New Student Services
The University of Texas-Pan American
Board Member Selection
The governing Board of the Texas Common Course Numbering System consists of six members appointed by three organizations:
1. Three members from the Texas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (TACRAO) to include:
- One from a public university
- One from a private university
- One from a community/junior college
2. Two members from the Texas Community College Instructional Administrators
3. Two members from the Texas Council of Chief Academic Officers
4. One member from Independent Colleges & Universities (ICUT)
5. Two representatives from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to serve as ex-officio members
6. Manager of the current TCCNS database site.
Each member is appointed for a term of three calendar years. One member serves as Board chair; the chair rotates between university and community college representatives.