Missouri's CORE 42 Transfer Curriculum


Smoothing the Pathway for Post-secondary Transfer Students

Transferring core college credits between different institutions of higher education (IHE) has long been a disjointed, arduous process that has hindered student success by forcing students to “retake” courses completed at previous institutions. The core curriculum (i.e., general education) for all undergraduate students is generally similar at all IHEs, both two- and four-year. Yet, despite the similarity across the board, a significant lack of transferability often exists, even within the same state. Without additional options other than to take courses again, students are left frustrated and ultimately penalized for changing institutions by costing them both time and money. The result may even discourage them from continuing in higher education altogether. Fortunately, Missouri is trying to remove some of the extra hurdles associated with transferring core college credits by developing a core curriculum transfer program, CORE 42.

Nationwide, more than 1 million of the 2.8 million students enrolled at IHEs in the fall of 2011 continued with their studies at a different institution within six years, an overall transfer rate of 38 percent. In Missouri, 12,509 first-time undergraduate students transferred from one Missouri IHE to another in 2014. For students nationwide, nearly half of all students transferred within the first two years, the time when most students are completing their core curriculum. While nationwide patterns of institutional origin and destination vary, student mobility in higher education was similar for students of all racial-ethnic backgrounds. Hence, finding a solution to the lack of coordination in core curriculum transfer is beneficial to everyone. Thankfully, Missouri, along with nearly 30 other states across the country, is working to ease the hardship on students and simplify the transfer of credits earned in the core curriculum.

In 2012, Missouri took its first steps toward a solution in Missouri House Bill 1042, which required all public two- and four-year IHEs to create a statewide core transfer library of at least 25 lower-division courses that would be transferable among all public IHEs in Missouri. As part of this bill, the Coordinating Board for Higher Education was responsible for establishing policies and procedures that would ensure these courses would be accepted in transfer and treated as equivalent to similar courses at the receiving institutions. This process was completed on July 1, 2014. In 2016, Missouri Senate Bill 997 established the Higher Education Core Transfer Curriculum Act, which furthers this endeavor. This Act directed the Coordinating Board for Higher Education to develop a standard core transfer curriculum and a common course number equivalency matrix for all lower-division general education courses. A few of the major guiding principles in the development of the core transfer curriculum, now known as CORE 42, included:

  • Operating transfer in the best interest of the students

  • Preserving institutional autonomy to the greatest extent possible

  • Guaranteeing that completion of the CORE 42 would meet all lower-division general education requirements at all institutions

  • Ensuring that specific courses would transfer one-to-one and fulfill major and graduation requirements

  • Maintaining that curriculum is the purview of faculty

CORE 42 went into effect at all Missouri public two- and four-year IHEs during the 2018-2019 school year and now provides a clear, concrete framework for general education within higher education. While its name might suggest that exactly 42 credits are required, there is actually a varying number of credit hours that students can use to fulfill the core curriculum requirements. The finalized structure for CORE 42 was designed for students to obtain the basic competencies of valuing, managing information, communicating, and higher-order thinking through the completion of at least 42-semester hours distributed across the broad knowledge areas of communications, humanities and fine arts, natural and mathematical sciences, and social and behavioral sciences. Students obtain the stated competencies through completion of the CORE 42 in its entirety. The table below provides a summary of the knowledge areas, credit distribution requirements, and example courses.

More information on the Missouri Math Pathways Initiative can be found  here .

More information on the Missouri Math Pathways Initiative can be found here.

At the start of the 2019-2020 school year, the institutions participating in CORE 42 increased to include not only public institutions but also independent institutions, such as Central Methodist University, Missouri Baptist University, Avila University, and St. Luke’s College of Health Sciences. Incorporation of independent institutions into statewide core curriculum transfer programs does not appear to be commonplace. Aside from Missouri, only Illinois and Oregon explicitly include provisions for independent institutions in their state statutes and educational codes.

Like any system, CORE 42 does come with a few caveats. The provisions of CORE 42 do not apply to students who have enrolled and attended only one institution and do not intend to transfer to another institution. For the purposes of CORE 42, this stipulation includes students who earned dual credit while in high school. In addition, honors courses will transfer and fulfill requirements of the CORE 42, but the decision to accept an Honors course as an Honors course will be at the discretion of the receiving institution. Other constraints apply to professional degree programs, which may have licensure or accreditation constraints and require specific general education courses. Students enrolled in such programs may not qualify to have all general education courses transfer between institutions. However, as CORE 42 continues to develop, it is anticipated that the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development and the Core Curriculum Advisory Committee will work to develop clearer pathways for students, even those enrolled in professional programs.

Overall, CORE 42 helps remove some of the barriers to transferring academic credits between IHEs in the State of Missouri. CORE 42 is a significant step forward to improving the educational and financial outcomes of college students by reducing the need for students to “retake” coursework already completed at previous institutions. A Course Transfer Tracker is available for students, parents, and other interested parties, and other additional information on CORE 42, including the 2019-2020 Approved Course Database, can be found here.


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