The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



STATE OF MICHIGAN

JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM, ATTORNEY GENERAL

 

COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES:


CONSTITUTIONAL LAW:

SCHOOLS AND SCHOOL DISTRICTS:

State university setting criteria for awarding academic credits

State university control over academic matters under Const 1963, art 8, §§ 5 & 6

 

A state university may establish criteria for determining when academic credits will be granted by that institution for postsecondary courses taken by high school students under the Postsecondary Enrollment Options Act.

 

Opinion No. 7103

March 27, 2002


Honorable Doug Spade
State Representative
The Capitol
Lansing, MI 48913

You have asked if a state university may establish criteria for determining when academic credits will be granted by that institution for postsecondary courses taken by high school students under the Postsecondary Enrollment Options Act.

The Postsecondary Enrollment Options Act (Act), 1996 PA 160, MCL 388.511 et seq, was enacted to provide a wider variety of options to high school pupils by encouraging and enabling qualified students to enroll in courses or programs in eligible postsecondary institutions. Section 2. "Eligible postsecondary institution" means a state university, community college, or independent nonprofit degree-granting college or university that is located in Michigan and that chooses to comply with this act. Section 3(e). A student may take courses at postsecondary institutions if the student is enrolled in at least one high school class in at least grade 11 and has successfully completed the requirements for a state endorsement in all subject areas of the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP). Section 3(f). A student who has not successfully completed the requirements for a state endorsement in all subject areas in the MEAP is eligible to take postsecondary courses only in: (1) a subject area for which the student has completed the MEAP requirements; (2) computer science or foreign language courses not offered in the student's school district; or (3) fine arts courses as permitted by the school district. Id. Upon enrollment in a postsecondary course, the student shall designate whether the course is being taken for high school or postsecondary credit, or both. Section 7(1). A student's local school district pays the tuition and certain other fees for the courses taken at the postsecondary institution. Section 4.

Information supplied with your request indicates that some state universities have adopted policies that restrict their award of academic credit for certain postsecondary courses taken by students under the Act. One state university reportedly declines to award credit unless the high school student has first taken a complete "academic core" at the student's high school. This required "academic core" includes a number of high school classes in English, mathematics, natural science, social science, and language. Another state university reportedly will grant credit only if the high school student elects to take the postsecondary course for college credit, the course is taught by a college instructor, and there are postsecondary students simultaneously enrolled in the course.

Const 1963, art 8, § 5, confers constitutional autonomy upon the governing boards of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University by providing that "[e]ach board shall have the general supervision of its institution and the control and direction of all expenditures from the institution’s funds." Const 1963, art 8, § 6, confers constitutional autonomy upon the governing boards of other state institutions of higher education that have the authority to grant baccalaureate degrees by providing that "[t]he board shall have general supervision of the institution and the control and direction of all expenditures from the institution’s funds." The quoted language confers the same constitutional autonomy on the boards of control of state institutions of higher education whether they fall under § 5 or § 6. Eastern Michigan Univ Bd of Control v Labor Mediation Bd, 384 Mich 561, 563; 184 NW2d 921 (1971).

Legislative attempts to restrict the constitutional autonomy of state universities have been the subject of extensive review by Michigan's appellate courts. Michigan's courts have consistently interpreted Michigan's Constitution as conferring upon the governing boards of state universities complete control over academic matters. As observed by the Michigan Supreme Court in Regents of the Univ of Michigan v Michigan, 395 Mich 52, 74; 235 NW2d 1 (1975), "Michigan is one of the few states to give independent constitutional status to its universities." Thus, "[o]ur Court will not, as it has not in the past, shirk its duty to protect the autonomy of the Regents in the educational sphere." Regents of the Univ of Michigan v Employment Relations Comm, 389 Mich 96, 109-110; 204 NW2d 218 (1972). Based on these controlling precedents, the Attorney General has concluded that "[t]he constitutional autonomy of these institutions is plenary as to its educational programs . . . ." OAG, 1979-1980, No 5637, p 578, 579 (January 31, 1980).

The determination of standards for admission to a state university, or to a course offered by a state university, is an academic matter that is within the discretion of the university. See OAG, 1975-1976, No 3662, p 708 (December 15, 1976); OAG, 1971-1972, No 4707, p 39 (May 5, 1971). It follows that establishing criteria for determining when and under what circumstances a state university will grant academic credit for courses, including postsecondary courses taken by high school students, is likewise an academic matter exclusively within the discretion of the university.

It is my opinion, therefore, that a state university may establish criteria for determining when academic credits will be granted by that institution for postsecondary courses taken by high school students under the Postsecondary Enrollment Options Act.

JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM
Attorney General