CATESOL Position Statement on Degree-Applicable Credit ESL Courses in Community Colleges


(Approved by the CATESOL Board of Directors, June 11, 1994)

The Issue: The number of English language learners seeking degrees in community colleges has increased greatly in the past few decades. Many colleges are not offering appropriate credit for ESL courses.

CATESOL supports the granting of credit towards the associate degree to English language learners for courses of English as a second or foreign language which meet the standards and criteria for associate degree credit courses (Title 5, Barclay's California Code of Regulations).


  • academic credit should be awarded for study of ESL just as it is for foreign language study by English-speaking students
  • inadequate control of one's second language is not comparable to having inadequate skills in one's first language
  • collegiate ESL courses are designed to continue the normal linguistic/cognitive/ academic/cultural development of a foreign language and are not the same as English courses for students who are not at college level
  • receiving credit for ESL increases student motivation and performance in ESL courses
  • collegiate ESL courses offer a rigorous academic program that requires students to perform at a level equal to other associate degree credit courses
Types of ESL courses meeting Title 5 Standards and Criteria


Title 5 sets out standards and criteria for associate degree credit courses at community colleges in California. CATESOL offers the following information on what type of ESL courses meet Title 5 standards and criteria. CATESOL comments follow the Title 5 underlined headings.

ESL courses which meet the Title 5 criteria (in the same way that credit-bearing courses of other disciplines do) should be given associate degree credit status.

Types of Courses
Associate Degree Credit Courses - Title 5 55002 (a)
An ESL or VESL course offered as part of or in support of an academic program is a collegiate course if it meets the Title 5 criteria specified below. Collegiate ESL courses may focus on listening, speaking, reading, or writing skills, knowledge of vocabulary or grammar; or a combination of these to improve the student's proficiency in academic English.

Standards and Criteria
Grading Policy -Title 5 55002 (a) (2) (A)
Grades in collegiate ESL courses which have an emphasis on developing reading and writing skills are based at least in part on written assignments which require students to select and order their own ideas and express them clearly. Grades in courses which have an emphasis on developing listening, speaking or communication are based at least in part on problem solving exercises or skills demonstration which require students to demonstrate understanding of extended discourse and/or use oral language effectively in college level work.

Intensity - Title 5 55002 (a) (2) (C)
Collegiate ESL courses require independent study outside of class time and assume that the student has basic study skills.

Difficulty -Title 5 (a) (2) (F)
Collegiate ESL courses require students to carry out processes such as analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating in course assignments. These courses require students to deal with concepts and logical expression in the second language.

Level -Title 5 (a) (2) (G)
Collegiate ESL courses assume students have the ability to initiate, sustain and bring to closure a variety of communicative academic tasks. Collegiate ESL courses require vocabulary used in academic discourse or in a vocational field that is part of an academic program.

Abridged from the CATESOL Advisory on Degree-Applicable Credit in Community Colleges

For related information on CATESOL's position on ESL and Basic Skills, see the CATESOL Position Statement on the Difference Between ESL and Basic Skills Instruction at Post-Secondary Levels