Jul 25, 2024  
2019-2020 Undergraduate Catalog 

Liberal Arts and Sciences B.A. or B.S. Contract Major

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Contract Major - Liberal Arts and Sciences

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers students opportunities for constructing two types of individualized programs of study which differ from the university’s regular major and minor programs. These individualized programs, the B.A. or B.S. contract major and the general program in which a student earns a Bachelor of General Studies (B.G.S.) degree, utilize existing university courses.

Each of the two programs offered by Liberal Arts and Sciences addresses a different set of educational objectives. The contract major allows a student with unusual and well defined academic interests to design a major with the advice of a faculty sponsor. The general program, by contrast, requires no formal major; it is a minimally structured program built around a general curriculum of courses offered or approved by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The general program is expected to appeal primarily to mature students with broad academic interests whose educational objectives do not include preparation for a specific professional career.

NOTE: The degree Bachelor of General Studies is not as well understood outside the university as traditional baccalaureate degrees. Students earning this degree may be required to convince prospective employers or graduate schools that the degree will enable them to succeed in a particular job or a future educational endeavor.

The student learning outcomes for this degree are located at http://www.niu.edu/assessment/Outcomes/general.pdf.


Students seeking admission to one of these programs in Liberal Arts and Sciences must have at least sophomore standing and must file an application for admission to the program with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Forms can be obtained from the Advising Office of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


A student may formulate a proposal for a major program of study, appropriate to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which differs substantially from existing major programs but utilizes existing courses. The student must select a faculty sponsor from the college’s faculty and formulate the proposal in consultation with this sponsor. The program must be logically structured around a meaningful and interesting theme or topic. Some topics which have been proposed are environmental economics, noise control technology, Judaic studies, and biophysics. Other students have based contract major proposals on existing interdisciplinary minors such as environmental studies, Latin American studies, and international studies. Students desiring to build programs of this kind using a core of courses offered by either the College of Visual and Performing Arts or the College of Education should consult with those colleges. An example of such a program would be a contract major in scientific illustration, based on the School of Art’s B.F.A. emphasis in illustration coupled with a considerable amount of course work from the Department of Biological Sciences. Students desiring programs involving a substantial amount of course work in colleges other than Education or Visual and Performing Arts should work with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and will be required to secure a cosponsor from the discipline housing such course work. Programs proposals must be submitted through the Advising Office of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and must be approved by the college’s Contract Major Committee.

The student who wishes to propose a contract major must

  • have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.50.
  • justify the new curriculum and define the goal to be achieved.
  • design a multidisciplinary program that may be accommodated within existing university resources and facilities. (The program may include internships, independent study, or special projects on or off campus, but no more than 12 semester hours of course work for these kinds of activities will be permitted in the contract.)
  • include in the program at least 50 semester hours of credit in courses basic to the area of study. These 50 semester hours
    • may not be used to fulfill general education requirements,
    • must include at least 15 semester hours of course work offered by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,
    • must include at least 30 semester hours of course work at the 300-400 level, and
    • must not include more than 24 semester hours from the offerings of a single department.
    • complete either the university foreign language requirement for the B.A. degree or the college requirement for the B.S. degree.

A student who completes an approved contract major and all other graduation requirements will receive either the B.A. degree or the B.S. degree with a contract major in ______ (the theme specified in the contract).

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