Connecticut State Colleges and Universities
Charter Oak State College Official Catalog

About Charter Oak State College

Charter Oak State College is governed by the Connecticut Board of Regents, and accredited by the Connecticut Board of Governors for Higher Education and the New England Commission of Higher Education. Charter Oak State College is a Servicemembers Opportunity College.

The purpose of Charter Oak State College is to serve those individuals who cannot or do not choose to complete a college degree program through conventional means, often because of family, job or financial responsibilities.


Charter Oak State College is one of the seventeen constituent units of the Board of Regents. The Board is comprised of 15 voting members with nine appointed by the Governor and four appointed by legislative leadership, of whom one is a specialist in K-12 education and the three remaining are alumni of the Community Colleges, Connecticut State University System, and Charter Oak State College. Also serving on the Board as full voting members are the chair and vice-chair of the Student Advisory Committee. Funding comes from three sources: state appropriations, tuition and fees, and the voluntary contributions of individuals, foundations, and the corporate community.


The Connecticut General Assembly created the Board of State Academic Awards in 1973. In 1980, the Board received legislative authorization to designate its degree program as a college. The name chosen, "Charter Oak College," commemorated an early success in Connecticut's struggle for self-governance and was particularly suited to a public institution in what is popularly known as the Constitution State. In 1992, the name was changed to Charter Oak State College to facilitate recognition that the College was part of the state system of public higher education. In 2009, the State statute was changed to grant Charter Oak State College authority to offer master's degrees.

In 2011, the Connecticut Legislature reorganized the state system of higher education, combining the twelve community colleges, the four state universities, and Charter Oak State College under one governing board called the Board of Regents.


As part of the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities (CSCU) system, Charter Oak State College, the state's only public, online, degree-granting institution, provides affordable, diverse and alternative opportunities for adults to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates. The College's mission is to validate learning acquired through traditional and non-traditional experiences, including its own courses. The college rigorously upholds standards of high quality and seeks to inspire adults with the self-enrichment potential of non-traditional higher education.

Role and Scope

As a nontraditional college, Charter Oak State College is designed to provide adults with alternate means to earn degrees that are of equivalent quality and rigor to those earned at other accredited institutions of higher learning. The College, therefore, collaborates with and complements the missions of other Connecticut colleges and universities.

Charter Oak State College awards four undergraduate degrees: the Associate in Arts, the Associate in Science, the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science and one graduate Master of Science Degree. These degree programs enable students to meet career and personal goals. The content of the bachelor's degree programs is structured to provide the foundations needed for advanced study since a large number of Charter Oak State College alumni continue their education in graduate school. In addition, the college offers a number of credit certificate and non-credit programs. Enrollment is open to any adult who demonstrates college-level achievement. The College endeavors to recognize the diversity and achievements of its entire community.

Recognizing that learning takes place in many forms, Charter Oak State College provides a flexible approach to undergraduate higher education. Academic credit may be awarded for course work completed successfully at other accredited institutions, academic instruction sponsored by non-collegiate organizations, military training evaluations, and online courses offered by Charter Oak State College, testing, portfolio assessment, contract learning, and for learning acquired through many licensure and certification programs. Graduate credit may be awarded for transfer work earned at another regionally accredited institution or through portfolio assessment.

Since Charter Oak State College is an online college, its entire structure is designed to serve students at a distance, including online admissions, online academic advising, online tutoring, online library services. The College also serves as a testing center, provides credit registry services; and evaluates training programs and national certification, credentials, and military credit; as well as, information regarding other educational opportunities. and provides credit registry services, as well as, information regarding other educational opportunities.

The College faculty are from regionally accredited colleges and universities or are professionals with advanced degrees working in their area of expertise. They assess academic achievement in areas not measured by standardized tests and serve as instructors for our online courses, contract learning, and practica. In recruiting these faculty and experts, the College actively seeks to identify educators who value the impact of broad and diverse experience acquired by adult students.

Charter Oak State College also assists other Connecticut colleges and universities seeking to provide their students with alternate ways to validate college-level learning; develops partnerships with the corporate and non-profit community to meet the state's workforce needs; and through its Connecticut Credit Assessment Program (CCAP) and Credential Evaluation Program, evaluates and formally recognizes non-collegiate learning regardless of how or where such learning is acquired.

Charter Oak State College conducts institutional research and assessment to monitor and evaluate the progress and success of its students, graduates, and programs. The College uses the results of these assessments to evaluate its effectiveness and to make changes that respond to student, institutional, and societal needs. As part of its assessment process and to ensure that its students succeed academically, the college instituted a six credit residency requirement at the undergraduate level in the form of a cornerstone course for new students and a capstone course for seniors.

Degree Offerings

Charter Oak State College is authorized to offer Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Master's Degree's all online. Degrees are awarded by the governing board, the Board of Regents, upon the recommendation of an appointed core of consulting faculty. This recommendation is based on the faculty's formal evaluation of transfer credit, non-collegiate instruction and portfolios; results of approved examinations; evaluation of Charter Oak State College courses; and other procedures by which they assess and validate academic learning.

Educational Philosophy

Charter Oak State College holds a unique place in American higher education. It pioneered the development of an alternative to the traditional college model. Instead of viewing college as a residential experience in which young adults mature intellectually and personally under the tutelage of faculty in a prescribed curriculum, Charter Oak State College developed an innovative distance learning program for adult learners that affords them the opportunity to apply towards a college degree the learning they acquired through life. Charter Oak's degree program model recognizes the characteristics of adult learners, honors the traditions of liberal education, and prepares students to apply knowledge in their daily lives.

The Charter Oak State College institutional philosophy asserts that:

  • college level learning can be acquired anywhere, anytime, and in many ways;
  • such learning can be assessed;
  • when assessed, it should be accredited via appropriate means;
  • learning is effectively enhanced via collaborative interaction with faculty and peers; and
  • advisement is critical to student success.

Charter Oak State College undergraduate students can earn their credits in many different ways, and students come to Charter Oak State College having earned numerous credits. Since the average age of the Charter Oak State College student is around 39 years old, Charter Oak State College students have already acquired many of the skills necessary to succeed in life, such as being a responsible citizen, the ability to work with others, and the ability to work independently. Therefore, the undergraduate General Education requirements at Charter Oak State College build upon these skills. The General Education requirements emphasize the liberal arts and the skills necessary to enable students to succeed in their profession, be good citizens, and to continue as lifelong learners and meet the standards of both its state and regional accrediting associations.

Charter Oak State College believes that its undergraduate students should be liberally educated, as evidenced by the 60-credit liberal arts requirement for a Bachelor of Science degree and the 90-credit liberal arts requirement for a Bachelor of Arts. The liberal arts component of the General Education requirement helps undergraduate students:

  • acquire knowledge of American history and the history and culture of another country;
  • gain an understanding of what it means to be a part of a global and diverse society;
  • acquire the ability to use scientific and mathematical inquiry to solve problems;
  • learn how the arts and humanities enhance our lives, and;
  • understand how the social sciences and behavioral sciences explain past endeavors and guide future efforts at living together in political, economic and cultural communities.

The undergraduate General Education program is also designed to help students enhance specific skills and knowledge:

  • to think critically;
  • to communicate effectively;
  • to use information literacy in conducting research; and
  • to make ethical decisions.

These skills are infused in a number of the liberal arts courses and in courses required for the concentration or major.

Our educational philosophy carries over to our graduate program. In our graduate program the College allows students to demonstrate learning equivalent to college-level learning and the program is designed with working adults in mind. The program requires that the students have work experience and it permits them to develop a project that can enhance their career. In addition, the degree extends the specific skills of our general education undergraduate program—critical thinking, effective communication, information literacy and research, and ethical decision making.

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is an agreement among member states, districts and territories that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance education courses and programs. It is intended to make it easier for students to take online courses offered by postsecondary institutions based in another state. SARA is overseen by a National Council and administered by four regional education compacts. The Connecticut Office of Higher Education became a member of SARA in 2017, thus allowing Charter Oak State College to apply to be a member of SARA. This was approved February 2017. This allows Charter Oak State College to accept students from all SARA approved states which includes all states but California and Massachusetts (Charter Oak State College has separate agreements with California and Massachusetts).

Student Complaints

Pursuant to federal regulations and the terms of SARA, the Office of Higher Education is responsible for the investigation and resolution of out-of-state students’ complaints against institutions of higher education based in Connecticut and offering distance education via SARA. Note that issues regarding student life, such as discipline, grading, etc., fall solely within the purview of the institution and are not generally investigated. Additionally, the Office of Higher Education does not investigate anonymous complaints or provide legal advice.Currently, SARA institutions are to:

  • Apply the tuition refund policies of their home state to students located in other SARA states; and
  • For students located in non-SARA states, follow any relevant tuition refund policies of those states.

Within two years of the incident complained of, out-of-state students enrolled in a Connecticut institution via SARA may file a complaint in accordance with the following steps:

  1. The student must attempt to resolve the complaint by exhausting the institution’s established internal grievance procedures. These are usually published in the institution’s catalog, student handbook and/or posted on the institution’s website. Absent extenuating circumstances, the Office of Higher Education will not investigate complaints filed by students who have not first sought a resolution with the institution.
  2. If all remedies at the institutional level have been exhausted and the complaint is not resolved, the student may file a complaint with the Office of Higher Education. To file a complaint, please follow these procedures. All documentation for review related to the complaint must be provided by the student as part of the filing.
  3. The Office of Higher Education will process the complaint and provide copies of all documents filed with the complaint to the institution. The institution has 20 days to respond. After receiving a response and conducting an investigation, the Office of Higher Education will issue a findings report to all parties. The findings report is final.

If a Connecticut student is enrolled in a distance education program offered by a SARA institution based in another state, the student should contact the portal agency in that state to pursue the complaint process. Connecticut students enrolled in Connecticut institutions must first exhaust an institution’s established internal grievance procedures, and then should contact the Office of Higher Education prior to filing a complaint.

All correspondence, including institutional applications and student complaints, should be sent via email or post to:

SARA Coordinator
Office of Higher Education
450 Columbus Blvd, Suite 510
Hartford, CT 06105