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Liberal Studies

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The Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree (B.L.S.) was established by the three Iowa Regent universities primarily to meet the needs of Iowans who want to earn a college degree but whose circumstances present obstacles to completing a traditional on-campus degree program. The degree may be earned from Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, or the University of Northern Iowa.

The B.L.S. is a general studies degree in the liberal arts. There is no traditional major. Instead, students take coursework in three areas of distribution. These areas may be focused in a single discipline or diversified over several disciplines. With the assistance of a B.L.S. adviser, students can structure a program that meets their individual educational, vocational or personal goals.

Up to three-fourths of the total degree requirements can be transferred from accredited institutions. Work done in community colleges or other accredited colleges and universities can be applied toward the degree, as can applicable courses taken at any of the three Iowa Regent universities, whether on or off campus.

The B.L.S. program has no residence requirements. To complete the degree, students may earn credits through distance-learning formats as well as regular on-campus courses. Students may also earn credits by proficiency or test-out examinations.


Admission to the B.L.S. program is open to persons who meet either of the following levels of previous educational attainment:

  • Hold the associate in arts (A.A.) or associate in science (A.S.) degree from an accredited two-year college. (Holders of the associate in applied science or associate in applied arts degree are not automatically eligible, although some courses may be found applicable upon review.)
  • Have at least 24 semester credits of collegiate work acceptable toward graduation at ISU with a total cumulative grade point average of at least 2.00 (a C average).

Requirements for the B.L.S. Degree

The B.L.S. candidate must earn a total of 120 credits in accordance with requirements listed below. Courses taken at Iowa State University on a pass/not pass basis may be counted toward graduation only as electives. No more than 9 credits of 490 (Independent Study) courses in a single discipline may be counted toward graduation.

Required Coursework
Basic English Composition6
World language/Cultures*6-8
Arts and humanities**12
Mathematics, statistics, or computer science**3
Natural sciences**8
Social sciences**9
Distribution Requirements***36
Total Credits, 120 Minimum

*The requirement may be met by completion of three or more years of high school study in one world language, by meeting the LAS World Language requirement, or by taking six credits of International Perspectives courses.

**A list of courses acceptable in the general education groups can be obtained from the college website.

***A minimum of 12 credits is required in each of three of the five distribution areas listed below.

Distribution Areas

Humanities (for example, literature, philosophy, history, religion, art and music appreciation)

Communications and arts (for example, journalism, speech, writing, drama, art, world language, communication studies, advertising, public relations)

Natural sciences and mathematical disciplines (for example, chemistry, physics, biology, geological and atmospheric sciences, mathematics, statistics, computer science, data science, environmental science)

Social sciences (for example, sociology, psychology, economics, political science, anthropology, geography)

Professional fields (for example, business, education, family and consumer sciences, agriculture, engineering -- generally courses taught outside the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences)

At least 24 upper-level credits are required in the three distribution areas with a minimum of 6 upper-level credits in each of the areas.

Other Requirements

Included in the total of 120 credits must be the following:

45 upper-level credits from a four-year college

30 credits from ISU earned during the junior/and or senior year.

Three credits of course work in U.S. Diversity and 3 credits in International Perspectives.

A grade average of at least 2.00 (a C average) in all coursework applied to the B.L.S. degree and in all upper-level coursework.

A grade of C or better in ENGL 250.

Proficiency in upper-level communication demonstrated by completion of an approved composition/communication course from a four-year college.