Graduate Academic Policies and Regulations

Credit Load

Full-time graduate students register for nine or more credit hours per semester. Permission from the dean of the appropriate college is required for more than 15 hours per semester.

Independent Study

No independent study or individualized courses will be allowed in areas where courses exist and are taught at least once per year.

Only graduate degree-seeking students who have completed the core requirements or have special permission from the appropriate academic dean’s office may take individualized graduate courses or do graduate-level independent projects.

All independent study topics and the amount of credit to be earned must be approved by the faculty member who agrees to supervise the project. A maximum of six hours of credit can be granted for independent study. The conditions, meeting times, workload, and subject matter concerned with the project are mutually agreed to by the initiating student and the assenting faculty member, and consistent with standards of quality education. Request forms can be obtained from the faculty member or the academic program office. Some departments may have further restrictions regarding independent study.

Degree Requirements

In each of the graduate programs offered by Grand Valley State University, the university seeks to provide its students with intellectual challenge and opportunity for scholarly and professional growth. A graduate program is a carefully structured combination of course studies and research designed on the whole to serve specific needs of the student.

Specific details of the programs and regulations governing graduate work may be found in the department entries in this catalog. The following information briefly summarizes the institutional minimums for the master’s, specialist, and doctoral degrees. In those degree programs where the department requires more than the university minimum, their requirements take precedence.

Credit at the graduate level will only be awarded for grades of C (2.0) or better. This includes all graduate coursework and core, background, and foundation courses. Grades below C will be calculated in a student’s GPA, but the credits will not count toward the degree. Graduate students are expected to maintain a cumulative GPA of B (3.0) at all times. Additional information on GPA and grading requirements can be found in the Academic Review for Graduate Students section below.

Graduate Academic Policy for the Award of a Graduate Degree

1. The university may award a graduate degree only when a student meets all program requirements and their graduate program grade point average (GPA) is equal to or greater than a “B” (3.0) average.
2. The graduate program grade point average is computed from all required and elective courses taken for the degree(s) currently being pursued. It excludes all courses older than eight years at the time the degree is awarded unless a course is included in the degree program through an approved policy exception.
3. The Dean of The Graduate School may exclude one or more courses from the calculation of the graduate program grade point average where

  • the student makes a formal application for the exclusion; and
  • the graduate program director recommends such an exclusion; and
  • the Dean of The Graduate School makes a determination that such exclusion is in the best interests of the student, degree program, and university; and
  • the course(s) being requested for exclusion were not associated with a violation of the university academic integrity policy.

4. The student must fulfill all requirements for the degree within a period of eight consecutive years. The date of entry into the first graduate course at Grand Valley is viewed as the starting point of the eight-year period. If a course taken to complete the requirements for the master’s degree does not fall within the eight-year period allowed for the degree, the course may be retaken for credit, with departmental approval. Otherwise another course of equivalent semester hours must be substituted in the program.
5. Graduate credit from graduate institutions with appropriate regional accreditation may be considered for transfer to a degree program at Grand Valley State University. Students are directed to the transfer of credit policy for specific information.
6. Master’s programs may include some courses that are dual-numbered at the senior undergraduate and graduate level. Such courses must be approved for dual listing and must follow the dual-listed course policy. Students registering for graduate credit will be required to perform at the graduate level. Graduate students may not repeat for graduate credit dual-listed courses that were taken in their undergraduate program. If such a course is a master’s program requirement, the department will make an appropriate substitution.
7. Candidates for advanced degrees must demonstrate not only their mastery of the subject matter but also their ability to integrate and synthesize it. They must also demonstrate their ability to generate new knowledge and/or apply existing knowledge to specific practical situations. This demonstration may take the form of a thesis, comprehensive examination, or an appropriate project. A specific course may also be used to fulfill this requirement as long as it is structured as a Capstone experience. In such a course there must be a written product that meets the objectives and is evaluated by the faculty members in the program.

Graduate Academic Policy on the Minimum Number of Credits Required for the Award of a Masters Degree

1. A minimum of 33 graduate-level credits must be earned for a master’s degree to be awarded. Graduate-level credits for the master’s degree are earned in those courses that are numbered 500 and above that do not meet the definition of a leveling course.
2. A cumulative GPA of at least a 3.0 is required of all candidates for the master’s degree.
3. At least 24 credits must be earned at Grand Valley.
4. The following types of credit are NOT considered to be graduate-level credit for the purpose of this policy:

  • Credit earned for completion of a leveling course as defined below
  • Credit that was earned more than eight years prior to the award of the degree

Exceptions to this provision may be granted for courses over eight years old based on evidence provided by the student that demonstrates currency in the content of the course, and on the recommendation of the graduate program director for the degree sought, and with the approval of the Dean of The Graduate School.
5. No more than nine credits earned from a dual listed graduate course may be applied toward the degree.

Graduate Academic Policy on the Minimum Number of Hours Required for the Specialist Degree

1. A specialist degree program shall require a minimum of sixty (60) graduate credits beyond the baccalaureate degree.
2. Additionally, if a student has earned a master’s degree prior to matriculating in the specialist program, the student must earn a minimum of thirty (30) graduate credits beyond the master’s degree.
3. Credit earned in a leveling course as defined in the Graduate Academic Policy on the Minimum Number of Credits Required for the Master’s Degree may not be counted toward the minimum credit required.
4. A minimum of twenty-four (24) of the required graduate credits must be earned at the university.

Graduate Academic Policy on the Minimum Number of Hours Required for an Earned Doctoral Degree

1. Except as provided below, a graduate degree program shall require the following minimum number of graduate credits to award a doctoral degree:

a. Ninety (90) graduate credits beyond a baccalaureate degree
b. Additionally, if a student has earned a master’s degree prior to matriculation in the doctoral program, at least forty-five (45) graduate credits beyond the master’s degree
c. Forty-five (45) graduate credits earned at the university

2. A doctoral degree program may require fewer credits than specified above only if consistent with academic and discipline-based norms.

a. Consistency with academic and discipline-based norms may be demonstrated by offering

i. authoritative evidence, such as accreditation, professional/academic association standards; and/or
ii. documentation of prevailing practices among similar degree titles and programs; or
iii. a thorough and convincing rationale for a new innovative doctoral degree programs where similar programs do not exist.

b. A doctoral degree may NOT be awarded to a student who has earned fewer than

i. seventy-five (75) graduate credits beyond a baccalaureate degree; or
ii. thirty (30) graduate credits beyond the master’s degree, if a student has earned a master’s degree prior to matriculating in the doctoral program; or
iii. thirty (30) graduate credits at the university.

3. Credit earned in a leveling course as defined in the Graduate Academic Policy on the Minimum Number of Credits Required for the Master’s Degree may not be counted toward the minimums specified in this policy.

Graduate Academic Policy on the Transfer of Credit to a Graduate Program

1. Graduate credit from regionally accredited institutions or the equivalent will be considered for transfer to a degree program where the credit

a. is relevant to the student’s degree program as determined by the graduate program director of the program to which the credit would be applied; and
b. for which a grade of B (3.0) or above was earned; and
c. is applicable to any graduate degree at the institution from which the credit was awarded; and
d. is not a culminating experience; and
e. is not an independent learning, project, or similar experience.

Practicums, internships, clinical experiences, or fieldwork that are required of the program may be transferred upon approval of the graduate program director.

2. The acceptance of credit in transfer is at the discretion of the graduate program director of the degree program to which the credit will be applied.
3. The following is the maximum amount of transfer credit that may be applied to a graduate degree:

a. Nine credits for a degree program with a length of 33 credits
b. Thirty percent of the degree program for a degree program longer than 33 credits

4. Exceptions to this policy must be recommended by the graduate program director and approved by the Dean of The Graduate School.
5. Definitions

a. A regionally accredited institution is an institution that is accredited by one of the following organizations:

i. The Higher Learning Commission, North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
ii. Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools
iii. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
iv. Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
v. Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities
vi. Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges

b. A culminating experience is a thesis, dissertation, project, Capstone, or other similar activity.
c. The equivalent of graduate academic credit from a regionally accredited institution is credit

i. earned from an institution which the university has a formal agreement to accept the credit in transfer; or
ii. earned from an institution outside of the United States that has been evaluated on a course-by-course basis as equivalent to graduate credit earned from a regionally accredited institution. The evaluation must have been performed by a foreign transcript evaluation service approved by the Dean of The Graduate School; or
iii. earned from an institution outside of the United States, where the institution is recognized by the Dean of The Graduate School as equivalent to a United States regionally accredited institution. Transcripts of foreign institutions issued in languages other than English must be accompanied by a certified translation of the transcript in English.

Graduate Academic Policy on the Award of Academic Credit for Study Abroad Experiences

1. Graduate academic credit may be awarded to a student enrolled in a graduate degree program for a study abroad experience for which the student received the prior approval of the graduate program director.

a. The graduate program director, in consultation with the Padnos International Center, shall consider whether the study abroad experience:

i. is consistent with the amount of credit to be awarded
ii. is consistent in level and rigor with typical academic experiences for which graduate credit is awarded by a United States regionally accredited institution.

b. The acceptance of study abroad credit to meet a requirement or as an elective in a graduate degree program is at the discretion of the graduate program director.

Exception: This provision (paragraph 1) does not apply to a GVSU-sponsored study abroad experience for which credit is specifically awarded for a university course that is listed as a requirement or elective in the graduate degree program.

2. The graduate program director, in consultation with the Padnos International Center, shall consider whether the student’s academic performance in a completed study abroad experience is equivalent to a grade of B or higher at a United States regionally accredited institution.
3. Graduate academic credit awarded by the university for a study abroad experience for which the student has obtained the prior approval of the graduate program director is deemed to be graduate credit earned in residence at the university regardless of whether another (e.g., host) institution has awarded credit for the same experience.
4. This policy does not apply to a completed study abroad experience for which the student has not obtained the prior approval of the graduate program director. The applicable policy in such cases is the Graduate Academic Policy for the Transfer of Credit to a Graduate Program.
5. Except for courses meeting the exception in 1. b. above, the graduate program director shall report each award of graduate credit for a study abroad experience to the Dean of The Graduate School for final approval.

Graduate Academic Policy on Second Masters Degree

Under certain circumstances a student may earn two master’s degrees. Students who are considering such a plan should note the following information.
The university may award more than one master’s degree where
1. all stated requirements are met for each degree, and;
2. in the judgment of the Dean of The Graduate School, the degree program is sufficiently different from other graduate degrees currently sought or previously earned by the student; and
3. a minimum of 21 credits of graduate work is completed at the university for each degree sought that    

a. is exclusive of thesis, project, Capstone course or similar culminating experiences; and
b. is not utilized for any purpose for another graduate degree currently sought or previously earned at the university or elsewhere; and
c. meets all other university requirements.

This policy does not apply to dual-degree programs

1. within the university that have been specifically approved through the university curriculum approval process; or
2. offered in conjunction with another graduate institution under a formal agreement between the university and other graduate institution.

Masters Theses and Doctoral Dissertations Policy

1. Masters’ theses must be overseen and approved by a committee consisting of at least three members. Doctoral dissertations must be overseen and approved by a committee consisting of at least four members.
2. For the master’s thesis at least one committee member must be from outside the candidate’s specific research topic of study. For the doctoral dissertation at least one committee member must be from outside the candidate’s program of study.
3. All committee members must hold graduate faculty member status (full, associate, or adjunct). The chair of the committee must hold full graduate faculty member status.
4. The Dean of The Graduate School must approve individuals external to Grand Valley as members for thesis or dissertation committees. Qualified individuals will be given adjunct faculty member status for three years from the time of approval to serve on the thesis or dissertation committee.
5. The Graduate School will review the committee membership for adherence to policy.
6. There must be an announced, public proposal of the thesis or dissertation.
7. There must be an announced, public defense of the completed thesis or dissertation.
8. All graduate students who are working on their thesis or dissertation and have completed all other credit requirements for their degree program must remain in continuous enrollment by enrolling in at least one thesis or dissertation credit for each subsequent semester until the completion of the thesis or dissertation.
9. The completed document must adhere to the Grand Valley State University guidelines for the preparation of theses and dissertations as regularly reviewed and approved by Graduate Council.
10. After obtaining final approval from the committee and the appropriate academic dean, the completed document is reviewed by the Graduate School for adherence to the Grand Valley State University guidelines for the preparation of theses and dissertations. Approval of the Graduate School is required before the thesis or dissertation is accepted by Grand Valley State University.
11. An electronic version of the completed approved document must be submitted for inclusion in the Grand Valley institutional repository managed by the University Library.
12. Exceptions to this policy require the approval of the Dean of The Graduate School.

Continuous Enrollment Requirement for the Project, Thesis, or Dissertation Phase of Degree Programs

Master’s Programs
To complete requirements for the degree, students in master’s programs may select either a project or a thesis.*
1. Master’s project. Students begin the master’s project phase of their program by enrolling in xxx-693 (project). Thereafter, they must continue to enroll in either xxx-693 or xxx-696 (continuous enrollment) for at least one credit every semester until they have completed all requirements for the project.
2. Master’s thesis. Students begin the master’s thesis phase of their program by enrolling in xxx-695 (thesis). Thereafter, they must continue to enroll in either xxx-695 or xxx-696 (continuous enrollment) for at least one credit every semester until they have completed all requirements for the thesis.

Doctoral Programs
To complete requirements for the degree, students in a doctoral program may select either a project or a dissertation.*
1. Doctoral project. Students begin the doctoral project phase of their program by enrolling in xxx-793 (project). Thereafter, they must continue to enroll in either xxx-793 or xxx-796 (continuous enrollment) for at least one credit every semester until they have completed all requirements for the project.
2. Doctoral dissertation. Students begin the doctoral dissertation phase of their program by enrolling in xxx-795 (dissertation). Thereafter, they must continue to enroll in either xxx-795 or xxx-796 (continuous enrollment) for at least one credit every semester until they have completed all requirements for the dissertation.

*Where it is an available option, students may formally select a nonproject, nonthesis or nondissertation option for completing their degree program.
**xxx refers to the standard discipline-based course prefix (e.g., CMB for Cell and Molecular Biology).

Graduate Academic Policy on Course Withdrawals

A graduate student may seek a timely withdrawal or late withdrawal from a course and receive a grade of “W” if the request is approved. For a full semester course, this policy differentiates between requests for a withdrawal made before the end of the ninth week of classes or after the ninth week. The university registrar shall determine the equivalent of the end of the ninth week of classes for a partial-semester (e.g., five week, six week) course. A withdrawal from one or more courses does not remove the student from the graduate program. To completely withdraw from a graduate degree program a student must execute a program withdrawal request.

1. Course withdrawal in the first nine weeks of the semester
A graduate student may withdraw from a course and receive a grade of “W” up to the end of the ninth week of class.
2. Course withdrawal after the first nine weeks of the semester (Late Withdrawal)
After the ninth week of the semester, a degree-seeking graduate student may only withdraw from one or more courses and receive a grade of “W” with the approval of the course instructor, the director of the graduate program in which they are enrolled, and the Dean of The Graduate School. After the ninth week of the semester, a non-degree-seeking graduate student may only withdraw from one or more courses and receive a grade of “W” with the approval of the course instructor and the Dean of The Graduate School.
3. Program withdrawal
A graduate student may elect to withdraw from a graduate program. Each program shall have a process for reviewing a program withdrawal request that has been approved by and filed with the Dean of The Graduate School. A graduate student who has been granted a program withdrawal shall normally receive a “W” for the current semester courses, be classified by the university as a non-degree-seeking student, and must reapply for admission to the graduate program, if they desire to return. If the student wishes to apply to a different graduate program, he/she must meet all admission requirements for the new program.

Graduate Academic Policy on Leave of Absence

1. A graduate student may request a leave of absence for a maximum of two years from a graduate program for good cause. Examples of cause include, but are not limited to, medical issues, caring for family members, nonoptional military commitments, maternity, and work requirements.
2. The graduate student shall explain in writing to the graduate program director the reason for seeking a leave of absence and must specify the period for which the leave of absence is sought. The graduate student may provide materials supporting their request (e.g., military orders) if it is deemed necessary.
3. The graduate program director shall review the graduate student’s written explanation and supporting materials, relevant circumstances and documentation, academic performance, and history in the program. After considering the results of this review, the graduate program director shall recommend to the Dean of The Graduate School whether a leave of absence should be granted and the terms and conditions for return to the program.
4. The Dean of The Graduate School shall render a decision after reviewing the graduate student’s written request and the recommendation of the graduate program director. The decision by the Dean of The Graduate School shall be final.
5. If the student is granted an immediate leave of absence, it shall have the effect of a course withdrawal for all courses in which the student is enrolled. Requesting a tuition reimbursement must be completed following university policy.
6. The student shall follow the graduate program and catalog requirements in effect at the time of re-enrollment.
7. At the discretion of the Dean of The Graduate School, a leave of absence may be extended beyond the original time granted at the written request of the student. A student who does not enroll in classes or requests an extension at the end of the leave of absence may be required to reapply for admission at the discretion of their desired graduate program.
8. A leave of absence does not extend the eight-year time limit for the applicability of a graduate course toward a degree. Requesting an extension of the time limit must be completed following university policy.
9. A student in the dissertation or thesis phase of their graduate program is not required to maintain continuous enrollment in any semester for which a leave of absence has been granted.
10. Students who wish to take a semester away from their program and are not part of a cohort or structured program may not need to complete a Leave of Absence request and should contact the graduate program director prior to completing the request.

Academic Review for Graduate Students

1. All graduate students are expected to maintain a minimum of a 3.0 graduate program grade point average at all times.

2. The academic review process will be conducted by the appropriate graduate program director for degree-seeking graduate students or by the Graduate School for nondegree graduate students. Academic review is applicable to a graduate student
a. who earns in the previous semester
i. a grade of D or F; or
ii. the second or subsequent grade of C or lower in graduate courses in the student’s program; or
iii. the second or subsequent grade of NC in graduate courses in the student’s program;
b. whose performance is evaluated as unsatisfactory in a required clinical experience, internship, or practicum;
c. whose semester or cumulative program grade point average is less than 3.0;
d. who has not met the conditions of a previously imposed academic probation with the time limits imposed; or
e. who at the end of the semester has more than two unresolved grades of I (Incomplete) that were assigned in a previous semester.

3. Academic review may result in an academic warning, academic probation, or dismissal.

Graduate Dismissal

1. A graduate student shall be dismissed from a graduate program who
a. earns a second or subsequent grade of F in any graduate course, including repeated courses; or
b. has less than a 3.0 graduate program grade point average AND has accumulated nine or more hours for which a grade less than a B- was earned.

2. A graduate student who has been dismissed from a GVSU graduate program may not be admitted to a different graduate program and may not enroll in graduate courses without the permission of the Dean of The Graduate School.

Appeals of Action Taken Under this Policy

1. A degree-seeking or certificate-seeking graduate student may appeal an action taken under this policy using the graduate program’s published process for appeals of academic decisions. If the program does not have a published appeals process, the appeal shall be to the dean of the college in which the graduate program is housed. The student may appeal the decision of the dean of the college and to the provost or the provost’s designee. The result of each appeal shall be reported to the Dean of The Graduate School.
2. A nondegree graduate student may petition the Dean of The Graduate School for reconsideration of a decision. If such reconsideration is unsuccessful, the student may appeal the decision to the provost or provost’s designee.

Effect of Grade Change

If a review of the student’s record or dismissal from graduate study is based on a grade that is subsequently changed, the student may appeal or re-appeal any adverse action taken.

Timing of Decisions

All parties to the decision to take action under this policy shall act expeditiously to arrive at and communicate a decision to the student as soon as practicable. However, in order to afford due process and full consideration of the graduate student’s record and circumstances, a decision to dismiss a student under this policy may occur in the semester after the student’s performance or actions warranted dismissal. If the graduate student is enrolled in graduate courses at the time of the dismissal, the decision shall have the effect of a withdrawal from Grand Valley State University

Catalog Limitations and Guarantees

Graduate students follow the requirements in the Grand Valley catalog at the time they were originally admitted into a program as degree-seeking students. Students who have not enrolled in Grand Valley for 24 consecutive months must follow the requirements in the Grand Valley catalog in effect at the time of their re-entry. All students have the option of using the program requirements in effect at the time of graduation. Any exceptions must be approved in writing by the faculty advisor and program director and filed in the appropriate program office.



Page last modified April 14, 2017