Adult and Higher Education

Program Policies

ADA Academic Support

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, please contact the instructor as soon as possible. Also make an appointment with the office of academic support for students with disabilities. At any point in the semester, if you encounter difficulty with the course or feel you could be performing at a higher level, consult with the instructor. Students experience difficulty in courses for a variety of reasons. For problems with writing skills and time management, make an appointment to see a student tutor at The Learning Commons, Glickman Library (780-4228). Help is also available through University Counseling Services, 105 Payson Smith (780-4050) and 110 Upton Hall (780-5180) and the and the Office of Academic Support for Students with Disabilities, 242 Luther Bonney, Portland Campus (780-4706).

Comprehensive Examination

All students in the Master of Adult and Higher Education Program will be required to successfully complete the comprehensive examination in the final year in which they are to graduate. This examination may not be waived.

As an integral part of their program and in close collaboration with their advisor, degree candidates will develop a professional portfolio describing progress toward professional goals while in the program. A definition of a portfolio and its uses in the program is as follows:

Definition of a Portfolio: A three ring loose leaf binder, or its equivalent, for the purpose of conveniently storing and describing program related experiences in the masters of adult education program and the student as an adult educator.

Contents: The portfolio will contain at least the following:

  1. the narrative statement submitted in applying for the adult education program
  2. a career aspiration statement, updated as desired
  3. an educational plan for program completion, updated as needed
  4. network profile information for use in describing oneself to other students and the alumni on a form to be provided by the faculty
  5. course papers and products
  6. the paper written for the HRD 649 Seminar in Adult Education representing completion of the program
  7. the comprehensive examination

Other Contents: The student is free to add other kinds of materials describing oneself as an adult educator. These might include things such as the following:

  1. samples of personal writing or drawings
  2. learning style inventories
  3. competency lists around adult education roles
  4. resume
  5. design of a job description which would represent the best use of yourself in the field
  6. special certifications, awards, or workshops completion records related to adult education.

Uses in the Program: The portfolio will be used in the following ways:

  1. in applying for the program (optional)
  2. in advising and course selection
  3. in selecting course projects, particularly possible directed studies and internships
  4. in describing program progress and accomplishments
  5. in preparing for the comprehensive examination
  6. in presenting credentials to potential employers

The comprehensive examination will meet the following criteria:

  1. be typewritten and footnoted in APA style
  2. be at least ten pages in length
  3. draw upon and apply major theories of adult learning, development, and professional practice studies in the program
  4. synthesize themes of one's practice as an adult educator.

Essay: Being Through Learning

The adult education portfolio comprehensive examination is a personal essay, written at the end of the program, reviewing your steps, recalling your progress, marking your graduation, and predicting your commencement as a self-educating learner. The key steps in writing the essay are:
  1. to complete and to read your portfolio containing and summarizing the work you have done in the program.
  2. to call and arrange a visit with your advisor to review the portfolio and to prepare for the exam.
  3. to conduct a program review process (a self-education project) around questions such as:
  • what was my goal in applying for the program?
  • what kind of program had I expected to take?
  • what was the program that I took?
  • what were the big books I discovered in the program?
  • what were the big ideas that struck me in the program?
  • how did I change in the program? What shifts did I make in my career goals?
  • what does it mean to me to be a self-educating learner?
  • what visions did I develop of an adult educating world and of my practice?
  • what have I discovered about my strengths and weaknesses?
  • what has the program achieved for me?
  • how do I see myself as a program graduate?
  • what will I be doing in five years?

4. Outline your essay based on the ideas that come to mind in this sketch process. Write and submit two copies of the essay along with your program portfolio.

The comprehensive examination will be evaluated by the faculty committee. The following criteria will be used in the evaluation:

  1. Ability to respond to the questions and issues in the exam protocol.
  2. Ability to respond fully and clearly.
  3. Ability to integrate and synthesize material, sources, ideas, and concepts into an essay.
  4. Coherence and congruence of an essay.
  5. Proper use of the English language; e.g., grammar, syntax, spelling, and paragraph construction.

When taken for the first time, the student may receive one of two grades:
Pass - No further action is required of faculty committee or student.
Fail - Any student receiving a failing grade must take the examination a second time. Those faculty who made up the comprehensive examination committee will meet with the student for the purpose of explaining the weaknesses found in the examination and to set out in writing a program designed to re-mediate those deficiencies.

When the comprehensive examination is taken for the second time, there are two possible grades: pass or fail. The comprehensive examination may not be taken a third time. Therefore, if a student fails the second time, he or she will be withdrawn from the program.

Continuous Enrollment

A matriculated graduate student must complete six (6) credit hours of coursework each year. A year begins on the date of matriculation. Failure to comply may result in "dis-enrollment."

Coursework included in a student's program of study taken at any university other than USM may satisfy the continuous enrollment requirement provided the student's USM advisor and the Department Chairperson have approved the registration in advance and in writing (see the extramural credit policy).

Any student may petition for an exception to this policy. Such petitions must be based upon reasonable substantiation. Exceptions must be approved by the Department Chairperson.

Dual Degrees

Occasionally, students in the College of Education and Human Development wish to pursue dual graduate degrees. The policy for pursuing dual degrees includes the following criteria:

  1. Students in one graduate program may take a concentration in another graduate program within the College of Education and Human Development. The number of credits required for the concentration will be determined by the student's degree program.
  2. If the student chooses to apply for another degree program, the applicant must meet all admission requirements and be accepted according to the admissions credit of each program.
  3. When admitted to the new program, all credits from the concentration in the previous program will be applied to the credit requirements of the new degree, in accordance with levels of acceptable performance determined by the program.
  4. The student must satisfy all credit and credentialing requirements of the new program.
  5. Upon completion of both programs, the student will have been granted two separate master's degrees.

Enrollment of Undergraduate Students in Graduate Courses

An undergraduate student may be permitted to enroll in graduate courses if the following conditions are met:

  1. The student is a junior or senior in an approved undergraduate program.
  2. The student has an earned GPA of 3.0.
  3. The student has met all course prerequisites or programmatic restrictions.
  4. The student has received prior approval to enroll in the course from his/her advisor, course instructor and department chairperson.
  5. The student is not displacing a graduate student in the course; that is, an undergraduate student may enroll in a course only after all qualified graduate students have had an opportunity to enroll in the course.
    6. The student may not enroll in courses that are restricted to matriculated graduate students only.

Extramural Credit

A graduate student in the Department of Human Resource Development may arrange to take coursework at another institution. This work may be taken at any accredited institution providing the following conditions are met:

  1. Prior to registration, the student must obtain the proper form from the Registrar's Office, consult with her/his advisor, complete the form and submit it to the Department Chairperson for approval.
  2. The Chairperson then must file the request with the Graduate Admissions Office.
  3. A grade of "B" or better must be received for the coursework.
  4. Extramural credit cannot be approved for: (a) courses which would not have received graduate credit if taken at USM; (b) correspondence courses; (c) courses which are inappropriate for inclusion into the student's program of study; and (d) courses in which a grade lower than "B" was received. In no case may more than six (6) credit hours be approved for extramural credit.
  5. USM College of Education graduate courses, approved for delivery through another University of Maine campus, will not be considered as part of the six (6) credit hour limit in the extramural credit policy. Yet, permission must be obtained from your advisor prior to registration for a UM course. It is the student's responsibility to have an official transcript forward to the HRD office upon completion of the UM course so that the final grade will be transferred to the student's official USM transcript.


Independent Study/Directed Study

Independent and directed study projects cannot exceed six credit hours. Only matriculated students may enroll in independent or directed studies. Independent study and directed study must be approved by the supervisory faculty member and the Department Chairperson. Approval forms are available from the program’s web page or may be found in the Directed Study/Internship Handbook.

Petitions for Exceptions to Regulations

A student has the privilege of petitioning for exceptions to the regulations to the department faculty by submitting in writing convincing evidence that the exception is needed and warranted. A petition is to be submitted to the Department Chairperson who will notify the student when the department faculty will review the request. The student has the right to be present during the review of the request and is encouraged to attend. The decision of the department faculty is final.

A student wishing to appeal a decision by the department faculty may do so by contacting the Dean of the College of Education and Human Development.

Prior Experience

Students entering our Masters program frequently have had work experience in the field. It is the department's policy to recognize this work experience through its inclusion, in digested form, in the student's graduate file and personal portfolio. The development of such a digest or portfolio may occur as part of coursework or in conjunction with an advisor.

On the basis of this analysis of a student's prior work and life experiences, a student may request a waiver of some required courses. This is most often done after matriculation with the advice and counsel of a faculty advisor. However, equivalency credit requests (graduate credit for life experiences) will not be entertained or granted.

Program of Study

The program of study is an outline of all academic work to be undertaken by a graduate student and includes all required and elective courses taken while enrolled. It is planned by the student and her/his advisor as early as possible in the student's course of study. Forms for this purpose from the department office. They should be completed in duplicate with the original being placed in the student's file. Minor changes may be made by the student with approval from his/her advisor.

Program Requirements - Adult Education Program

  1. Completion of the minimum of 36 semester hours of credit. Credits toward graduation are given only for graduate level courses (numbered 500 or above at USM). All courses completed must be passed with a minimum of "C". However, no graduate student will be allowed to apply more than six (6) hours of "C" grades and must attain a 3.0 GPA at graduation.
  2. In any semester in which the cumulative GPA falls below 3.0 (B average), the student will be placed on probation and must bring the cumulative GPA to 3.0 level within 9 credit hours or will be withdrawn from the program and must apply for readmission.
  3. A student receiving more than two "C" grades, one “D” grade, or one "F" grade at any point of his/her program will be evaluated by the program faculty.
  4. Successful completion of a comprehensive examination portfolio.
  5. Completion of the program must be accomplished within five years.

Substitutions and Waivers

Graduate students in the Department may petition in writing to the Department Chairperson for substitutions and waivers. The student must assume responsibility for supplying all documentation which is relevant to the request. After receiving the student's written request, the Department Chairperson will consult with a faculty member in the student's area of study and review the evidence provided. This review will be presented to the department faculty for a decision. When the request involves a requirement established by the department faculty, the faculty vote is final. The student will be notified in writing of the decision.


A masters thesis is an available component of all graduate programs. The thesis is a delimited research project, of some originality, which seeks to make a contribution to the student's particular field. A masters thesis is not required. Those students interested should contact the HRD Office (780-5220) for information.

Time Limits

A matriculated graduate student in Adult & Higher Education must complete the program and earn a degree within five (5) years of the date of matriculation. Exceptions must be approved by the program faculty.

If requirements for the master's degree are not completed within the time period specified, application for readmission must be made before the student is allowed to continue the work for the degree. Courses which exceed the time limit may be counted only if re-validated by a written examination, in the course as currently given. If the application for readmission is approved, the student's program of study will be revised in view of the work completed and/or re-validated.

Transfer Among Graduate Programs Within the Department of Human Resource Development

Students are not encouraged to transfer among the Adult & Higher /Education, Counselor Education, or School Psychology programs because these programs require somewhat different aptitudes, skills, and interests. Consequently, the initial application processes and criteria for acceptance, while overlapping, are not identical.

However, there are instances in which a student becomes interested, because of changing careers and personal interests, in transferring to another masters degree program within the Department of Human Resource Development.

In general, the department will attempt to accommodate such changing career interests by planning electives within the student's current program covering the stated new interests, thus avoiding the need for program transfer.

If, after speaking with her/his advisor, a student decides to apply for a transfer, the procedure is:

  • a. the student submits a written request to the department chairperson. This request must detail the reasons for making this request and why it should be granted.
  • The student indicates in the letter of request an understanding that all requirements must be met.
  • A committee will review the request and student record. A personal interview with
    designated faculty may be required.

Coursework earned as part of the degree requirements for a previous masters degree is not credited toward fulfilling the degree requirements for a new masters degree. If the student already has received credit for one or more courses that are required by the new program, he/she may substitute another course(s), with approval of his/her advisor.

Transfer from Similar Program at Another University

A graduate student in a masters program in adult education at another university may transfer into our program bringing all of their credits, under the following conditions:

  1. The program from which the student is transferring is an approved program from an accredited university.
  2. The student is in good standing and comes with the recommendation of the program coordinator.
  3. The student undergoes a successful interview process with our faculty.
  4. The student would agree to take the final 12 hours including directed study or internship and graduate seminar in the adult education program.

USM Policy on Disposition of Written, Graded Material

Faculty members giving students any type of test, quiz, exam, research or other type of paper or any type of written proficiency exam which affects the student's final (cumulative) grade shall be required to:

  • Return the written, graded material to the student within fifteen (15) days (including the day which the faculty member receives the material) in which the University has classes; or
  • Hold the written, graded material for the period of thirty (30) days in which the University has classes. The material must be available for inspection by the students who did the work on the material. The day on which the material is due is included in the 30-day period.

In the case of final (end-of-semester) written, graded material the instructor shall:

  • Offer to mail the corrected (graded) material to the student provided the student supplies the instructor with a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Exams that are to be mailed must be post-marked within fifteen (15) calendar days of the last day of the semester. The day all classes and exams cease is the last day of the semester. This day shall be included in the 15-day mailing period.
  • Instructors who do not wish to mail the graded material or who cannot return the material because of standardized testing shall make the graded material available for inspection by the student who did the work for a period no shorter than thirty (30) days into the next semester in which the University has classes.

Writing Style

All formal papers written for courses in the department are to be prepared according to the style presented in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (4th ed.). This style manual is available in most libraries and in the University of Southern Maine Bookstores.

All written papers in a graduate program are expected to be typed and double spaced, unless otherwise specified by individual course instructors.