Academic Policies - Graduate
Courses offered for graduate credit are those listed in the graduate catalog or other official publications of the University. The determination of whether or not a particular graduate course fulfills degree requirements, however, is the responsibility of the individual graduate program. Courses numbered 500 through 599 are intended for graduate students and are also available to undergraduate students who have received permission from the instructor and their advisor. Courses numbered 600 through 699 are restricted to graduate students and undergraduate students who have been formally accepted into an accelerated graduate pathway. Courses numbered 700 and above are intended for doctoral students and are also available to master’s-level graduate students who have received permission from the instructor and their advisor.
All students in accelerated graduate pathways will be required to take the total number of credits required for their graduate degree. No less than 50% of the total number of graduate degree credits can be earned after the completion of the undergraduate degree.
Grades at the University are given in terms of letters, with the option of a plus or minus designation (with the exception of A+), representing levels of achievement. The basis for determining a grade is the relative extent to which the student has achieved the objectives of the course. The student’s work in each course is graded as follows: A—superior; B—basic competency; C—below competency; D—unsatisfactory; F—failure.
Other letter grades are as follows:
Pass with a grade of B- or better in a pass/fail course.
Low Pass with a grade of C+ or C in a pass/fail course.
Fail with a grade lower than C in a pass/fail course.
Incomplete: a temporary grade given when the student, because of extraordinary circumstances, has failed to complete course requirements. Incomplete grades must be resolved by the end of the subsequent fall or spring semester. If the incomplete is not resolved by the instructor, the I grade will be converted to an F.
Permanent Incomplete: When a temporary incomplete (I) grade is not resolved to a normal letter grade, a permanent incomplete may be assigned in extraordinary circumstances as determined by the instructor and the dean. In unusual circumstances wherein the faculty member is no longer available, the dean may exercise this function. The grade of INC has no impact on GPA; no credits awarded.
Stopped attending: The grade of L may be assigned to students who stopped attending a course without officially dropping the course. The grade of L will be computed as an F for purposes of the student’s grade point average.
Missing Grade: Occasionally, faculty may assign students invalid grades for a course or may fail to submit a grade for a particular student in a course. In these cases, the Registrar will note this act by designating a missing grade, or MG, instead of a grade for the course. Missing Grades must be resolved by the end of the subsequent fall or spring semester. If the missing grade is not resolved by the instructor, the MG will be converted to an F.
Withdrawal after the add/drop period through 60% of the course in a given semester. If a student has not officially withdrawn before 60% of the course has been completed, an F will be assigned. The W notation may be obtained after 60% of the course has been completed under unusual circumstances if so determined by the instructor and the dean. A threat of failure is not considered to be an unusual circumstance. The grade of W has no impact on GPA.
Satisfactory progress after one semester of a two-semester course. Grade and credits to be given upon completion of second semester.
Student attended courses on a noncredit, audit basis. (No impact on GPA.)
Everyone associated with the University of Southern Maine is expected to adhere to the principles of academic integrity central to the academic function of the University. Any breach of academic integrity represents a serious offense. Each student has a responsibility to know the standards of conduct and expectations of academic integrity that apply to academic tasks. Violations of student academic integrity include any actions that attempt to promote or enhance the academic standing of any student by dishonest means. Cheating on an examination, stealing the words or ideas of another (i.e., plagiarism), making statements known to be false or misleading, falsifying the results of one’s research, improperly using library materials or computer files, or altering or forging academic records are examples of violations of this policy which are contrary to the academic purposes for which the University exists. Acts that violate academic integrity disrupt the educational process and are not acceptable.
Evidence of a violation of the academic integrity policy will normally result in disciplinary action. A copy of the complete policy may be obtained from the Dean of Students Office, Woodbury Campus Center, Portland, (207) 780-5242.
Considerable care is taken to ensure that course registration and grades entered on a student’s permanent record are accurate. Any student who suspects an error has been made should take the matter up immediately with the Registrar. Records are assumed to be correct if a student does not report to the Registrar within one year of the completion of a course. At that time, the record becomes permanent and cannot be changed.
The permanent academic record is maintained by the Registration and Scheduling Services Office for all students. While the grades may be reported unofficially to the student, academic dean, and advisor, the only true and valid documentation of academic work and student status is an official transcript of the academic record, stamped with the Registrar’s signature and embossed with the seal of the University. The transcript is available only with the signature of the student and will be released to that student or a designee only if there are no outstanding charges against his or her account with Student Financials. Other types of transcripts are: Unofficial—Issued Directly to Student; Placement Transcript provided for the student’s placement folder.
The University complies with the Family Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (the Buckley Amendment). For the complete University Confidentiality Policy, consult the Confidentiality of Student Records Policy.
The academic standing of each student is computed by the Registrar at the end of every semester. The following table represents the rating scale:
4.00 grade points per credit hour
3.67 grade points per credit hour
3.33 grade points per credit hour
3.00 grade points per credit hour
2.67 grade points per credit hour
2.33 grade points per credit hour
2.00 grade points per credit hour
1.67 grade points per credit hour
1.33 grade points per credit hour
1.00 grade points per credit hour
0.67 grade points per credit hour
0.00 grade points per credit hour
Grades less than C are not acceptable for graduate work in any program; individual programs may set higher standards. Students receiving such grades will be reviewed for retention in the graduate program.
A credit hour is defined as one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and no less than two hours of out of class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time.
Students may self-add classes of twelve or more weeks in length through the end of the first week of the semester, provided that there is space available in the class and the student has satisfied all associated requirements for the class. An instructor's signature or departmental permission, is required in all situations where the student is unable to self-register. For classes that are less than 12 weeks in length the period of self-add will be 7% of the class length (one day for each two weeks of the class length).
Students who find that their names are not on the instructor's official list or listed in their semester enrollment in Mainestreet should check immediately with Registration and Scheduling Services to make the necessary corrections in the registration records.
Students may self-drop from a course at any time before the end of the course.
-A drop during the first two weeks of a course that is twelve weeks or more in length (or during the first 14% of the class for classes less than twelve weeks in length) will not be noted on the transcript.
-A drop after the first two weeks of a course that is twelve weeks or more in length through 60% of the course will receive the grade notation of W.
-A drop of a course after the 60% period will receive the grade notation of F.
The W notation may be assigned after 60% of the course has been completed under unusual circumstances if so determined by the instructor and the dean.
All students who register for a course and neither complete the course objectives nor officially withdraw according to any one of the procedures described above will be graded F or an L in that course and must assume all financial obligations associated with the course.
*****Please check your MaineStreet Schedule in the Student Center and click on the icon (Academic Calendar Deadlines) before each class for the exact deadline dates. *****
Students who register to audit a course receive no credit for the course but will have an audit grade recorded on their transcripts. Audit courses must be declared at registration.
The following policies apply generally to graduate programs. Consult each degree program for specific policies.
All courses must have a syllabi. However, provided that the University is compliant with ADA accessibility standards, paper syllabi are no longer required. A paper syllabi must be provided to any student in the class who requests one.
Faculty are expected to submit final semester grades no later than ten (10) calendar days after the last day of the semester, inclusive of finals.
Except for students formally accepted into an accelerated graduate pathway, a graduate student may be able to apply up to six credit hours of undergraduate work to his or her graduate program according to the determination of the particular program of study. In all cases, the following conditions must be met to apply undergraduate credit to a graduate program:
- Coursework must be earned after the student has been granted matriculation status in a graduate program.
- Coursework must add breadth or depth to the student’s program of study.
- Coursework is not of a remedial nature to correct a deficiency.
- No equivalent or comparable graduate course exists at the University of Southern Maine.
- Coursework receives prior approval of the student’s advisor, course instructor, and graduate program director.
- Coursework is earned in upper-level undergraduate courses.
- Grade of B or better is earned for the coursework.
- Coursework meets all existing graduate course requirements except the course number requirement.
Students accepted into accelerated graduate pathways should consult their programs for specific policies.
Graduate courses used toward an undergraduate degree cannot be used toward graduate degree requirements unless there is a pre-existing articulation agreement. Please consult the articulation agreement for individual programs, as the number of credits that may be used varies.
Courses taken at other institutions and the accompanying grades may be accepted as part of the graduate program provided they are taken after the student has matriculated and that prior approval is granted by the student’s advisor and program director. Extramural credit is not approved for: 1) courses which would not have received graduate credit if taken at the University of Southern Maine; 2) courses which are inappropriate for inclusion in the student’s program of study; 3) courses which exceed time limits prescribed for a particular degree program or courses in which a grade lower than B was received.
In certain circumstances a degree student may request a substitution or waiver of program requirements. The program director should be contacted if a substitution or waiver of a requirement is requested.
The requirement of a thesis is determined by each particular graduate program.
Oral and Written Comprehensive Examination
The requirement of an oral and/or written comprehensive examination is determined by each graduate program.
A master’s degree student may earn up to nine hours of independent study or directed study. Students in a Ph.D. program may earn up to 15 hours of independent study or directed study. All independent study or directed study must be approved by the appropriate graduate program. Students are encouraged to consult with their faculty advisor regarding regulations governing independent study for particular programs. Non-matriculated students are not eligible for independent study or directed study.
Continuous Enrollment and Residency
Continuous enrollment requires that every graduate student must either be enrolled in coursework in his/her program (six credits per calendar year required); enrolled in GRS 601, 603, 701, or 702; or be on a formal leave of absence, approved by the student’s program chair and on file with the Office of Graduate Studies. GRS 601, 603, 701, and 702 aid students in maintaining continuous enrollment status, enrollment in any of these requires authorization as noted on the approval form and by the Office of Graduate Studies, and these will not be reported on official USM transcripts.
GRS 601 is equivalent to a noncredit course that allows the student continued access to University services, including USM computers, library, and recreational facilities. Registration for this course incurs applicable University fees for which the student is financially responsible. It is designed for students who are working on a capstone, thesis, or dissertation. GRS 601 does not grant a student part-time or full-time status for financial aid eligibility, University-funded fellowships, scholarships, graduate assistantships, loan deferment, or visa compliance. Enrollment in GRS 601 requires approval from the student’s faculty advisor or the program chair and is typically limited to two semesters.
GRS 603 is equivalent to a 4.5 credit course. Students enrolled in this course are considered half-time for the purposes of academic standing, graduate assistanships, university scholarships, visa compliance, and access to university programs and services, including USM computers, library, and recreational facilities. This course option is primarily intended for students who have completed coursework for the master's degree, but have not completed their thesis or capstone. Enrollment in GRS 603 requires approval from the student's academic advisor and the Office of Graduate Studies. A student may register for this course no more than twice.
GRS 701 is equivalent to a 1-credit course that permits doctoral degree candidates registered for less than 6 credits to retain eligibility for financial aid, University-funded fellowships, scholarships, graduate assistantships, student health insurance, loan deferment, visa compliance, and access to University services, including USM computers, library, and recreational facilities. Requirements include passing qualifying exams, receiving certification of adequate academic progress from the program chair and dissertation/capstone chair, and obtaining approval from the Office of Graduate Studies.
GRS 702 is equivalent to a 1-credit course for doctoral students who have passed their qualifying exams. GRS 702 allows the student continued access to USM computers, library, and recreational facilities. This course does not qualify the student for financial aid, University-funded fellowships, scholarships, graduate assistantships, loan deferment, visa compliance, or eligibility for USM student health insurance. Approval by the program chair is required for registration.
Leave of Absence
In extenuating circumstances a student may petition for exception to the continuous enrollment policy; the petition must bear approval of the student’s advisor and director of the graduate program. A signed Leave of Absence form must be sent to the Office of Graduate Studies. Forms are available on the Office of Graduate Studies website at www.usm.maine.edu/grad.
The time limit for completion of a master’s degree is dated from the date of first matriculation and is either five or six years, depending on the requirements of the particular graduate program. The time limit for completion of a doctoral program is no more than ten years from the date of first matriculation. In extenuating circumstances a student may petition the director of the graduate program for an extension of the time limit.
For detailed information regarding registration, fees, and billing, visit the Office of Registration and Scheduling Services website at www.usm.maine.edu/reg or contact program offices.
Matriculated graduate students may register for courses during an advance registration period. Advance registration for the spring semester is conducted in November, and for the fall semester is conducted in April. Matriculated students are encouraged to register during the advance periods to increase the probability that they will obtain desired courses. No payment of tuition or fees is due during advance registration. For information regarding payment of bills, see the Financial Information section.
Full-time registration is for 9 or more degree credits; three-quarter time requires 6.75 credits; half-time requires 4.5 credits.
Note: For the purpose of eligibility for graduate assistantships, financial aid, or veterans benefits, credits required for full-time status may differ. Please consult the Office of Graduate Studies, Student Financial Services, or the Veterans Services Office for current requirements.
Each degree student will be assigned a faculty advisor upon admission to a program. Students are encouraged to maintain regular contact with their faculty advisor throughout their program of study. The Office of Graduate Studies is available for help with non-academic questions at (207) 780-4877.
The definition of satisfactory progress towards the completion of a degree is determined by the particular graduate program. However, at the end of any semester in which the cumulative GPA falls below 3.0 (B average) the student will be placed on probation by the Office of Graduate Studies and must bring the cumulative GPA to 3.0 level within the time set by the graduate program (up to two semesters) or the student will be withdrawn from the program.
The development of original thinking and intellectual honesty are regarded as central to a graduate education. Although in the pursuit of these goals, students will continually consult existing works, it is expected that they will acknowledge the debt owed to others by citing all sources.
Plagiarism, the use without attribution of language, ideas, or the organization of ideas not one’s own, is a fundamental breach of basic academic principles and is prohibited in all courses. Unless group work is assigned, coursework is normally completed independently. If books, journals, magazines, or any other sources are reviewed and the ideas or language therein used, they must be cited. Where specific guidelines are not given, students should consult a reference source on proper notation.
Evidence of plagiarism will result in a grade of F for the assignment and may, at the discretion of the instructor, lead to an F in the course. In addition, further sanctions (i.e. censure, probation, suspension, or dismissal) may be imposed through the Student Code of Conduct.
The case of any student who admits to or is found guilty of a violation of academic integrity will be reviewed by the Student Conduct Committee. The student will be subject to appropriate sanctions, including expulsion from the University. A copy of the USM Student Guide to Academic Integrity and/or a copy of the Student Academic Integrity Policy is available from the Dean of Students Office, Upton Hall, Gorham, (207) 780-5242.
Withdrawal with the loss of matriculation status from the University of Southern Maine may be for personal reasons on the part of the student, academic reasons as determined by the program requirements, or by administrative decision.
- Student Withdrawal To withdraw from the University the student must submit an official Withdrawal Form to the Office of Registration and Scheduling Services and complete an exit interview with his or her advisor.
- Academic Withdrawal If a student has not made satisfactory academic progress toward fulfilling degree requirements (see above), he or she may be withdrawn from the University.
- Administrative Withdrawal A student may be withdrawn from a particular graduate program for reasons of a professional nature as determined by the program director or department chair.
A student may withdraw from all courses for a semester by notifying the Registrar in writing. Unless the student specifies that they want to lose their matriculation status (see paragraph above) they will remain a matriculated student and may register for future terms.
To provide graduate students with assistance in resolving disagreements or complaints of a non-academic nature, the University has designated the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS) to respond to student inquiries. The mission of OGS is to provide impartial guidance to students in identifying the nature of their disagreement or complaint. OGS staff will guide students to the appropriate University policy or procedure to utilize in seeking resolution. The academic policies described below are not applicable to student complaints about unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment; however, an OGS representative can advise the student about the University policies and procedures to follow when student complaints of this nature arise. Please contact the Director of Graduate Studies at (207) 780-4812 for more information on this process.
Academic Grade Appeal Policy
The purpose of the academic grade appeal policy is to provide a fair and speedy review of all student appeals of academic grades in graduate/professional programs at the University of Southern Maine; this policy will permit such appeals to be determined in a manner that reflects the interests of both the student and the instructor. The only matters reviewable under this policy are claims of prejudice on the part of an instructor in an academic exercise or activity for which a grade leading to academic credit is awarded, and/or evident and prejudicial error in the administration or grading method used for any paper, examination, performance, or other exercise or activity for which a grade leading to academic credit is awarded, provided that the academic judgment used in determining the merits of the grade to be awarded to such exercise or activity shall not be reviewable.
An appeal under this policy shall be carried out according to the following procedures:
- The student should present his or her claim, in writing, to the instructor involved and shall seek to have the matter resolved by the instructor. In no event shall there be a right of appeal hereunder for a claim presented to the instructor more than thirty days after a final grade is posted to the student’s record. The instructor must respond within fourteen days of receiving the appeal.
- If the student remains aggrieved by the decision of the instructor under step 1, he or she may, within fourteen days after formal receipt of the instructor’s final decision, appeal, in writing, to the chairperson of the department or program director of the college in which the course or other exercise or activity is offered. The chairperson/program director must respond within fourteen days of receiving the appeal.
- If the student remains aggrieved by the decision of the chairperson or program director of the department under step 2, he or she may, within fourteen days after formal receipt of the chairperson’s or program director’s final decision, appeal, in writing, to the dean of the college in which the course or other exercise or activity is offered.
- The dean, after discussion with the student and instructor, may resolve the grievance by agreement or render a decision within twenty-one days of receipt of the written appeal. The decision may be (a) that the appeal be dismissed or (b) that a grade be changed or the student be allowed an opportunity to retake an examination or other exercise or (c) that another appropriate remedy be administered.
- The student or the instructor may, within fourteen days of the receipt of the decision of the dean, appeal to the office of the provost in writing, stating the reason for the appeal and delivering a copy of the writing to the opposing party and the dean. The opposing party may, within ten days of receipt of the reasons for appeal, reply in writing to the office of the provost. The office of the provost shall review the original claim, the written decision of the chairperson or program director and dean, and the written reasons for the appeal and reply. The office of the provost shall, within twenty-eight days of receipt of the appeal and after reviewing the matter, prepare a written decision which shall uphold the decision of the chairperson, program director, or dean, or prescribe any other appropriate remedy. The office of the provost's decision shall be final and not subject to further review. Copies of the decision of the office of the provost shall be delivered to the student, the instructor, and the chairperson or program director and dean. The total time for resolution from the first appeal to the final decision shall be less than 120 days. If a faculty member/administrator fails to address the appeal within the specified time frame, the student may take the appeal to the next level.
Appeals of Dismissal or Withdrawal
All appeals of dismissal or withdrawal must follow the appeals process defined by the program’s school or college. The dean of the school or college must be included in this process. Within fourteen days following the student’s receipt, in writing, of the decision by the department/dean, the student may appeal in writing to the office of the provost. The decision of the office of the provost shall be rendered within three weeks and shall be final.
If a student withdraws or is withdrawn from the University during the first two weeks of the semester, there will be no courses or grades recorded. A student withdrawing or being withdrawn after the second week through the eighth week will receive a W grade for each course in which the student was enrolled. A student withdrawing or being withdrawn after the eighth week will receive regular grade designations as determined by the instructor(s). Under unusual circumstances, grades of W can be assigned after the eighth week if approved by the instructor and the director of the program, and with final approval of the office of the provost.
To be eligible for graduation from a graduate degree program, a student must:
- Complete satisfactorily the number of graduate credit hours required in the program with a 3.0 grade average. All courses completed for graduate programs must be passed with a minimum grade of C; individual programs may set higher standards.
- Complete satisfactorily all program degree requirements as defined in the particular graduate program (e.g., thesis, comprehensive examination).
- Submit a completed application for graduation.
Certification for Graduation
Each graduate program is responsible for certifying fulfillment of graduation requirements by a student to the Office of Graduate Studies.
A master’s degree candidate may participate in a commencement ceremony only if he or she has applied for graduation and been certified to participate. In certain instances, students may participate in commencement prior to completing all the requirements; please check with your program for specific details. Doctoral students in programs requiring a dissertation may participate in commencement ceremonies and events if a defense has been completed and the dissertation has been approved subject to minor editorial revisions. Doctoral students in programs that do not require a dissertation may participate in commencement ceremonies and events if all requirements for the degree have been completed and approved. Applications for graduation may be done on MaineStreet or through the Office of Registration and Scheduling Services.
Students may appeal a decision regarding graduation based on these policies. Contact the Office of Graduate Studies for procedures..
Vacation periods of one week in length are defined to start on a Monday and end on the following Sunday. Any scheduled weekend class (Saturday/Sunday) prior to the start of the vacation week will be held as scheduled.