Graduate Academic Policies

Western wants all students to achieve academic success. We measure that in many ways. This section identifies and explains the standards Western has established as measures of academic success and indicates the policies and procedures that apply to the students who fail to meet the standards. The Vice President for Academic Affairs, in consultation with the Faculty Academic Policies Committee and the Faculty Senate, is responsible for the development and implementation of these academic standards and policies.

Policies regarding Course Descriptions, Registration Procedures, Late Registration, Add/Drop, Class Attendance, Internships, Withdrawal from Individual Courses and Academic Integrity are the same for graduate students as for undergraduates. Specific information can be found in the Academic Policies section of the undergraduate catalog.

Unit of Credit

Western uses the semester hour as the basic unit of credit. The semester credits assigned to a course are based on the specific learning objectives and the expected outcomes. In addition, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education has established minimum class times for credit courses. In the most common type of course (lecture/discussion), one credit requires at least 750 minutes of time in class. In laboratory courses, students are expected to spend 1,500 to 2,250 minutes in class for each unit of credit earned.

Course Numbering System

500-599 Level Graduate Courses: Courses at this level are non-degree oriented and typically intended for continuing education and professional development. Course formats include workshops and seminars and are primarily practice-based.

600-699 Level Graduate Courses: Courses at this level are intended for degree-seeking students. They are more than an extension of the baccalaureate education; they are qualitatively different, and at a minimum, students should undertake original scholarly/creative activity, assume greater responsibility for mastering the subject matter, and develop close working relationships with professors. It is assumed that students taking graduate-level courses have acquired the ability to use language and information sources effectively, and engage in analytical thought and creative processes.

Academic Load

During a 16-week semester a student must take a minimum of 9 credits to be considered full-time, and a course load of 12 credits may be taken without special approval. During a 10-week summer session a student must take a minimum of 6 credits to be considered full-time, and a course load of 9 credits may be taken without special approval. An additional 3 credits of student teaching, internship, or other on-the-job credit may be taken.  A student may enroll in more credits in either session if the student’s grade-point average is at least 3.500 from most recent course work and a petition is filed with the signatures of the graduate advisor, department chair/director, and the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies.

College Graduation Requirements

Master’s degree programs have a minimum requirement of 30 semester credits numbered at 600 and above. Programs may require additional credits, some of which may allow up to six credits (not applied toward the earned undergraduate degree) below the 600 level on the degree plan from the respective department. The maximum number of allowable transfer credits is nine credits.

Residency Requirements

Every candidate for a degree must earn a minimum of 21 credits from Western State Colorado University. This 21 credit minimum must include the final credit earned.

Grade-Point Averages

A minimum grade of B in each course applied to a degree program is required. A minimum of a 3.0 grade-point average is required for graduation. Credits transferred from another institution are not calculated in the Western grade-point average.

Probation and Dismissal

When a student’s course grade is below a B- in any graduate course, the student and the department must be notified, and the student shall be placed on academic probation. In order to be removed from probation, the student must retake the course to replace a grade lower than a B-. In the semester following placement on probation, the student’s grades in each course must be at least a B- for that semester’s course work taken or he or she shall be dismissed at the conclusion of that semester. In extenuating circumstances, the student may petition the Academic Policies Committee for an extension of the probationary time period. The dismissal decision is in force unless a temporary extension is approved by the Academic Appeals Committee.

Withdrawal from University

Graduate students who wish to withdraw from the University may do so any time during the semester. Contact the Graduate Program Director to initiate an official withdrawal from the University.

After the official Add/Drop period, but before the withdrawal deadline, a student wishing to withdraw entirely from the University will be given a grade of “W” for all courses except variable credit courses. Once two-thirds of the scheduled class time in any given course has been completed, a student wishing to withdraw from the University will be given a “W” or a “WF” grade for each course, unless the course instructor deems that an “Incomplete” would be a more appropriate grade.

Withdrawal from Variable Credit Courses

After 15 percent of the course has been completed, a student wishing to withdraw from the University during a term when he or she is enrolled in a variable credit course (i.e., internships, practicums, field experiences, independent studies, etc.) must receive the approval of the supervising instructor. If a student obtains this authorization, a grade of “W” or a “WF” may be assigned. The coordinator of the specific program can explain the guidelines and consequences resulting from dropping or withdrawing from selected courses.

Withdrawal in Absentia

If illness, injury, or other circumstances prohibit a student from being on campus to request withdrawal from the  in person, the student may notify the Graduate Office 970.943.2135 and request that the Associate Vice President for the Graduate Programs act as the student’s agent in notifying the Program Director and other departments on campus.

Graduate Student Status

During a 16-week semester a student must take a minimum of 9 credits to be considered full-time, and a course load of 12 credits may be taken without special approval. Half-time status is a minimum of 5 credit hours during a 16 week term. During a 10-week summer session a student must take a minimum of 6 credits to be considered full-time, and a course load of 9 credits may be taken without special approval. An additional 3 credits of student teaching, internship, or other on-the-job credit may be taken. Half- time status during a 10-week summer session is a minimum of 3 credit hours. A student may enroll in more credits in either session if the student’s grade-point average is at least 3.500 from most recent course work and a petition is filed with the signatures of the graduate advisor, department chair/director, and the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies.

Thesis and Non-Thesis Requirements

The minimum requirements for master’s degrees offered may be fulfilled by following either Plan I or Plan II as described below.

Thesis Plan (Plan I)

Students must earn a minimum of 30 semester credits of graduate work, including four to six thesis hours. Courses must be at or above the 600 level. Graduate students working toward a master’s degree under Plan I earn four to six hours of thesis credit.

A student faculty committee must be established to guide the student’s research. This committee must consist of the student’s major advisor (who also serves as committee chair), one faculty member from the student’s major department, and one faculty member from outside of the department.

The student’s faculty committee must approve the final draft of the thesis, which must be filed with the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies before graduation. The thesis must comply with specifications outlined in Directions for Preparing Master’s Thesis, which is obtainable from the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies, and the student must have received a preliminary thesis format approval from the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies. Graduating students are responsible for observing the deadlines published in the schedule of classes for thesis approval. The record of the thesis defense must be approved by the student’s faculty committee and the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies and filed with the Registrar before graduation.

Non-Thesis Plan (Plan II)

Students must earn a minimum of 32 semester credits of graduate work. Courses must be at or above the 600 level to meet this requirement. Graduate work includes a Graduate Capstone, which the student’s advisor will facilitate. Graduate Capstone credits are determined by the specific program requirements. If the Graduate Capstone is not completed at the end of the term in which the student is registered, an In Progress (IP) grade or a Failing (F) grade may be reported.

Time Limit for Degree Completion

There is a maximum of five years for completion of a master’s degree from the student’s initial enrollment. A graduate student who does not complete all degree requirements within the specified period of time may be required to validate past course work.  Course validation may be done in one of the following ways: (1) retake the course final examination, (2) take an oral examination over course content, or (3) prepare a paper on the course content. In some cases students may be required to retake the comprehensive examination (dependent upon the respective department’s requirements).

Active Status

To maintain active status, graduate students must register in at least one graduate course per academic year. Maintaining active status is critical and is required in order to participate in the program as a graduate student. Students who plan to be inactive for any academic year must complete and submit a Leave of Absence form (available from Registration Services). Students may apply for a leave of absence for up to two consecutive years. Students who do not register for a class and do not request a leave of absence must request readmission to reactivate their status. Students who do not register for more than two years and who have not taken a leave of absence during that time, must reapply for admission into their graduate program.

Advising

All graduate students are initially assigned an academic advisor from the department from which they are seeking a degree. The graduate advisor is identified by the department chair. The graduate advisor assists the student in developing a degree plan. The degree plan is filed in the office of Registration Services.

Degree Plan

Required degree courses, electives, course substitutions, and accepted transfer credits must be approved by the student’s advisor, the department chair and/or director, and the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies. The degree plan with pertinent signatures must be submitted to the office of the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies.

Comprehensive Examinations

When a comprehensive examination is given, the following rules apply:

  • Students must be registered when they take the examination.
  • The examination is to be given by the student’s faculty committee and consistent with the requirements established by the department for the specific graduate program.
  • A majority of the committee must approve the examination.
  • The examination may be oral, written, or both.
  • A student who fails the comprehensive final examination may retake the examination only once (dependent upon the respective department’s requirements).

Application for Admission to Candidacy

A student who wishes to become a candidate for a master’s degree must file a completed Application for Admission to Candidacy with the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies by the appropriate deadline for graduating that semester. A student on probation is not eligible to be awarded a degree until he or she is removed from probation.

Graduation Audit and Participation in Commencement

Registration Services performs graduate-degree audits and certifies graduation requirements, and the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies authorizes students on the graduation list. Requests for exceptions and special consideration are reviewed by the Academic Policies Committee, and recommendations are made to the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies. All requirements must be completed before participation in commencement.