Graduate Academic Policies

Academic success, a goal that Western wants all students to achieve, can be measured in many ways. This section identifies and explains the standards that 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.

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 be required to 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 nine 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 six credits to be considered full-time, and a course load of nine credits may be taken without special approval. An additional three 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.


Course Descriptions

Course descriptions provide a summary of the course content. If there is a prerequisite that must be met before a student can register for the course, this information is stated in the course description. Prerequisites may include specific courses, class standing, declared major, and other requirements. If there is a corequisite course in which a student must be registered, this information is also stated in the course description.


After classes have begun in a 16-week semester, students may add an open class without petition until 5 p.m. on the fourth day of the semester. After the fourth day and until the end of the official drop period, students may add a course only with approval by the instructor. The add deadline for any course that meets for less than 16 weeks is two days. The student is responsible for understanding and communicating with the instructor, understanding course policies, and understanding any consequences of adding a course after the first class meeting.

Students may drop a course during the first 15% of the class meetings. This rule applies for both classes that meet for a full semester and classes that meet in sessions shorter than a full semester. (Note the difference between this rule and “withdrawal” explained below.)

Western State College of Colorado faculty reserve the right to drop students from class rolls if they miss the first class meeting. Not all instructors require attendance the first class meeting, but many do. Students are strongly encouraged to attend all their first class meetings. If circumstances such as weather or flight arrangements prevent students from attending the first class session, it is the student’s responsibility to contact the instructor of each course to request that their seat in the class be held.

Withdrawal from Individual Courses

After the official add/drop period, a student may only withdraw from a course with approval of the course instructor and the student’s academic advisor. Students who obtain these authorizations will receive a grade of “W” (which has no effect on the student’s grade-point average; refer to sections on Grades and Grade-Point Average that follow). If two-thirds of the scheduled class time in any given course has been completed, the student is not allowed to withdraw, and a grade for the course (which does affect the student’s grade-point  average) is recorded. Specific withdrawal deadlines are published in the Course Schedule booklets for each semester. Course instructors may also withdraw a student from a class for reasons such as inadequate academic progress or attendance, academic dishonesty, or disruptive behavior.

Withdrawal from College

Students who wish to withdraw from the College may do so any time during the semester. Contact the Vice President for Student Affairs to initiate an official withdrawal from the College. Students should also consult with course instructors and their academic advisor. After the official Add/Drop period, but before the withdrawal deadline, a student wishing to withdraw entirely from the College 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 College will be given a “W” or a “WF” grade for each course, unless the course instructor deems that an “Incomplete” (see definition in the section on Grades and Grade-Point Average that follows) 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 College 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 College in person, the student may notify the Student Affairs office (970) 943-2011 and request that the Vice President for Student Affairs act as the student’s agent in notifying course instructors and the student’s advisor.

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 College of Colorado. This 21 credit minimum must include the final credit earned.


For the purpose of calculating a student’s grade-point average, numerical values are assigned to letter grades on the following scale:


Grade-Point Average

To obtain grade points earned in a course, multiply the number of credits per course by the number of points for the grade earned in the course. A minimum grade of B in each course applied to a degree program is required. A minimum of a 3.000 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.

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 credits. Courses must be at or above the 600 level.

Graduate students working toward a master’s degree under Plan I earn four to six thesis credits.

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.


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 prior to participation in commencement.

Academic Integrity

As members of the academic community, students are expected to recognize and uphold standards of intellectual and academic integrity. The College assumes, as a basic and minimum standard of conduct in academic matters, that students will be honest and that they will submit for credit only the products of their own efforts. Both the ideals of scholarship and the need for practices that are fair require that all dishonest work be rejected as a basis for academic credit. They also require that students refrain from any and all forms of dishonorable conduct in the course of their academic work. Dishonest work may include, but is not limited to, the following infractions:

Plagiarism.  Presenting another person’s work as one’s own, including paraphrasing or summarizing of the works of another person without acknowledgment and the submitting of another student’s work as one’s own is considered plagiarism. Plagiarism frequently involves a failure to acknowledge in the text, notes, or footnotes the quotation of paragraphs, sentences, or even a few phrases written or spoken by someone else.   

Cheating on Examination.  Giving or receiving unauthorized help before, during, or after an examination is considered cheating. Examples of unauthorized help include the use of notes, texts, or “crib sheets” during an examination (unless specifically approved by the instructor).

Unauthorized Collaboration.  Submission for academic credit of a work product, or a part thereof, represented as being one’s own, which has been developed in substantial collaboration with assistance from another person or source, is a violation of academic honesty. It is also a violation of academic honesty to knowingly provide such assistance. Collaborative work specifically authorized by an instructor is allowed.

Falsification.  It is a violation of academic honesty to misrepresent material or fabricate information in an academic exercise or assignment (e.g., false or misleading citation of sources or the falsification of the results of experiments or of computer data).

Multiple Submissions.  It is a violation of academic honesty to submit substantial portions of the same work for credit more than once without the explicit consent of the instructor(s) to whom the material is submitted for additional credit.

Consequences of Violations  Violations of academic integrity may result in the following: a grade of “F” or a “zero for the assignment, an “F” for the course, withdrawal from the course, or suspension or expulsion from the College. Serious violations of academic integrity are reported to the Office of Academic Affairs.

Academic Due Process for Students

It is the objective of these procedures to provide for the prompt and fair resolution of the types of problems described herein which students may experience at Western:.


Complaint.  An informal claim by an affected student that a faculty member or an academic administrator has violated, misinterpreted, or improperly exercised his/her professional duties.

Complainant.  An affected student who makes a complaint.

Grievance.  A written allegation by an affected student that a faculty member or an academic administrator has violated, misinterpreted, or improperly exercised his/her professional duties. The grievance should include the possibility of a remedy.

Grievant.  An affected student who files a grievance.

Respondent(s).  The faculty member(s) and/or academic administrator(s) identified by the affected student as causing or contributing to the complaint or grievance.

Grievance Committee.  A committee composed of one faculty member selected by the grievant, one faculty member selected by the respondent, and three faculty members selected by the vice president for academic affairs (or assignees).

Time Limits.  When a number of days are specified herein, they shall be understood to exclude Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, College vacation days, and other days when the College is not in session and holding classes.

Academic Administrator.  Professional personnel of the College, other than teaching faculty, who are in positions to make academic decisions affecting students, including but not limited to, department chairs, associate vice president for academic affairs, vice president for academic affairs, and the President

Informal Complaint Procedure

The complainant shall discuss the problem with the respondent(s). If the problem is not mutually resolved at this time, the complainant shall confer with the immediate supervisor(s) of the respondent(s). (This usually will be the chair(s) of the department(s) to which the respondent(s) is assigned.) If satisfactory resolution is still not achieved, the complainant must confer with the vice president for academic affairs.

Formal Grievance Procedure

If the complaint is not suitably resolved, the student has the right to file a grievance with the vice president for academic affairs within six months of the time that the grievant could or should have known of the action which is the basis of the problem. This written allegation shall indicate what has already been done to resolve the complaint. Preservation of relevant documents and of precise records of actions taken is advantageous. The grievance committee shall be formed under the supervision of the vice president for academic affairs, and a hearing shall be scheduled within 15 days after that officer receives the written grievance from the grievant. The grievance committee shall hear testimony from the grievant, the respondent, and whomever else it deems appropriate. Within 15 days after completion of the hearing(s), the grievance committee shall submit its findings to the vice president for academic affairs for implementation as deemed appropriate by that officer. A copy of the finding of the committee and of the implementing decision of the vice president for academic affairs shall be given to the grievant and the respondent. The grievant may withdraw the grievance at any point in the proceedings by doing so in writing to the vice president for academic affairs.

The vice president for academic affairs may grant an extension of the time limit for good cause.

If the grievance has not been resolved satisfactorily after the above procedures have been completed, the grievant is advised that he/she may appeal to the President of Western State College of Colorado, and ultimately, to the Board of Trustees.