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.


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

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. The Course Schedule,available prior to registration, includes information about courses offered in the given semester, such as the names of instructors, class meeting times and locations, and additional requirements.

Registration Procedures

New students are required to participate in one of the new student orientation programs. Information about registration and orientation is mailed to all new students admitted to the University. Currently enrolled students may register during the present semester for the next semester or summer session.Registration timelines and procedures are detailed in the Course Schedule.

Late Registration

Students should register for classes prior to the beginning of the semester. While they may register during the first week of the semester,students must understand that the limited availability of classes may prevent them from obtaining complete schedules. Late registrants may be assessed additional fees.


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 classesthat meet in sessions shorter than a full semester. (Note the difference between this rule and “withdrawal” explained on the next page.)

Western State Colorado University 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.

Class Attendance and Participation

Both faculty and students have shared responsibility in the education process. Class attendance and participation is the student's responsibility.The interactions a student has with the instructor and fellow students represent a significant portion of the learning process in coursework. Therefore, class attendance and participation is essential for a successful education. Instructors may set attendance and participation policies for each of their courses, which are specified in the course syllabus. If a student violates an attendance or participation policy, instructors may withdraw a student from class, lower the earned grade, and other actions as specified by the course policy.

An important responsibility for students is to be prepared for class. Such preparation for the average student expecting an average grade (“C”) typically requires two to three hours of study or other types of preparation for every hour of coursework.

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 adviser. 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 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% 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 University 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 coursework and a petition is filed with the signatures of the graduate adviser, department chair/director and the associate vice president for Graduate Studies.

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. The University assigned semester hours are consistent with the Federal definition of a credit hour and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education’s established minimum class times for credit courses. The minimum expectation for one semester credit is one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours out-of-class student work each week for approximately 15 weeks for seminars and lecture-based classes.  An equivalent amount of work is required in laboratories, internships, practica, on-line studio work, and other academic work leading toward to the award of credit hours.

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 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 adviser, 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. 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 3.000 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 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 adviser (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 Gradassociate 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 adviser 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.

Degree Plan

Required degree courses, electives, course substitutions, and accepted transfer credits must be approved by the student’s adviser, 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

Astudent 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 arereviewed by the Academic Policies Committee, and recommendations are made to the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies. In order to participation incommencement a student must be in a good standing, must have six or fewer credits left to complete graduation requirements, and must be registered forthose credits the following term; or have only a capstone, or internship to complete and be registered for it the next term it is offered.

Academic Integrity

As members of the academic community, students are expected to recognize and uphold standards of intellectual and academic integrity. The University 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 int he 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 Examinations: 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 University. 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 ofproblems described herein which students may experience at Western:


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

Complainant: An affectedstudent who makes a complaint.

Grievance: A writtenallegation by an affected student that a faculty member or an academicadministrator has violated, misinterpreted, or improperly exercised his/her professionalduties. 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 members elected by the respondent, and three faculty members selected by the vicep resident for academic affairs (or assignees).

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

Academic Administrator: Professional personnel of the University, 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 presidentfor 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 Colorado University, and ultimately, to the Board of Trustees.