Graduate School - Academic Definitions, Policies and Regulations

Academic Definitions    

Grade Point Average    
A student’s grade point average (GPA) is based on courses taken at ACU. It is determined by dividing the total number of grade points (see the table below) by the total number of hours attempted (not including hours where grade points are not counted). Current GPA is a student’s GPA for a single term; cumulative GPA is the overall GPA for all the terms a student has been enrolled in ACU. All graduate students must have a minimum of 3.0 GPA on all work taken at ACU for graduate credit to graduate.

The table below lists the grades used in the Graduate School at ACU. The grade point values shown are per semester hour of credit.

Grades Meanings Points
IPIn-ProgressNot counted
WPWithdraw PassingNot counted
WFWithdraw Failing0.0


Course Load    
For a fall or spring term, a full load is defined as 9 credit hours, a three-fourths load as 6 hours and a half load as 4.5 hours. Full-time students may enroll for as many as 12 hours. Master of Accountancy students may enroll in 15 hours, Master of Science in Social Work students may enroll in 16 hours, and Master of Divinity students may enroll in 13 hours. A student must seek approval from the graduate dean to enroll in more than 3 hours in one summer session. A combination of graduate and undergraduate hours normally may not total more than 15 hours for a fall or spring term, or a total of 9 hours for all summer sessions.

Students employed full time should not enroll for more than 9 hours during any semester and 3 hours during a summer term. The combined teaching load and course load of a graduate assistant or an instructor should normally not exceed 15 semester hours.

Course Numbering    
ACU uses a three-digit course numbering system. Courses numbered 500, 600 and 700 are graduate level courses. At the master’s level at least half of all graduate credit must be in 600 or 700-level courses.

Courses numbered 700 or above in the Graduate School of Theology may be taken by doctoral students only.

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Graduate Policies and Regulations

It is the student’s responsibility to know and comply with the regulations and requirements contained in this catalog. Graduate advisors are helpful in preparing degree plans and assisting students in their degree progress. This assistance, however, does not alter the primary responsibility of the student to adhere to policies published in the catalog.


The student is responsible for class registration each semester. The student should consult with his or her advisor before registration. In some cases the advisor can complete the registration for the student. Students may also call the Graduate School for assistance with registration.

NOTE: See the Online Schedule Bulletin each semester for dates, deadlines and more complete registration instructions. Failure to complete the registration process appropriately may result in being dropped from all classes.

Transfer of Credit    

Graduate credits earned at ACU prior to admission to a degree program may, with the consent of the advisor and the graduate dean, be used in satisfying prerequisites (leveling requirements) or degree requirements.

Transfer of graduate work from other institutions must be approved by the student’s departmental advisor and by the graduate dean and must fall within the time limit for degrees (see Degree Time Limit). However, grades from transfer work do not apply toward the GPA at ACU. Transfer credit may not constitute more than 25 percent of the hours required for a degree. No grade below a “B” will be accepted in transfer. Graduate courses taken by correspondence may not be transferred to ACU.

Degree Plan    

The number of credit hours for various degrees ranges from 30 to 84. All ACU master's degrees require a minimum of 30 semester hours. The doctorate requires a minimum of 30 hours beyond the master's degree.

Before enrolling, the first-semester graduate student should consult the chair or graduate advisor of his or her major department and develop a degree plan, which is a course guide. This degree plan is available online through my ACU. This document will explain any deficiencies that must be removed and assist the student in selecting appropriate courses for the graduate program. Of the hours required for a master’s degree at least one-half must be in 600 or 700-level courses. All doctoral students’ hours must be in 700-level courses.

If degree plans are changed during a program, the student is responsible to notify the Graduate School. Degree audits are conducted according to the catalog in effect at the time of enrollment. If problems arise, students are urged to confer with their advisors or, upon request of an advisor, with the dean of the Graduate School.

Changing or Adding a Major    

Any student changing degree programs or changing a major within a degree program must notify the Graduate School. Any student changing from a certificate program to a degree program must contact the Graduate School. For students to make a change, the department affected must agree. The Add/Change Major form must be sent to the Graduate School. Graduate students are responsible for an up-todate file concerning course work and correspondence from ACU.

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Two or More Master’s Degrees    

The number of semester hours required for various degrees ranges from 30 to 84. When students choose to complete a second master’s degree from ACU, they may count a limited number of courses from the first degree toward the second degree if courses from the first degree are also requirements for the second degree. The minimum number of additional hours required for a second master’s degree is: 

Degree hours Additional hours needed for second degree
41 or less hours24 hours

When combining two degrees, the larger of the two is the basis for calculation of hours required. Please note that these are minimum requirements for two degrees. Departments may have more stringent guidelines. For example in the Graduate School of Theology, no more than half of one degree can be counted toward a second degree. In any case, all requirements for both degrees must be met.

Thesis and Project Requirements    

Students who are doing a thesis are responsible for learning the required process for writing and completing a thesis or project. Students who are writing a thesis should obtain a copy of the “ACU Thesis Guide” from the Graduate School. Plan early and follow guidelines and instructions. Students will work with a faculty committee to determine specific requirements for completion.

After students begin formal work on a thesis, they are expected to continue working on it each semester until it is completed and formally approved or until they terminate their graduate career at ACU. In order for theses to remain in an active status, students must enroll in Thesis each semester (usually fall and spring; summer only if completing) until completion of the thesis. Students must contact the Graduate School to enroll. A maximum of 6 credit hours will be awarded for the thesis. Each subsequent registration will be for 0 credit hours, and the student will be charged a continuation fee equal to one hour of tuition at the current rate.

Students failing to maintain continuous registration must be re-admitted to ACU in order to continue and complete the requirements for the degree as stated in the current catalog. The thesis and course work must be completed within the degree time limit.

Repeating a Course 

  1. A graduate student may retake a course only one time. The student must specify that the course is a repeat course at the time of registration.
  2. If a student withdraws from a “repeated” course, it may be taken again.
  3. A record of all occurrences of the course will appear on the transcript. Only the most recent grade will be counted in the cumulative GPA. The ability to retake a course may be limited by curriculum changes or by departmental policies.
  4. If the previous grade is a “C” or below, the grade will still count against the maximum number of low grades allowed for the degree.

Low Grades    

The maximum number of “C's” allowed in a graduate program falls under the guidelines from the following table. In each case, a GPA of 3.0 must be maintained for completion of a degree. 

Hours Hours of "C's" Allowed

If a student receives a grade of “D” or “F” in a course, this may constitute grounds for probation or suspension. However, if a student is allowed to continue, not only must the course be retaken, but a “D” or “F” is counted against the limit of “C's” allowed in a program. Courses in which a student receives a grade of “D” or “F” may not be counted toward the degree.

Academic Probation and Suspension    

Any student who does not maintain a 3.0 GPA will be placed on academic probation. If during the next enrollment, he or she fails to attain a 3.0 average, he or she may be suspended. Enrollment in a graduate program while on academic probation will not be permitted for more than one 16-week semester.

In the case of suspension, a student may re-apply to the Graduate School after a reasonable length of time as determined in each case by the graduate dean and the department. The student must be able to provide evidence indicating future success. However, re-application does not guarantee admission. The graduate dean, consulting with the department, will decide whether the student should be re-admitted, and if so, whether special conditions should be required for readmission.

When students are re-admitted after suspension, they are placed on probation for one semester and are not eligible for financial aid. If they do not make satisfactory progress that semester, they are required to withdraw from school.

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Incomplete Grades    

Professors may assign a grade of “I” (Incomplete) or “IP” (In-Progress) only when illness or some significant reasons prevents the student from completing a course by the end of the semester. An “IP” must be removed during the next 16-week semester following the one for which it was assigned or it will be automatically converted to an “I.” Also, an “I” must be removed during the subsequent 16-week semester or it turns into an “F.” As long as an “I” grade remains on a student’s record, it is counted as an “F” in computing the GPA. Incomplete work cannot be submitted for a grade after one year from the end of the semester in which the student was enrolled in the course. Exceptions are selected practica, internships, thesis and thesis projects where grades of “IP” remain.

The student is responsible for requesting and completing an “I” when applicable. A student who enrolls in a class and does not attend (or stops attending) but does not officially withdraw is assigned a failing grade for that class.

Degree Time Limit    

The time begins with the earliest course taken that applies to the degree program. After a student has enrolled for graduate credit, all work for the master’s degree must be completed within six years for 30-45 hour degrees; seven years for 46-61 hour degrees; and eight years for degrees up to 90 hours. This regulation applies to work being transferred from another institution as well as to work done at ACU.

Auditing a Class    

Students who audit a class are normally charged the audit fee according to the university billing practice. Students sometimes later wish to change the audit to a course grade. However, this practice is not permitted.


The ACU Graduate School, through action of the graduate dean, reserves the right to refuse continued enrollment to any student who is negligent in conforming to student regulations or academic standards.

Exception Requests    

A student must make a written request for an exception to any Graduate School policy. For example, a student might wish to request to take additional hours in a given semester or summer term, to transfer more than the maximum number of hours from another institution, to extend his or her maximum time to complete the graduate degree, or some other exception to policy.

Petition forms are available in department offices or in the Graduate School. The student should state the request and provide any necessary supporting material. The form must first be submitted for approval to the graduate advisor, and then will be forwarded to the graduate dean for evaluation and consideration. Most of these requests will be presented to the Graduate Council for approval. The decision of the Graduate Council is final.

Grade Appeals/Grievances    

The university has a procedure for dispute resolution. In general, the order of resolution is to begin at the initial level of the dispute. Usually, the student should attempt to resolve the dispute with the professor in question or with the advisor, if it is a program matter. The student may then go to the department chair who normally resolves all disputes within the department. The student, however, may appeal the department chair’s decision to the college dean, then to the graduate dean and finally to the provost whose decision is final. 

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