May 27, 2024  
Fitchburg State University 2022-2023 Graduate Catalog 
Fitchburg State University 2022-2023 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Academic Policies and Procedures

Advisors and Plan of Study

Graduate Advisors

Every student is assigned an advisor from the student’s area of specialization. The advisor:

  • Provides a vital link between the students, faculty and the dean
  • Assists the degree candidate in developing a plan of study
  • Approves all courses, including electives, accepted in the student’s degree programs

All variances from the approved plan of study must be filed with the Registrar’s Office.

Course Registration

Students must register for courses within the curriculum requirements as set in the University Catalog of the year of their matriculation. However, it is the right of the university to alter the requirements to meet statutory, educational, or professional standards.

For regularly scheduled courses, students must register before the second class meeting. Early registration is recommended for all degree seeking graduate students and graduate applicants in order to secure seats in the courses needed to progress in degree programs. The regular registration period ends two weeks prior to the start of the semester, with late registration and registration fees commencing thereafter. Please refer to the website for specific dates.

Non-Degree-Seeking Students

Definition - A graduate non-degree seeking student has a completed bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university who is not applying for a degree program but wishes to enroll in University graduate courses.

Enrollment and Registration
•    Enrollment as a non-degree student is not guaranteed and may be subject to approval.
•    Applicants who have been denied admission to a degree program may not register as a non-degree seeking student without approval from a department chair and school dean and must complete and submit a student petition form for review.
•    Course registration is on a space-available basis.
•    Coursework taken as a non-degree student only counts towards a degree program if the student is admitted to an academic program at the University, the coursework meets the GPA requirements and has been completed within the statute of limitations for that degree. Up to 12 semester credit hours earned as a graduate non-degree student may be applied toward a graduate degree within the statute of limitations for that degree (provided that a grade of “B” [3.0] or better has been achieved).

Academic and Student Policies
Non-degree students must adhere to the same academic and student code of conduct policies that apply to degree-seeking students (e.g., application, deadlines, fees, drop/add, withdrawals, refund policies, grading, retention policies, etc.).

Students who subsequently decide to pursue a degree must submit the appropriate admission application.  Enrollment as a non-degree student does not guarantee admission to the University as a degree-seeking student.  All information used to make an admission decision must be received by the published deadline.

Programs Not Eligible for Non-Degree Seeking Registration
Non-degree seeking registration options are not available for the online accelerated programs

Course Load

Graduate students must register for a minimum of six credit hours in fall and/or spring to be considered full-time. Course load for part-time status is less than six credit hours; halftime status is three credit hours.

Graduate assistants who work 20 hours per week and are registered for at least six credit hours are considered to have full-time status. Students who are registered for at least six credits in thesis, continuation of thesis, or internship/practicum are also considered to have full-time status.

The maximum course load for any graduate student is 12 credit hours in fall, spring or the combined summer I/II sessions. The maximum course load for graduate students is three credits for the winter session. Students who want to register for credit beyond the normal load must have written approval from the dean of graduate and continuing education prior to registering. Forms are available from the Office of Graduate and Continuing Education, university website or from the academic advisors.

Student Health Insurance

Every graduate student registered for 4.50 or more credits is required by law to show proof of health insurance. Students must enroll in the school sponsored health plan or show proof of comparable coverage in an alternate health plan in order to waive the insurance. For more details, see the Tuition & Fees  section in this catalog.

Special Students

A special student holds a baccalaureate degree or higher and may take classes in most graduate or certificate programs, but is not matriculated as a degree candidate. Additional policies applying to special students are as follows:

  • Special students who intend to matriculate into a degree are allowed to register for a maximum of 12 credits toward that degree prior to admission.
  • Graduate courses at the 6000 level are exempt from this policy.
  • Credit from courses taken prior to admission may apply to a degree only if prerequisites for the program are met and approval is received from the program chair or advisor at the time of admission to the program.

Waiver of Course Prerequisites

Waivers of course prerequisites, when authorized, are not to be construed either as waivers of program matriculation requirements or as waivers of credit hours required to complete a program.

Retention in a Graduate Degree Program

To maintain enrollment in a graduate program, students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 in their academic program. (Please see the retention policies for the MS programs in Counseling below.)

A graduate student will be placed on probation if:

  • Their overall GPA falls below 3.0.
  • They receive a failing grade (below 2.0) in any course; students who fail a course must retake
     the course the next time it is offered in order to replace the failing grade with a passing grade.

Students on probation have one year to raise their GPA to 3.0 or better. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required for graduation.

A graduate student enrolled in a program may be dismissed if:

  • The student is found in violation of the Academic Integrity Policy
  • The student violates ethical/professional standards as defined by the profession and/or the academic department
  • The student receives failing grades (below 2.0) in two or more courses
  • The student’s GPA remains below 3.0 for three consecutive semesters

    A graduate student who is dismissed from a program may seek readmission after one semester, but the decision for readmission rests with the department and/or the Dean of Graduate & Continuing Education, and is considered final.

Retention in the Counseling Program

In addition to the requirements of the graduate school, and to maintain enrollment in the counseling program, students must:

  • Maintain an overall GPA of 3.25
  • Earn at least a 3.0 in each course
  • Demonstrate appropriate ethical/professional behavior
  • Demonstrate competent interpersonal behaviors

Automatic Dismissal

Automatic dismissals are issued by the GCE office and do not undergo review by the graduate
counseling committee.

  •  Students who meet GCE criteria for dismissal will be automatically dismissed
  •  Any student who earns a grade of 0.0 in any class will be automatically dismissed

Dismissal Following Program Review

Student progress is reviewed at the Stage 1 and 2 time points. In addition, a program review may be initiated by the student’s advisor at any time. At program reviews, students may be dismissed for any of the following:

  •  Failing to maintain an overall GPA of 3.25
  •  Not earning a 3.0 in each course
  •  Failing to demonstrate appropriate ethical/professional behavior
  •  Failing to demonstrate competent interpersonal behavior
    As part of the program review, it is possible that the committee may require additional documentation from the student and/or require a face-to-face meeting with the student

Continued Progress Toward Degree

Matriculated students who do not register for classes for two full academic years (2 fall terms, 2 spring terms, and 2 summers)  will be withdrawn from the University and will need to be readmitted if they wish to continue their studies. Students can request a leave of abscence if they meet the qualifications to remain enrolled for an additional 


Leave of Abscence

Matriculated students who do not plan to register for classes for an extended period of time may request a leave of absence by completing the online form and submitting it to their Academic Advisor and Dean of The School of Graduate, Online and Continuing Education for approval. Without an approved request, a student can be dismissed from the degree program for inactivity and must follow readmission procedures. An approved leave of absence can extend the 6-year limit for completion of a graduate degree to no more than 2 additional years in total. Although a student may be approved for up to 2 LOA’s while in the program, any approved extension on the 6-year limit must fall within 2 years or under in total so a second LOA may not be approved pending time to completion for the student.

Readmission to Graduate Degree Program

A graduate student who is dismissed from a program may seek readmission after having been out of the program for at least one full 15 week semester.
Students seeking readmission from a program must reapply by completing a Student Petition Form located on the Registrar’s website. 
Petitions for readmission from students that have been dismissed can be submitted after they have been out of the program for a minimum of 60 days. Petitions submitted prior to the 60 day minimum will be returned.
(Please see the readmission policies for the MS programs in Counseling below.)
The decision for readmission rests with the academic department and dean and the dean of graduate, online & continuing education, and is considered final. 
Readmission is contingent on the capability of the student to maintain at least a 3.0 GPA and evidence that there are sufficient courses remaining in the student’s program to achieve a 3.0 GPA.
For those seeking readmission into a different degree program, the admissions process must be completed after permission from the dean is secured.

A student who has been withdrawn from a program because of failure to request a leave of absence but is in good academic standing with the program may petition for readmission at any time. 
The program/policies in effect at the time of readmission are those that the student must follow.

Readmission to the Counseling Program

A graduate student who has been dismissed from the program because of failure to request a leave of absence may reapply to the program.

A graduate student who is dismissed from the program for academic reasons may seek readmission after one year, but the decision for readmission rests with the department in consultation with the Dean of Graduate & Continuing Education and is considered final. Students seeking readmission must reapply by completing a petition form. The form will be reviewed by the graduate counseling committee and additional documentation and/or face-to-face meetings may be required. For readmission for the Summer and Fall semester, students are required to submit their petition no later than March 1st.  For readmission for the Spring semester, students are required to submit their petition no later than October 1st.

As part of the readmission process, it is the student’s responsibility to provide evidence of successfully resolving the issues that prompted the program dismissal. The committee will also consider the reasons for the initial dismissal. Readmission is also contingent on the capability of the student to maintain at least a 3.25 GPA and on evidence that there are sufficient courses remaining in the student’s program to achieve a 3.25 GPA.  The program/policies in effect at the time of readmission are those that the student must follow.

Changing a Major or Degree Program

Graduate students may change their major or degree program as long as they can meet the requirements for their new major/degree. Frequently, changing one’s major or degree increases the amount of time required to complete a graduate program. Courses taken from the previous major or degree may not count towards the new major or degree. A review of courses would be conducted by the chair of the receiving major or degree.

Graduate students must fill out a student petition form to request a change of major. They will need to obtain the signature/approval of the program chair for the major they wish to enter and the appropriate dean. If you are an education major you will need the approval of the dean of education. All other majors will need the approval of the dean of graduate and continuing education. To obtain a student petition form go to:

Students seeking to change their degree (ex: MBA to M.Ed.) will need to formally withdraw from their degree through the Office of the Registrar and then reapply for the new program through the Office of Admissions. All application materials required for the new degree must be submitted with the exception of official transcripts previously submitted to the Office of Admissions.

Grade Substitution Policy

Students who have been dismissed from a graduate program on academic grounds and who are subsequently readmitted to a program may retake courses in which they have received a 2.0 or a 0.0 grade. If the class is repeated, the new grade will be substituted for the original grade in calculating the student’s cumulative GPA. The original grade, however, will continue to appear on the transcript. Transfer courses cannot be used to substitute for courses in which a grade of 2.0 or a 0.0 has been obtained.

Grading System

4.0 95-100 A
3.7 92-94 A-
3.5 89-91 A-/B+
3.3 86-88 B+
3.0 83-85 B
2.7 80-82 B-
2.5 77-79 B-/C+
2.3 74-76 C+
2.0 71-73 C
0.0 0-70 F
W Withdrawn  
IN Incomplete  
IP In-Progress  


Incomplete Course

An incomplete (IN) may be awarded with the recommendation of the instructor when the student has completed 80% of the coursework but cannot complete the rest due to illness or some other serious reason. A student who has received an Incomplete in lieu of a course grade must make up the missing part or their coursework during the first four weeks of the following semester. Failure to do so will result in an automatic 0.0 for the course.

In-Progress Course

A grade of IP (In-Progress) may be awarded for thesis, practicum, internships, Arts and Music Presentations, and clinical experience at the end of a given semester. Practicums, internships, and Arts and Music Presentations need to be completed within two semesters. The time limit for thesis is the six years allowed for the completion of a degree. If the thesis, internship and/or practicum are not completed within the allotted time then the IP grade will be changed to either an incomplete (IN) or a grade of 0.0.

Withdrawal from Courses

Withdrawal from courses may be made prior to the 11th class for regularly scheduled courses and prior to the 26th class hour for special scheduling or institute courses without academic penalty. Withdrawals may be initiated by phone by calling the Registrar’s Office, or by visiting that office in the Anthony Building.

Fall & Spring through the 11th week of the semester
Winter through the 13th day of the session
Summer through the 25th day of the session
Accelerated through the 35th day of the 7-week course
Special Scheduled courses or Institute courses by the 26th class hour

Students who withdraw by simply not attending class automatically receive a failing grade for the course.

See the tuition and fees refund policy  section of this catalog.


Withdraw From a Program

Students enrolled in a graduate degree program including a masters, certificate or CAGs degree that wish to withdraw from their program and the University must notify the University Registrar and The School of Graduate, Online and Continuing Education (SGOCE) office by submitting the “University SGOCE Program Withdrawal” form. This form should be completed and emailed using a student’s Fitchburg State email address to Withdrawal from the University may have a financial impact on students that are utilizing financial aid or students that have been given a tuition voucher. Students should contact the financial aid office or student accounts if they have any questions. International students should connect with the Office of International Studies if they have questions on how a withdrawal from the University impacts their status. Please see the University policy on course withdrawals and refunds for graduate courses and also the financial aid refund policy

Cancellation of a Course

The university may cancel courses for insufficient enrollment or for other reasons deemed to be in the best interest of the university. Students who registered for a course which is canceled may transfer to another course or receive a full refund of tuition and fees.

Course Changes

Changes to courses (drop/add) must be made by the second meeting. (Class meeting time defined as 2.5 hours) No change in credit is permitted after the second class meeting. After the start of the second class meeting, the dropping of a class will be considered a withdrawal.


Students may enroll in courses on an audit (or non-credit) basis. The availability of seating in all classes is determined after all degree seeking students, program applicants and credit-seeking students have registered. Permission of the instructor and the dean is required prior to registration. Tuition and fees for audited courses are the same as those which apply to the courses when taken for academic credit. Students enrolled on an audit basis must have completed all applicable course prerequisites in order to have achieved the sufficient level of knowledge and expertise required by the course content. Students who elect the audit option may be required to complete course assignments, papers, presentations and other work. Final grades are not issued; however, courses audited will be so noted on the student’s transcript. A change from credit to audit status, or from audit to credit status, must be made by the second class meeting of the course (Class meeting is defined as 2.5 hours).

Independent Study Credit Policy

Independent study allows degree candidates to step outside of course offerings and explore a specialized area of study in a challenging new environment. Students are encouraged to seek out independent study opportunities under the guidance and supervision of a professor in whose specialization they wish to study. A maximum of six independent study credits is allowed in a master’s degree program. Vouchers, graduate assistant tuition waivers, tuition remissions and veterans’ tuition benefits may not be applied to independent study. Before embarking on an independent study applicants must receive approval from the instructor, advisor, and the dean of graduate and continuing education by submitting a special studies form. Independent study should not be substituted for any course listed in the current catalog.

Directed Study

Directed study allows degree candidates to carry out a non-research project or participate in an activity under the direct supervision of a faculty member. In exceptional circumstances, it can be used to offer an existing course to an individual student. All directed studies require approval of faculty sponsor, advisor, program chair and dean of graduate and continuing education. Students seeking directed study should submit a special studies form.


Several of the graduate programs at Fitchburg State University include a thesis requirement or thesis option. Students completing a thesis must adhere to the policies and standards set forth in the thesis guidelines. Thesis guidelines can be found on the GCE Student Resource Center page under “Helpful Links.” Students seeking to register for thesis submit a special studies form.

Second Master’s Degree

Students interested in obtaining a second master’s degree from Fitchburg State University are encouraged to speak to their past or present advisor and the graduate program chair of the program they are considering. In some cases a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) program would be more appropriate. However, once having decided to pursue a second master’s degree from Fitchburg State University, students must, in their application, include a recommendation from a professor or chair from their first master’s degree from the university. Students should be aware that courses taken as part of the first master’s program will not count toward a subsequent master’s degree.

Graduation Requirements

Students must:

  • Maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 in the degree program with no graduate coursework below a 2.0
  • Successfully complete all program requirements
  • Submit completed petitions/waivers for review to the Office of Graduate and Continuing Education no later than the eighth week of the spring semester prior to anticipated graduation
  • Students who are writing a thesis should refer to the thesis guidelines for specific requirements
  • An application for degree or certificate must be filed with the Registrar’s Office no later than September 15 for May graduation or March 1 for Winter graduation.

Time Limits

Graduate degree programs must be completed within six years of the date of the student’s first course in the program.

Petition for Review—Graduation

Students must request a review of their degree requirements prior to the semester in which they plan to graduate. An application for degree or certificate must be completed no later than the fall semester for May graduation, and no later than the spring semester for December graduation. The Registrar also awards degrees in August for students who finish during the summer. Students must apply by the end of the spring semester in order to have their degree conferred in August.  Students can apply online at

Academic Integrity Policy

Every member of the university community is expected to maintain the highest standards of academic integrity. A student shall not submit work that is falsified or is not the result of the student’s own effort. A student who is in doubt regarding standards of academic integrity in a course or assignment should consult the faculty member responsible for that course or assignment before submitting the work. A student’s lack of understanding of the academic integrity policy is not a valid defense to a charge of academic dishonesty.

A student’s name on any written or creative exercise (e.g., examination, report, thesis, theme, laboratory report, computer program, artistic production, etc.), or in association with an oral presentation, declares that the work is the result of that student’s own thought and study. Any work that the student declares as their own shall be stated in the student’s own words and produced without the assistance of others. Students must make clear through accurate citations when they make use of other sources. Talking during an examination, or possession or use of unauthorized materials or equipment during an examination constitutes an infringement of the academic integrity policy. Aiding and abetting academic dishonesty also constitutes a violation of the academic integrity policy.

Unless permission is received in advance from the faculty member in charge of the course involved, a student may not submit, in identical or similar form, work for one course that has been used to fulfill any academic requirement in another course at Fitchburg State University or any other institution. A student who perceives the possibility of overlapping assignments in courses should consult with the appropriate faculty members before presuming that a single effort will fulfill requirements of both courses. Students should consult course syllabi for additional guidance on matters of academic integrity.

When an alleged offense of the Academic Integrity Policy has occurred, the following process will apply:

  1. If the accuser is a faculty member, and they decide to make a formal accusation of a violation of the academic integrity policy, the faculty member will provide the student with a letter describing the case for academic dishonesty within 14 days of discovering the alleged infringement. This letter may be presented to the student in person or delivered to the student’s home, local or campus address or mailbox, or Fitchburg State University email account. The student will either:
    1. agree with the accusation of academic dishonesty and the sanction as imposed by the faculty member, or
    2. disagree with the accusation of academic dishonesty. (A student cannot agree with the accusation of academic dishonesty but disagree with the sanction. Disagreement with a sanction, in other words, is not grounds for an appeal.)

If the student has agreed with the accusation and signed the letter accordingly, the sanction identified by the faculty member will be imposed, and the matter will be considered closed. If the student disagrees with the accusation and again signs the letter accordingly, the student may appeal the matter to the  university conduct board. With all formal accusations of a violation of the academic integrity policy, the faculty member will forward the letter with the student’s signature and other relevant information to the director of student conduct. (Proceed to No. 3 below.)

  1. If the accuser is not a faculty member, and they decide to initiate the formal process, the accuser must submit a report and/or relevant information to the Office of Student Conduct within 14 days of discovering the alleged infringement of the academic integrity policy.
  2. Once a case is forwarded by a student or as an appeal (in the form of a report, signed letter and/or other relevant information), the director of student conduct, or designee, will review all relevant information and either:
    1. dismiss the incident due to lack of merit or timeliness or
    2. contact the accused student to schedule a conduct board hearing.
  3. If the case goes to the conduct board, the board will determine whether the student is responsible or not responsible for violating the academic integrity policy. If the student is found responsible, the board will recommend sanctions to the appropriate academic dean, or designee, or, in the case of graduate students, the dean of graduate studies. These sanctions will include those identified by the faculty member and, in the event a student has a prior disciplinary record, may also include the additional sanctions of:
    • a grade of zero on the assignment;
    • a failing grade in the course;
    • suspension from Fitchburg State University;
    • dismissal from Fitchburg State University;
    • or other sanctions.
  4. In cases of undergraduate student violations of the academic integrity policy, the appropriate academic dean (or designee) will either impose the sanction recommended by the conduct board or determine that the sanction is excessive or inadequate and alter it accordingly.
  5. The student may make a final appeal to the Vice-President for Academic Affairs of the university only for a sanction of suspension or dismissal.

Note: If the student agrees with the academic dishonesty finding by the faculty member, the case will not go before the conduct board; however, if they have a prior disciplinary record, the director of student conduct may pursue other charges and sanctions once the academic integrity issue has been resolved.

Assessment of Student Learning

In keeping with the Fitchburg State University commitment to excellent educational experiences and high-quality programs for its students, and consistent with practices at other institutions within the state and nationally, Fitchburg State University routinely engages in the assessment of student learning at the course, program, institution and system levels. The learning outcomes assessment process may include a variety of methods such as standardized tests, student surveys and focus groups, campus developed instruments, and a review of student course and co-curricular work. In circumstances beyond the individual program level, the identity of the student will be protected. The student’s name, grade or other identifying information will be removed before the student work is reviewed. Selected student work may be subject to review by a limited cohort of higher educational personnel, primarily faculty. Assessment of student learning is undertaken primarily for the purpose of improving student learning, curriculum development, instructional improvement, and enhancing student academic success. Assessment activities will have absolutely no effect on a student’s grade, academic standing, ability to transfer, or ability to be graduated. Fitchburg State University takes all necessary steps to ensure the confidentiality of all student records and student work reviewed through this process in accordance with FERPA regulation.

Student Complaints Policy

Right to Confer

  • A student who is dissatisfied with a grade or any aspect of instruction has a right to confer with the instructor.
  • A student who is dissatisfied with a grade, any aspect of instruction, or academic decision of a graduate program bearing on their status in a graduate program, has a right to confer with their advisor.
  • A student who is dissatisfied with a grade, any aspect of instruction, or academic decision of a graduate program bearing on their status in a graduate program, has a right to confer with the program’s graduate program chair and department chair.
  • A student seeking advice on how to proceed with a complaint about a grade, any aspect of instruction, or academic decision of a graduate program bearing on their status in a graduate program, has a right to confer with the dean of graduate and continuing education. International students also have a right to confer with the Office of International Education.

Department/Program Responsibilities

  • Departments/programs will make their policies and procedures for mediating/arbitrating student complaints readily available to students as a part of a department/program handbook, or, as a separate document.
  • Entering matriculated students will be apprised of the department’s/program’s policies and procedures for mediating/arbitrating student complaints as a part of their orientation to the program.
  • Each department/program will file its policies and procedures for mediating/arbitrating student complaints with the office of the dean of graduate and continuing education.
  • Every effort should be made by the graduate program chair, in accordance with department/program policies and procedures, to informally mediate student complaints concerning academic matters.
  • If informal mediation cannot be achieved, the complaint will be formally arbitrated at the department/program level in accordance with its policies and procedures for doing so. Usually, this will involve the participation of the department’s Graduate Committee.
  • The burden of proof rests with the student.
  • Departmental/program decisions may be appealed on procedural grounds when bias is alleged.

Dean of an Academic School or School of Graduate, Online and Continuing Education Responsibilities

  • A student alleging bias may contest a department’s/program’s decision on procedural grounds by filing a formal appeal in writing to the dean of of their school or dean for the school of graduate, online and continuing education.
  • The dean’s office will conduct an investigation in a timely manner, and will forward its findings and the student’s written appeal, to the Graduate Council.
  • The Graduate Council will consider the appeal at its next available meeting.
  • Within two weeks of the meeting, the chair of the Graduate Council will forward a written recommendation to the dean.
  • The dean, then, will communicate a decision in writing to the student, the Graduate Council, and the graduate program chair.
  • The final decision is made by the dean.
  • If it is decided that the department/program failed to appropriately follow its procedures for mediating/arbitrating student complaints, the case will be reheard within the department with the dean serving ex officio as a nonvoting member of the committee.
  • If it is decided that the department/program was unbiased—that it appropriately followed its procedures for mediating/arbitrating student complaints—the department’s/program’s decision will stand.

Non-Academic Student Complaints

  • When sexual harassment, racial discrimination or other prohibited/illegal behaviors are alleged by a student to have occurred, the student should address their complaint to the director of human resources/Affirmative Action.

Educator Licensure Programs

Fitchburg State University’s Office of Graduate and Continuing Education offers courses which may be used for licensure purposes in several different areas, including early childhood, elementary, middle school, secondary, special education, counseling, and school administration. Licensure is the function of the Commonwealth’s Department of Education, not the university.

Please contact the Educator Licensure Office for information on teacher licensure programs at (978) 665-3239. Students are advised to address any question regarding licensure to:

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street
Malden, MA 02148-4906
(781) 338-3000


Unofficial transcripts are available to students online. Official transcripts may also be requested online at  For more information, see the Request a Transcript website.