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Graduate Student Handbook

Section 2. Educational Records

Graduate School Grading Policies | Transfer Credit Policy | Change of Major/Program | Change of Personal Data | Transcripts | Privacy of Records

a. Graduate School Grading Policies

1. Posting of Grades:
Grades are recorded on SPIRE approximately 1 week following the date they are due from the instructors. The actual date grades will be available is posted on SPIRE each semester. As incomplete or missing grades are received and posted, they are uploaded to SPIRE. If you require a printed copy of your grades you can print an unofficial transcript from SPIRE or request an official transcript from the Graduate Student Service Center (see Transcripts).

2. Grading System:
Course/seminar grades are assigned solely by the course instructor. The following letter grades can be given to graduate students in graduate-level courses:

A = 4.0 AUD - Audit
A- = 3.7 INC - Incomplete
B+ = 3.3 IF - Incomplete Failure
B = 3.0 IP - In Progress (for thesis and disertation courses only)
B- = 2.7 NR - Not Reported
C+ = 2.3 DR - Drop
C = 2.0 SAT - Satisfactory
C-* = 1.7 WP - Withdraw Passing
D+* = 1.3 WF - Withdraw Failing
D* = 1.0    
F = 0.0    

*Graduate students enrolled in undergraduate courses may receive these grades.

3. Satisfactory:
The grade of Satisfactory (SAT) may be assigned as an alternative to a letter grade. Students should check with their instructor at the beginning of the semester regarding the instructor's policy about pass/fail grades. The grade of "SAT" is equivalent to "Passing for Graduate Credit."

4. Incomplete:
When the grade of Incomplete (INC) is assigned, the student must contact the instructor to determine what must be done to complete the course. Upon completion of the course, the instructor will submit the appropriate grade on a Graduate School Change of Grade Card to the Graduate Program Director or Department Head/Chair of the instructor's department/program for endorsement and forwarding to the Graduate Student Service Center.

5. Incomplete Failure:
An Incomplete (INC) or blank grade reverts to an Incomplete Failure (IF) one year after initial enrollment in the course, (e.g., a course taken in the Fall 2005 semester reverts to an "IF" on the first class day of the Fall 2006 semester).

6. In Progress:
An interim grade of In Progress (IP) is routinely recorded for thesis/dissertation credits until the candidate receives his/her grad­u­ate degree. At that time, grades of Satisfactory (SAT) are assigned for all thesis/dissertation credits. Should a student choose not to complete his/her thesis/dissertation after registering for the credit, a grade of Drop (DR) is recorded for each registration.

7. Undergraduate Courses:
A graduate student who enrolled in an undergraduate level course (100-499) may receive any grade which is valid for undergraduate students enrolled in the same course. Grades of "C-" and "D+ and D" are valid only for undergraduate-level courses.

8. Course Withdrawal:
Grades of Drop (DR), Withdraw Passing (WP), or Withdraw Failing (WF) are recorded when the student formally drops the course prior to the end of the semester. The instructor must indicate "WP" or "WF" and date last attended when signing the Add/Drop Card. A student may convert an otherwise passing course to an audit up to the last day of classes.

9. Audited Courses:
A grade of Audit (AUD) is recorded for students who register for and successfully complete the course requirements for auditing students. The instructor determines what constitutes successful completion. If an "audit" grade is not reported, the course will not be included on the student's transcript.

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b. Transfer Credit Policy
A limited number of course credits may be transferred toward a master's program provided the Graduate Program Director recommends to the Graduate Dean that the credits be transferred and that request is approved (See Sample Request for Transfer of Graduate Course Credit Form). No courses taken outside of the University of Massachusetts Amherst may be transferred toward a doctoral or to a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study program. Any requests for exceptions to the regulations specified below must be made by the student's Graduate Program Director to the Graduate Dean, outlining the specific reason(s) for the request. Exceptions are rare.

1. Course Eligibility Requirements:
Grades received for courses requested for transfer must be "B" (3.00) or better. Graduate level courses to be transferred must have been taken no more than three years prior to the student's acceptance into the master's program and may not have been used previously to fulfill the requirements for any other degree, certificate or diploma program. An official transcript of the course(s) to be transferred is required.

2. Use of Courses to Fulfill Requirements:
Non-University of Massachusetts Amherst transfer credits may be used to fulfill elective or departmental course requirements. These courses may not, however, be used to satisfy the 600-800 level requirement nor can the grade received in a course taken at another institution be used to satisfy the University's requirement for letter-graded credits (see Master's Degree Requirements).

3. Number of Credits:
No more than a total of twelve (12) graduate credits may be transferred. Of these, a maximum of six (6) credits may be from any one of the following sources:

A. Course(s) taken at another regionally accredited college/university within the United States,
B. Course(s) taken while enrolled as a non-degree graduate student (see Non-Degree),
C. Course(s) taken as an undergraduate student over and above requirements for the baccalaureate degree,
D. Response course(s) offered through the Division of Continuing Education.

4. Transfer Credits to Another Institution:
Courses taken as a non-degree student are listed separately from the degree transcript. A course taken while enrolled in a degree program but not applied toward a University of Massachusetts Amherst degree may be transferrable. The Graduate School can, if necessary, certify that a course was not applied to any degree requirement at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was eligible for graduate credit when appropriate.

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c. Change of Major/Program
To change from one graduate program to another outside of one's current graduate major, a formal reapplication form must be submitted to the Graduate Student Service Center along with the appropriate application fee. It will be considered along with all other current applications to that department/program. Since admission to the University is specifically to a graduate program, it does not ensure admission to another department/program. A change from one area of concentration or specialization to another within the same graduate program does not require Graduate School approval. A student admitted specifically and solely to a master's level program and later wishing to apply/change to the doctoral or master's/
doctoral level in the same graduate program must file a formal reapplication through the Graduate Student Service Center. No application fee is, however, required for applications of this type.

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d. Change of Personal Data

1. Mailing Address:
All correspondence regarding registration is sent to the student's current mailing address, as listed on SPIRE. Because mailings are sent throughout the year (including summer and between semesters), it is absolutely critical that the Graduate Student Service Center be kept informed of all address changes. All international students must update their mailing address with a U.S. physical street address (no P.O. box).  If you change your mailing address during the non-academic semesters to your home country address to receive mail, then you will need to re-enter your U.S. address upon your return to the university. Addresses, including e-mail address, can be changed using SPIRE at spire.umass.edu. Official information is sent by the University to the most recent mailing address on record. If a student misses a deadline because of his/her failing to update SPIRE, he or she may be penalized. It is the graduate student's responsibility to update SPIRE with his/her correct address. Students who do not wish to be listed in the Student Directory and on People Finder online, must notify the Graduate Student Service Center in writing by the beginning of the semester to ensure that they are not listed in the current semester's directory (see Privacy of Records).

2. Permanent Address:
The Graduate School also maintains a permanent address for each graduate student. This may or may not be the same as the mailing address. Mail will be directed to the permanent address only when the mailing address is not current or after the student withdraws from the University. To update a permanent address, contact the Graduate Student Service Center or use SPIRE.

3. E-mail address
Official notifications from the University, the Graduate School and other campus offices are sent by email to your official campus email account. All students are assigned an account without charge. To activate the account, contact Office of Information Technologies (OIT), A107 Lederle Graduate Research Center or go online at http://www.oit.umass.edu/index.html . If you choose to maintain an email account other than the official one, you must still activate the OIT account, then forward your mail from the official account to your personal account.

4. Name Changes:
Name changes must be made in writing to the Graduate Student Service Center. The student must indicate exactly how his/her name should, henceforth, appear on all educational records at the University. He or she should provide:

A. new name
B. previous name
C. the date the change is to become effective
D. student identifier
E. birthdate.

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e. Transcripts
An official transcript of a graduate student's work at the University is available from the Graduate Student Service Center. All requests for transcripts must be made by the student (or former student) in writing or in person at the Graduate School. A picture ID is required for in-person requests. A Transcript Request form and additional information is available on the Internet at www.umass.edu /gradschool/students_graduate_transcript_request.htm. All written requests should include the student's birthdate and/or any other identifying information and to whom the transcript(s) should be sent. Processing normally takes less than a week. Students can receive no more than 10 transcripts per week unless extenuating circumstances warrant an additional number of copies. The University of Massachusetts Amherst issues only official transcripts; transcripts issued directly to students are official but will be stamped "ISSUED TO STUDENT."

Every attempt will be made to immediately process transcripts over the counter between the hours of 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM. At the discretion of the staff in the Graduate Student Service Center, there may be times when immediate processing is not possible, especially for large quantities. In these cases, students will be requested to return a subsequent day to receive them, or accept them by mail.

An unofficial copy of a student's academic record is available on SPIRE. This copy contains a listing of courses taken, grades received, examinations passed, and degrees awarded. It is available for student use only and cannot be considered an official transcript under any circumstance.

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f. Privacy of Records
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 protects the privacy of student records, ensuring that the University will not release a transcript or personal information about a student to a third party without the student's knowledge and consent. Only those data items which have been defined by the University as directory information are released without prior student consent.

The University defines directory information as a student's name, local (mailing), home and e-mail addresses, major, local telephone number, date and place of birth, acknowledgment of a student's participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, date(s) of attendance, degrees, certificates, awards received, the most recent previous educational agency or institution attended by the student. For graduate students who are teaching/assisting credit courses and for graduate students who are employed as assistant residence directors, the work department, office address, and employment category will also be considered as directory information.

The University will make public some or all of this information, unless the student specifically requests in writing that his/her prior consent be obtained. Requests by individual students to suppress from public distribution the above-mentioned information are to be made annually to the Graduate Student Service Center in person or in writing (see Change of Personal Data).

In addition, this Act provides each student with the right to view his/her academic file and all materials contained within (with the exception of certain letters of recommendation to which the student has previously waived his/her right of access). Files are kept in the Graduate Student Service Center and in academic department offices. Material cannot be removed from the file; however, if there are any disputed documents, the student may request that a written statement, giving the student's point of view, also be included in the file. Students who request to view their file must complete the appropriate request form and provide proper identification. An arrangement to view one's file can then be made with any member of the Graduate Student Service Center staff.

A document titled Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act at the University of Massachusetts explains in detail the procedures established by this institution for compliance with the provisions of the Act. A copy is available for inspection in the Graduate Student Service Center.