Academic Standards and Grades

Academic Standards and Grades

Graduate level (500+) coursework and graduate degrees represent advanced study beyond the baccalaureate degree.  Graduate courses are discipline-specific integrations of information into knowledge frameworks.  Graduate level courses and programs are more rigorous than undergraduate courses, requiring high-level cognitive processes such as critical thinking and evaluation, synthesis, and problem solving.

The grading system for graduate courses at the University is:

Grade Quality Points Level of Performance
A 4.0 exceptional performance
B+ 3.5 very good performance
B 3.0 good performance
C+ 2.5 below average performance
C 2.0 poor performance
F 0 failure to meet course standards

Grade Policies
No course grade below C is awarded graduate credit. Nor will any student be allowed to earn credit toward degree requirements for more than a total of two graduate courses in which a grade below a B has been earned. Students who receive two Cs or C+s, in any combination, or one F may be dismissed from the program. Certain accredited programs in the School of Health Professions may have different requirements; students will consult their program handbook for particulars.

Incomplete Grades
The Incomplete Grade (I) is a temporary grade indicating that work in the course was acceptable, though a significant or critical part of it was not completed due to illness or other serious circumstances beyond the student’s control. It is the student’s responsibility to verify these conditions. The “I” grade may not be used to extend time for course work or for the convenience of the student or faculty member. Incomplete coursework must be submitted to the instructor no later than 30 days after the end of the semester in which the “I” is given. If not completed, the “I” grade is changed to a grade of F.

Students who are working on special projects that carry into other semesters or on theses should not register for credit until the semester when completion appears likely. While on the transcript, I grades will carry no academic penalty.

Repeated Courses
Students are permitted to repeat for credit a graduate course in which they earned a grade of lower than a B. As each program may have its own Repeat Course Policy, this option is contingent on approval by the specific graduate program director and then approval by the Office of Academic Affairs.  

Graduate Course Repeat Rules:

  1. Courses can be repeated only one (1) time.
  2. A withdrawal (W) from a course is considered an initial course attempt. 
  3. The most recent course grade and credits will be considered to be ‘included’ in the cumulative grade point average (GPA).
  4. All prior course attempts will appear on the final academic transcript. Previous attempts will be designated ‘R’ and excluded from the cumulative credit total and GPA. 
  5. Repeat courses will not count towards the minimum course load required for financial aid purposes. 
  6. Tuition scholarship awards do not cover repeated courses.

4+1 Policy
Undergraduate students applying to a 4+1 program must have a 3.2 GPA or greater in order to enter the program and begin taking graduate classes while still an undergraduate student. Admitted students may take no more than one (1) graduate course per semester, for a maximum total of four (4) courses or twelve (12) credits while still enrolled in an undergraduate program. Undergraduate students wishing to take more than one (1) graduate course in any given semester, or more than two (2) courses in the academic year, must receive permission from the Office of Academic Affairs.

In order to continue in the 4+1 program, students must earn a minimum grade of B in each graduate course and continue to maintain a 3.0 in undergraduate coursework. Failure to do so will result in suspension or removal from the program. Students should also note that admission into the 4+1 program does not constitute admission into a graduate program. Students still need to apply formally to a graduate program as they are finishing their undergraduate study.

Graduate Credit Load
Nine (9) credit hours per semester is considered a full-time course load for graduate students unless they are required by their program to enroll for more. Students wishing to register for more than the maximum credit load, and beyond department requirements, may do so only after consultation with his or her advisor, and approval of the dean and the Office of Academic Affairs. 

Grade Appeals
In all cases it shall be assumed that the grade assigned is correct; the student appealing the grade must justify the need for a change of the grade assigned. A grade may only be appealed if the final grade issued for a class does not reflect what the student has earned according to the grading criteria outlined by the course instructor. Grade appeals may not be based upon a request to have submitted work re-evaluated by the instructor. An appeal must be initiated within 45 days after the close of the semester in which the grade was earned (or 45 days into the fall semester for grades issued during the previous spring semester). 

If a student believes that a final grade issued is not reflective of the grading criteria outlined by the course instructor he/she should first meet with the instructor to discuss the final grade. If this meeting does not resolve the issue, a formal grade appeal may be submitted through the Office of Academic Affairs for review by the appropriate College Dean. This is a formal appeal and should be submitted as such. The document should be prepared as an electronic file and should be concise. The appeal should include all pertinent facts and should clearly state the basis on which the student is making the appeal. A copy of the course syllabus and copies of all relative assignments and exams should be attached to the appeal. 

Once the appeal has been received the instructor involved will be informed of the grade appeal and must submit a written statement in response. After considering both statements, the College Dean will make a recommendation to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, who will make the final decision. The Office of Academic Affairs will notify both the student and instructor of the final decision. 

Calculating Grade Point Average
Grade points are earned according to the above grading scale for each credit attempted. Under the grading system, a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA) is computed by dividing the total number of grade points earned by the total number of credits attempted. The resulting number is the student’s Grade Point Average. 


Grade Grade Points   Credits   Total Grade Points
A 4 * 3 = 12
C 2 * 3 = 6
C+ 2.5 * 3 = 7.5
F 0 * 2 = 0
Totals 8.5 * 11 = 25.5

Grade Point Average Formula
25.5 ÷ 11 = 2.32 GPA

Academic Progress
All students are expected and encouraged to sustain satisfactory progress in their studies at the University.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) for a full-time student requires:

  • Successful completion of a minimum of 75% of attempted credit hours in the full academic year. Financial Aid may be affected by lack of academic progress (see section on Financial Aid).
  • Earning a minimum cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of a 3.0. However, maintenance of the GPA established by the department/ program in which the student is enrolled is also required. 

Academic Probation

Each graduate program can have specific Grade Point Average (GPA) requirements and expectations, and students are to be aware of the requirements for the programs in which they are enrolled. In general, graduate students are expected to maintain an overall cumulative GPA of 3.0 for all courses taken as part of the program. If a student’s cumulative GPA drops below 3.0, the student shall be placed on academic probation. A student on probation must raise the cumulative GPA to at least a 3.0 by the end of the next full semester (9 credits). A student whose academic standing is unsatisfactory, less than 3.0 cumulative GPA, for two successive semesters will be dismissed from the graduate program. 

Academic Dismissal
If a student fails to earn less than satisfactory academic progress, the student will be dismissed from the University for no less than one academic year. Readmission after dismissal is most unusual and only for compelling reasons and subject to Department Chair’s discretion.

Definitions of academic progress for the award of financial aid may differ from academic policies. Please refer to student financial services for satisfactory academic progress (SAP) guidelines. 

Academic Forgiveness
For the student who has not been enrolled at the University for more than five (5) years and who currently demonstrates the ability to do well academically, an Academic Forgiveness policy is available. Essentially, Academic Forgiveness removes the effects of earlier unsatisfactory grades and the cumulative GPA is reset at 0.00. Students who wish to be considered for Academic Forgiveness must make an appointment with the University Registrar to determine eligibility and the impact of invoking the policy. Given the many dimensions of this policy and mindful of the fact that this policy may be applied only one time, consultation with an advisor is recommended.

Graduation Awards
To be considered for a graduation award, a student must complete all coursework by the date of commencement, including student teaching, internships and externships. Candidates for non divisional/departmental awards must be cleared by the Registrar’s Office as having no more than one-year of transfer credit counting toward the graduation requirement. Candidates must also be cleared by the Student Conduct Office as having no serious or recent discipline issues. Full-time faculty, staff and administrators nominate students for the top awards of the University and divisional/departmental faculty nominate students for divisional awards.

Sister Eustace Taylor Graduate Student Award
Each of the seven graduate Programs, under the direction and guidance of the Program Director, select the graduate student in their respective Program for this award. The criteria for selection are GPA and overall contribution to the respective College. 

National Honor Societies
Mercyhurst has active societies honoring those outstanding students who possess the ideals of the honor society.

  • ALPHA PHI SIGMA: National criminal justice honor society
  • DELTA MU DELTA: National honor society in business
  • KAPPA DELTA PI: National honor society, Education
  • PI SlGMA ALPHA: National honor society, Political Science
  • PI ALPHA is the national Physician Assistant honor society
  • SIGMA TAU DELTA: This national honor society confers distinction for high academic achievement in English language and literature in undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies