Academic Policies

Academic Standards

Definition of Grades

The following grades are used: A — excellent; B — good; C — fair in undergraduate courses and minimum passing in courses for graduate credit; D — minimum passing in undergraduate courses; F — failed. In addition, plus and minus grades may be used, with the exceptions of A plus, F plus and F minus. The grade of F indicates that the student failed at the end of the semester or was doing failing work and stopped attending the course after the twelfth week of the semester. Minimum passing grades are D- for undergraduate credit and C for graduate credit. Additional grades include: CR — credit (passing grade for non-letter-graded courses equivalent to C- quality or better for undergraduate courses and B (3.0) quality or better for graduate courses); NC — no credit (less than the equivalent of a C- for an undergraduate and a B for a graduate, non-letter-graded course); P – pass (passing grade equivalent to C- quality or better for undergraduate letter-graded courses and B (3.0) quality or better for graduate courses taken on a Pass/No Pass basis); NP – no pass (less than the equivalent of a C- for an undergraduate and a B (3.0) for a graduate, letter graded course taken on a Pass/No Pass basis).

The following marks are also used: W — withdrawn; IP — interim mark for a course exceeding one semester (failure to complete courses in which marks of IP [in progress] appear will be assigned grades of NC); UW — unofficial withdrawal (assigned to students who stopped attending prior to the drop deadline but failed to withdraw); MG — missing grade (an administrative mark used in cases when the instructor fails to submit a final course grade for a student); IN — incomplete (work not completed because of documented illness or some other emergency occurring after the twelfth week of the semester; arrangements for the IN and its completion should be initiated by the student and agreed to by the instructor prior to the final exam); IX — lapsed incomplete.

Grade Point Average Categories and Class Levels

A system of grade points is used to determine a student’s grade point average. Grade points are assigned to grades as follows for each unit in the credit value of a course: A, 4 points; A‑, 3.7 points; B+, 3.3 points; B, 3.0 points; B‑, 2.7 points; C+, 2.3 points; C, 2 points; C‑, 1.7 points; D+, 1.3 points; D, 1 point; D‑, 0.7 points; F, 0 points; UW, 0 points; IX, 0 points. Wherever these letter grades appear in this catalogue or other university documents, they represent the numerical equivalents listed above. Marks of CR, NC, P, NP, W, IP, MG and IN do not affect a student’s grade point average.

There are four categories of class level: Undergraduate, Graduate, Law and Other. Undergraduate comprises freshman (less than 32 units earned); sophomore (32–63.9 units earned); junior (64–95.9 units earned) and senior (at least 96 units earned). Graduate comprises any course work attempted while pursuing a master’s and/or doctoral degree. Law comprises any course work (offered by the USC Gould School of Law) attempted while pursuing a Juris Doctor or Master of Laws degree. Other comprises any course work attempted while not admitted to a degree program or course work not available for degree credit.

Grades of Incomplete (IN)

Conditions for Completing a Grade of Incomplete

If an IN is assigned as the student’s grade, the instructor will fill out the Assignment of an Incomplete (IN) and Requirements for Completion form which will specify to the student and to the department the work remaining to be done, the procedures for its completion, the grade in the course to date and the weight to be assigned to the work remaining to be done when computing the final grade. A student may complete the IN by completing only the portion of required work not finished as a result of documented illness or emergency occurring after the twelfth week of the semester. Previously graded work may not be repeated for credit.

Time Limit for Completion of an Incomplete

One calendar year is allowed to complete an IN. Individual academic units may have more stringent policies regarding these time limits. If the IN is not completed within the designated time, the course is considered “lapsed,” the grade is changed to an “IX” and will be calculated into the grade point average as 0 points. Courses offered on a Credit/No Credit basis or taken on a Pass/No Pass basis for which a mark of Incomplete is assigned will be lapsed with a mark of NC or NP and will not be calculated into the grade point average.

Extension of Time for Completion of an Incomplete

Completing the IN within the one-year period should be the student’s highest priority. A student may petition the Committee on Academic Policies and Procedures (CAPP) for an extension of time for the completion of an IN. Extensions beyond the specified time limit are rarely approved if the student has enrolled in subsequent semesters.

In all cases, a petition for an extension of time for completion of an IN must have departmental approval and include a statement from the instructor explaining what is needed to complete the course and why the instructor feels the student should be given even further time for completion.

Missing Grades

Marks of MG must be resolved before a degree or certificate will be awarded. If a student wishes to graduate and chooses not to resolve the mark(s) of MG, the mark(s) will be defaulted to mark(s) of UW and will be calculated into the grade point average as 0 grade points.

Time Limit for Resolution of a Missing Grade

One calendar year is allowed to resolve an MG. If an MG is not resolved within one year, the grade is changed to UW and it will be calculated into the grade point average as 0 grade points. Courses offered on a Credit/No Credit basis or taken on a Pass/No Pass basis for which an MG was not resolved within one year will be changed to a mark of NC or NP and will not be calculated into the grade point average.

Courses offered on a Credit/No Credit basis or taken on a Pass/No Pass basis for which an MG was not resolved within one year will be changed to a mark of NC or NP and will not be calculated into the grade point average.

Correction of Grades

A grade once reported to the Office of Academic Records and Registrar may not be changed except by request of the faculty member to the Committee on Academic Policies and Procedures on a Correction of Grade form. Changes should be requested only on the basis of an actual error in assigning the original grade, not on the basis of a request by the student or special consideration for an individual student. Students are not permitted to complete course work after the semester has ended.

Disputing a Grade

The instructor’s evaluation of the performance of each individual student is the final basis for assigning grades. Through orderly appeal procedures, students have protection against prejudiced or capricious academic evaluation. See the student guidebook SCampus for details of the procedure.

Academic Dishonesty Sanctions

When a student is found responsible for a violation of the USC Student Conduct Code standards pertaining to academic dishonesty, the Vice President for Student Affairs (or designee) will inform the Office of Academic Records and Registrar. In appropriate cases, the Office of Academic Records and Registrar will post the sanction information on the student’s academic records. Disciplinary sanctions noted on student records include suspension and expulsion from the university and revocation of admission and degree. Disciplinary grade sanctions (e.g., F in course) are not distinguished on a student’s transcript from marks assigned for academic work accomplished. In cases of suspension or expulsion, the student’s registration for the current term may be cancelled with marks of “W.” More information can be found in SCampus in the University Governance section.

Repeated Course Work at USC

Under certain conditions, a student may repeat a course for grade point credit. In no case will additional unit credit be allowed for repeated courses or duplicated work. No student may repeat a course for grade point credit in which a grade of B- or better was received. A prerequisite course may not be repeated after a student has completed a course for which it is designated a prerequisite. (See prerequisites in the Registration section of the Catalogue.)

Undergraduate students who want to repeat a course in which a grade of C+, C or C- was received and have the subsequent grade calculated in the grade point average must petition the Committee on Academic Policies and Procedures (CAPP) for permission to do so prior to re-registering in the course. Post hoc approval will not be granted.

Graduate students may repeat a course in which a grade of C- or below was received, but both grades will be calculated in the grade point average. Graduate students who want to repeat a course in which a grade of C+ or C was received and have the subsequent grade calculated in the grade point average must petition the Committee on Academic Policies and Procedures (CAPP) for permission to do so prior to re-registering in the course. Post hoc approval will not be granted.

A special provision governs the repeat of courses by students who enter USC as first-time freshmen. These students may repeat a maximum of three courses taken during the first two semesters at USC in which grades of D+ or below (including UW and IX) were received, and only the subsequent letter grade, even if lower, will be calculated in the grade point average. The courses must be repeated at USC for a letter grade, and both courses with the grades received will appear on the transcript. The same course may be repeated no more than once for the benefit of substitution of grade. Students must notify the Degree Progress Department if they wish to utilize this provision. Students who have been assigned a grade as a result of a Student Conduct sanction may not repeat the course under this provision. Students who were admitted for spring and were first-time freshmen elsewhere in the previous fall may repeat a maximum of two courses taken during the first semester at USC in which grades of D+ or below were received with the same set of provisions stated above. An exception is the case in which a student earns a grade of C- in a course for which a grade of C or higher is required for application to major or minor requirements. In this case the subsequent grade will be calculated in the grade point average without the requirement of a petition.

Excessive Withdrawals (Marks of W)

An undergraduate student who withdraws (a mark of W) from at least 8 units in one semester or from at least 16 units overall must undergo mandatory academic advisement before the student can enroll in a subsequent semester. A restriction enforces this requirement. A student must have his or her academic adviser remove the restriction. This is a one-time requirement. Students will not be denied registration in future terms once advisement has taken place. This advisement is intended to provide students with information and guidance on the negative consequences that excessive withdrawals have on successful and timely completion of degree programs.

The Dean’s List

Any undergraduate student who earns a grade point average of 3.5 or higher on 12 units or more of letter-graded course work in any one semester is placed on the Dean’s List for that semester. Grades of IN must be removed before eligibility is determined for that semester. Academic transcripts do not carry the Dean’s List notation.

Class Rank

The University of Southern California does not calculate or support a class rank for its undergraduate students. While most graduate programs do not rank students, requests for graduate student class rankings should be directed to the dean of the particular school in which the graduate degree was earned.

Student Good Standing

Students are considered to be in good academic standing if they are eligible to register for classes. Disciplinary good standing is determined by the office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards.

Probation and Disqualification of Undergraduate Students

An overall USC grade point average (GPA) of at least C (2.0) on course work taken at USC is required for completion of undergraduate degrees.

Academic Probation

A student whose overall USC GPA falls below 2.0 is placed on academic probation. Continued enrollment requires clearance from a counselor in the Office of Academic Review and Retention. Actions such as Corrections of Grades, Completion of Incompletes, Removal of Missing Grades and Exceptions Requests will not result in academic statuses being retroactively changed.

Mandatory Advisement

A student whose overall GPA falls below 2.0 is required to seek academic advisement prior to course selection each semester. Proof of advisement must be filed with the Office of Academic Review and Retention before any registration request will be processed. The Office of Academic Review and Retention will only accept an official Academic Review Advisement Record form with an authorized school signature as proof of advisement. This form may be obtained in Trojan Hall 101.

Academic Disqualification

Students on academic probation who do not raise their overall GPA to 2.0 after two semesters of enrollment, exempting summer enrollment, will be academically disqualified. However, if a student earns a minimum semester GPA of 2.3 in the second or any subsequent probation semester but has not yet reached the overall 2.0 GPA, the student will not be disqualified and will be allowed to enroll for an additional semester.

Readmission after Academic Disqualification

Petitions for readmission after academic disqualification are initiated by the student through the Office of Academic Review and Retention. Completion of approved course work from another institution is a requirement for petitioning for readmission. Disqualified students must meet with a counselor from the Office of Academic Review and Retention before enrolling in courses at another institution. The counselor will provide the Readmission Pre-Approval Form on which both the Office of Academic Review and Retention and the student’s academic department must sign approval.

Before petitioning for readmission, a disqualified student must complete a minimum of 12 semester units of pre-approved, transferable course work applicable to USC degree requirements with a minimum 3.0 GPA. As readmission to the university is never guaranteed, any indication of strong academic performance beyond the 12 units required would strengthen a readmission petition. All grade issues at USC (IN, MG, etc.) must be resolved prior to submission of a readmission petition.

Students must petition for readmission by December 30 for spring semester, by May 1 for summer session and by August 15 for fall semester. Since a student’s readmission petition must be reviewed and approved by CAPP before he or she can register, under no circumstances will a petition be accepted after the deadline. A non-refundable fee of $50 must accompany the readmission petition.

Academic Warning and Dismissal of Graduate Students

Faculty advisers and departments take factors other than satisfactory grades and adequate GPAs into consideration in determining a student’s qualifications for an advanced degree. A student’s overall academic performance, specific skills and aptitudes, and faculty evaluations will be considered in departmental decisions regarding a student’s continuation in a master’s or doctoral degree program.

Satisfactory progress toward an advanced degree as determined by the faculty is required at all times. Students who fail to make satisfactory progress will be informed by their department or committee chair or school dean. The faculty has the right to recommend at any time after written warning that a student be dismissed from a graduate program for academic reasons or that a student be denied readmission. Procedures on disputed academic evaluations are described in SCampus.

Ethics Guidelines for Graduate Study

As participants in an enterprise that depends on academic freedom and integrity, faculty members and graduate students have a special obligation to promote conditions that maintain free inquiry and the highest standards of integrity. USC faculty have developed guidelines to serve as a resource for students finding their way through the often complex academic relationships of a major research university. These guidelines for ethical faculty and graduate student relations are available from the Graduate School.

Research Involving Human Subjects

Graduate student researchers are required to obtain approval from the USC Institutional Review Boards whenever research, whether funded or unfunded, involving human subjects is proposed. The Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) are fully authorized to review all proposals and projects which involve the use of human subjects. “Human subject” means a living individual about whom an investigator conducting research obtains (a) data through intervention or interaction with the individual or (b) identifiable private information. The university IRBs have been established to meet federal regulations. The IRBs are required to assure that: (1) research methods are appropriate to the objectives of the research; (2) research methods are the safest, consistent with sound research design; (3) risks are justified in terms of related benefits to the subjects; (4) subjects’ privacy is protected; (5) subjects participate willingly and knowingly to the extent possible; and (6) research projects are “monitored” by the IRBs.

Language of Instruction

English is the language of instruction at USC. All courses are taught in English with the exception of a few advanced language courses.