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Graduate Programs and Policies

Last updated on Nov 13, 2023

Grading Policies

The MFA in Comics, the MFA in Film, the MFA in Fine Arts and the MFA in Writing use a Pass/No Credit (P/NC) grading scheme.

The Master of Architecture, MA in Curatorial Practice, Master of Design in Interaction Design, MFA in Design, MBA Programs, and the MA in Visual & Critical Studies use an A-F grading scheme based on a 4.3 scale.

Individual courses are graded based on the program in which they are offered. If a course is cross-listed with another program, the grading scheme is based on the primary section.

For example, if a student enrolled in a "graded" program takes a course in a Pass/No Credit program, the student receives a "P" or "F" on their transcript for that course. A "P" neither has a grade point attached nor will it affect the GPA. An "F" has zero points attached and will affect the GPA.

Alternatively, if a student enrolled in a Pass/No Credit program takes a course in a graded program, the instructor assigns them a grade, and the Registrar will convert the grade to a "P" or "NC." A letter grade of "C" or higher is converted to a "Pass" and a grade of "C-" or lower is converted to a "No Credit."

Finally, a graduate student taking an undergraduate course will be graded with the Pass/No Credit grading scheme.

In all graduate coursework a minimum grade of "C" is required. A grade lower than "C" will require a student to repeat the course. Though a grade of "C" is required in individual courses, all graduate students must maintain a GPA of 2.66 ("B-") or higher to remain in good academic standing. For details, please see Academic Suspension, Probation and Dismissal for Graduate Students section below.

In addition to the above grading scheme, Master of Architecture students must earn a minimum grade of "C+" in the following studio requirements; Studios 1-3, Advanced Studio, Integrated Building Design, Thesis Studio, Research Seminar and Research Lab. A grade of "C" or lower will require a student to repeat the course. Additionally, MFA in Fine Arts and MFA in Writing students who are pursuing a dual degree with the MA in Visual & Critical Studies program receive letter grades for their Visual & Critical Studies courses.

Please review additional information on Grade Appeals »

Incomplete Grades

Students who are unable to complete the work for a course due to a family emergency, personal illness or other extenuating circumstances may request an incomplete.

At least two-thirds of the academic period's (semester's) course work must be completed and the student must be passing the course to be eligible for an incomplete. Incompletes are not granted to students on academic probation.

If a graduating student receives an incomplete for a course taken in that student's last academic period at CCA, that student's degree will not be posted until the final passing grade has been received by the Registrar from the instructor.

Students who have received an incomplete must complete the outstanding course work and have a grade turned in within 5 weeks of the end of the academic period; instructors may set earlier deadlines at their discretion. If the student completes the work by the deadline, the instructor will assign a final grade for the course.

Otherwise, the instructor or the Student Records Office will assign a grade of F (or NC, depending on the student's program) for the course. The student's schedule will be adjusted if they receive an F or NC for the class and it is a prerequisite for another course they are enrolled in. Notification of any schedule changes will be sent to the student's CCA email account.

Students on financial aid who do not complete all of their course work in a given academic period may be required to complete that course work the following academic period in order to maintain their financial aid eligibility. Completion of this work is in addition to any other enrollment and eligibility requirements.

Academic Progress for Graduate Students

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Graduate students in a “letter graded” program must maintain both a minimum academic period (semester) and cumulative GPA of 2.66 to make satisfactory academic progress.

Graduate student in a “P/NC” program (Comics, Fine Arts, Film, and Writing) must receive “P” grades in all “P/NC” courses and a minimum academic period (semester) and cumulative GPA of 2.66 for “letter graded” courses to make satisfactory academic progress.

If classes are taken for degree credit, summer session will be considered a regular academic period for most purposes.

In addition to satisfactory grades, students must show satisfactory academic progress by demonstrating proficiency in other requisites for their degree as may be assigned by their program. Examples may include: identifying an approvable thesis topic in a timely manner; making acceptable progress in thesis research; demonstrating sufficient language proficiency to engage in required critiques, presentations, or group work at acceptable levels; demonstrating sufficient skills in academic writing to undertake a graduate thesis/master’s project; successfully completing qualifying exams/reviews.

The Academic Review Committee meets at the end of each fall and spring academic period to review the records of students who have not earned satisfactory grades or GPAs and/or whose programs have identified them as otherwise not making satisfactory progress. Students whose grades and GPAs do not meet minimum expectations become subject to (eligible for) dismissal and will be contacted in case they wish to make an appeal. Based on details of the student's academic record, the recommendations of the graduate program, and information/documentation submitted with the student’s appeal, the committee will determine an academic standing of probation, suspension, or dismissal.

Academic Probation

Any graduate student in a “letter graded” program whose academic period or cumulative GPA drops below 2.66 (“B-”) will at minimum be placed on academic probation and may be dismissed. Any graduate student in a “P/NC” program who receives a grade of “NC” in one or more courses in an academic period will at minimum be placed on academic probation and may be dismissed. A student who is placed on academic probation will have their status reflected on their transcript for all applicable academic periods.

If a student has one or more incomplete grades or unreported grades at the end of the academic period and the rest of their grades are below standard, the student may be placed on probation. The student will be reviewed again at the end of the following academic period; if the incomplete grades bring the student's GPA to satisfactory levels, the probation status will be retroactively removed.

Incomplete Grades are not granted to students on academic probation.

Academic Suspension

A graduate student may be suspended for academic reasons by the Academic Review Committee with conditions for return set at the recommendation of the graduate chair.

Like a dismissal, a suspension bars the student from enrolling in any degree or non-degree classes at CCA and from otherwise using any CCA resources and facilities normally reserved for student use. Unlike a dismissal, a suspension allows for re-enrollment at the college providing the student meets the conditions for return and successfully petitions for reinstatement.

As with a leave of absence, a suspension is a temporary separation from the College. Unlike a leave of absence, which is initiated by the student, a suspension is a College-mandated separation with conditions that the student is obliged to meet prior to reenrolling.

Typically, a student is suspended after failing to make satisfactory academic progress as determined by end-of-academic period grades and GPAs, but in special circumstances, a student may be academically suspended based solely upon documented lack of proficiency in other requisites for their degree (e.g., examples listed under “Satisfactory Academic Progress” above). In such cases, the following conditions must be met:

  • The graduate chair and other faculty have advised the student that they face significant barriers to successful completion of the academic program due to lack of proficiency in requisites for their degree. Where possible, course grades or assignment/component grades should be reviewed with the student to substantiate the lack of proficiency (e.g., “D” in presentations or group assignments, “C-” in multiple written assignments, “D” in a thesis research class, etc.).
  • The student has been given an opportunity to improve while still enrolled at CCA. In consultation with the associate provost, the graduate chair must warn the student in writing of (a) the nature of the problem; (b) steps that should be taken to correct the deficiency; (c) information about resources within or outside of CCA that may assist them to develop needed skills; (d) a reasonable period of time in which to correct the problem or show improvement acceptable to program faculty; and (e) the approximate date at which the student’s record will next be reviewed.
  • Upon secondary assessment, the student has not been able to build necessary skills while enrolled at CCA, and is advised by their chair that a suspension is being recommended so that the student can take time away and return once required skills have been developed.
  • The graduate chair makes a recommendation of suspension to the Academic Review Committee with the following: (a) the original letter notifying the student of the nature of the problem and the plan for correction; (b) the results of the second review; (c) updated steps that should be taken to correct the deficiency while away; and (d) the anticipated return date, subject to a successful reinstatement petition by the student.

Documented warnings are recommended for all academic suspensions but are required for suspensions triggered by proficiency issues with program requisites rather than end-of-academic period GPAs. In extreme cases, such as a likely “F” grade in a thesis research course, the warning and recommended suspension can occur within close proximity to one another.

When a student seeks reinstatement at the end of a period of suspension, the graduate chair evaluates the student's preparedness to return and recommends to the Academic Review Committee that the student be reinstated, continued on suspension, or dismissed. A student who fails to make timely petition to be reinstated (typically within one year of eligibility to return) is also subject to dismissal.

Academic Dismissal

Graduate students in “letter graded” programs whose academic period or cumulative GPA falls below 2.66 and graduate students in “P/NC” programs who receive a grade of “NC” in one or more courses are subject to dismissal (i.e., eligible for dismissal).

Incomplete grades received for the academic period in which the Academic Review Committee considers a student's academic record will not affect the committee's decision regarding the student's possible suspension or dismissal.

Graduate students on disciplinary probation who fail to meet standards for satisfactory academic progress will be suspended for at least one academic year and may be dismissed without the possibility of appeal.

Academically suspended students who are unable to meet the conditions for return are also subject to dismissal.

Students who have been reinstated following suspension and fail to make satisfactory progress in a subsequent academic period are subject to dismissal without the possibility of appealing the dismissal.

Dismissal bars the student from enrolling in any degree or non-degree classes at CCA and from otherwise using any CCA resources and facilities normally reserved for student use. Dismissal is noted on the student's transcript.

Due to the nature, seriousness, and length of graduate study, a graduate student who is dismissed for academic reasons cannot petition to be reinstated to their program.

Dismissal from a graduate program is final.

Recognizing the evolving academic policies, the College now allows students who faced academic dismissal before Fall 2018 due to the absence of a suspension option, the opportunity to reapply for admission to any graduate program at CCA.

Secondary Evaluation

Students have up to one week following notification of a dismissal decision to submit a request for a secondary evaluation of their case by the Provost. Secondary evaluations will typically be granted only in cases in which new information becomes available that did not exist at the time of the initial appeal deadline. Examples include documentation from a physician’s office that was closed for the holidays at the original deadline, additional grading information from a faculty member who was away, etc. Submission of an initial dismissal appeal that was not sent in time does not constitute “new information.” Students should submit their request for secondary evaluation to the Registrar, who will forward the request to the Provost with any information that was pertinent to the initial dismissal decision. The decision of the Provost (to hear or not hear the request, to uphold or overturn the dismissal) is final. Decisions are typically communicated within one week of the request for secondary evaluation.

Reinstatement Following Academic Suspension

Graduate students who are suspended from the college must complete all conditions for return in the judgment of the college and successfully petition the Academic Review Committee for reinstatement before they will be permitted to reenroll in classes at CCA. Transcripts or other documentation of completed requirements should be sent to the Student Records Office. Unless students have been otherwise notified at the time of suspension, petitions for reinstatement must be received in the Student Records Office by the first business day in March for the following fall academic period or by the first business day in October for the following spring academic period.

Students will be notified of the committee’s decision of reinstatement, continued suspension, or dismissal within a month of submitting the petition.

Students who are required to pass a re-entry review as a condition for reinstatement must submit a petition at the time that they schedule their review. Failure to submit a petition will not prevent the College from dismissing a student who fails a re-entry review that is required for reinstatement, should that be the recommendation of the graduate chair.

Studio space cannot be held for a suspended student. Depending on program enrollment for the academic period in which a student returns, a new studio space may be available, but it is not guaranteed.

Students who do not reinstate within one year of their eligible date to return may need to reapply to their program.

Graduate Leave of Absence or College Withdrawal

A graduate student who needs to take a voluntary leave of absence or is withdrawing from the college must submit a Leave of Absence / Withdrawal form that has been reviewed by the Program Chair.

A graduate student taking an approved leave of absence will need to meet with and receive the approval from their Program Chair before returning to CCA.

Transfer Credit Policy

CCA has developed integral multiyear graduate programs. However, under special circumstances transfer credit is given to students who have done graduate-level courses at colleges and universities that have been accredited by their regional associations.

Transfer credit may also be considered for courses taken at institutions that lack regional accreditation, but have been accredited by specialized agencies or at institutions outside the United States that have been chartered or authorized by their national governments.

All requests for transfer credit must be made during the admissions process, in advance of matriculation.

In general, transfer credit is only considered for courses that satisfy CCA graduation requirements, have been completed with a grade of B or better, and have been completed within the past 10 years.

Graduate students may obtain transfer credit for a maximum of 6 units.

Portfolio reviews are required to determine the credit that will be given for studio courses. All transcripts that reflect studio courses completed at other institutions must be accompanied by samples of work in order to be considered for credit toward any CCA studio requirements, including studio electives.

Students must have their program's approval for all transfer credits.


Internships may be taken for elective credit in all graduate programs except for MArch and Curatorial Practice.

Please consult with your program's office for details.

Graduate Assistantships

Near the end of each academic period the graduate programs will notify students of teaching assistantship positions available for the following academic period. Students must apply to the graduate programs for these positions.

Teaching assistantships are based on merit and are awarded by the graduate chairs in conjunction with graduate faculty.

Dual Degree

The Visual & Critical Studies program offers the dual degree option as a unique opportunity for highly motivated students to pursue an MA in VCS and, simultaneously, a graduate degree in Fine Arts, Design, Writing, or Curatorial Practice. We believe that intellectual curiosity, academic rigor, and creative drive enrich and invigorate one another; dovetailing the curricula of two programs into three years of coursework that fully integrates two separate degree programs.

Applicants seeking to enter CCA as dual-degree students must apply to and be accepted by both the VCS program and one of the partner programs. Graduate students enrolled in a participating program may also apply to pursue the MA in Visual and Critical Studies. Interested students must apply to the VCS program during their first academic period (semester) at CCA. They must enroll in one of the VCS core courses offered in the spring academic period of the first year. Conversion to dual-degree status is contingent upon successful completion of one of the VSC cores classes.

Fine Art students pursuing the dual degree will only be awarded a studio for the four contiguous academic periods of MFA study. It is likely that shared studio space will be available to a Fine Arts dual-degree student in the fifth and sixth academic periods.

CCA is now offering enrollment in its new three-year dual-degree MFA/MBA in Design Strategy program. The curriculum blends courses from the Graduate Program in Design and MBA in Design Strategy programs and offers completion of degrees in each.

Students complete all critical courses in each program (with no electives) in order to satisfy the requirements of both specific degrees. Each academic period equals 15 units combining studio and academic courses.

Because the Graduate Program in Design and the MBA in Design Strategy program each shares compatible perspectives on design and business, including some overlap in course material, select students are now able to complete both degrees without missing critical learning or experience.

Dual-degree MFA/MBA in Design Strategy program students are required to reside locally, at least for the first two years of the program. Students create two theses: one at the completion of the second year; and one at the completion of the third year. This latter thesis can build on the previous one or be entirely new.

For admission consideration in the dual-degree program, prospective students will submit one application but must complete all related admissions requirements for each. Only one application fee per dual-degree applicant.

Annual enrollment is limited to just two or three students, and potential enrollees must be accepted to each graduate program to be considered.

Thesis Format & Deposit Instructions

General physical format

The thesis must be in a format that fits on library shelves, such as a bound volume, upright standing container, or folder.

Dimensions: maximum= 12" tall, 11" wide, 3" thick

Media: should be composed of archivally stable material, at least part of which must be readable without the use of a sight-assisting device; if the thesis is digital or audiovisual, it must be accompanied by representative samples in printed form. (Digital or audiovisual material that is no longer readable will not necessarily be retained by the library in future years.)

Surrogates: theses that do not meet the above format requirements should be deposited in the form of a surrogate that represents the thesis project, such as printouts, photographs, textual descriptions.

Exceptions: the library will accept oversized theses or those not otherwise fitting the above requirements when faculty and the library director agree the thesis is an outstanding work or example to be retained for historical and research purposes.

Identifying Content
Each thesis must be accompanied by one or more sheets of paper that include the following information (presented legibly, using a permanent-ink pen):

  • a title for the thesis, or specified as "Untitled thesis"
  • student's official name on record with the college
  • program or department to which the thesis is submitted
  • degree for which the thesis is being submitted
  • names of faculty charged with approving thesis
  • date of thesis approval

Along with

  • an abstract that is no longer than a single side of paper
  • alternative name under which work is created, if applicable (e.g., El Greco, Dave Eggers)
  • year degree is being awarded (if different from approval date)
  • year thesis was created (if different from approval date)

The granting department should deposit the thesis in the Simpson Library no later than three months after the degree is awarded.

For questions about access to Theses contacted CCA Libraries staff.

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