University Policy

School of Public Health Grading Policy

Note: This policy applies to students matriculating beginning Fall 2018.

Most credit-bearing courses at Boston University School of Public Health (SPH) are graded on an A–F scale, or notated with the special symbols described below.

Letter Grade Honor Points Explanation
A 4.0
A– 3.7
B+ 3.3
B 3.0
B– 2.7
C+ 2.3
C 2.0
C– 1.7
D 1.0
F 0.0 Fail, no credit
P Not applicable Pass
AU Not applicable Audit, no credit
I Not applicable Incomplete
MG Not applicable Missing grade, grade not assigned
W Not applicable Withdrew from course after withdrawal deadline

All SPH candidates must maintain a minimum overall 3.0 GPA each semester as part of the criteria to maintain satisfactory academic progress (SAP). Students whose Semester College GPA is below 3.0 will be subject to academic review.

All SPH candidates must have a minimum 3.0 GPA at SPH to graduate.

Calculating Grade Point Average (GPA)

  • To compute the total honor points for a desired time frame, multiply the credits per course by the honor points associated with the grade for a course (displayed in chart above). Sum the product for all courses in the desired time frame.
  • Divide the sum total by the number of credits attempted during that time frame; the result is the grade point average (GPA) for the time frame.
  • The grades and credits of all courses are considered in the overall GPA.
  • The following grade symbols are never associated with honor points and are therefore not used in the calculation of the GPA: AU, P, W, and MG.
  • “I” (incomplete) grades are not computed in the GPA until all required work is completed and an appropriate letter grade assigned.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

In accordance with the Federal Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy 34 CFR 668.34, all School of Public Health degree candidates must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) during their studies. All degree candidates’ academic records will be reviewed at the end of each semester to ensure that they are making SAP. A student who fails to make SAP may be subject to academic action, including academic probation and dismissal. Further, students who fail to maintain SAP may not be eligible for federal financial aid. All students, regardless of financial aid status, will be held to the SAP standards.

Satisfactory Academic Progress includes:

  • Achieving at least the minimum grade in courses with a minimum grade requirement.
  • Maintaining at least a 3.0 grade point average in core courses in MS and doctoral programs.
  • Master of Public Health (MPH) students must earn a B– or better in the core courses for the MPH degree. If a student earns a grade of C+ or lower, the student will not earn degree credit for the core course and must repeat the class in the next semester.
  • Successfully completing at least 66% of course credits attempted each semester. Grades that are not considered a successful completion include: incomplete, missing grades, withdraws, and failing grades (F or below minimum).
  • Resolving incomplete grades within the guidelines established in the SPH Grading Policy.
  • Making progress toward core, concentration, and degree requirements as outlined in the Bulletin.
  • Earning no D or F grades.
  • Successfully completing repeated classes.
  • Attaining an overall grade point average of 3.0 in order to be eligible for graduation.

Academic Review

At the end of each semester, the grades of all SPH degree candidates will be reviewed against the criteria for Satisfactory Academic Progress by the Satisfactory Academic Progress Committee. Students deemed at risk for failing to make SAP will be notified in writing, with a copy also sent to the academic advisor and student record. Such correspondence is not part of the permanent academic record unless the student is subsequently dismissed from SPH for academic reasons.

If deemed necessary by the Committee, a student deemed at risk of not making SAP will work with his or her academic advisor to devise a learning plan prior to registration for each upcoming semester. The learning plan should describe a semester-by-semester educational plan to make degree progress while improving the student’s GPA. The plan must be signed by the student and his or her academic advisor and be submitted to the SPH Registrar. Once a student is deemed at risk, they must exhibit SAP each semester. SAP is defined as steady upward progress toward a 3.0 GPA, completing all courses with required minimum grades, and adhering to the learning plan, as established, unless all parties agree to changes. Any student who continues to fail to make progress in subsequent semesters will be placed on warning. This information is forwarded to the Student Financial Services office (OSFS). Any student on warning who again fails to make SAP in the following semester will be placed on academic probation. OSFS may determine that these students are no longer eligible for federal financial aid. The SAP Committee will take appropriate academic action for students on academic probation, including suspension or dismissal. Should a student be suspended, he or she may not make progress toward degree requirements during the period of academic suspension. SPH will not accept transfer credit for courses taken by a suspended SPH student at another school within Boston University or another academic institution during the student’s period of suspension.

Below Minimum GPA at the End of the Degree Program

If a student does not attain a 3.0 GPA after he or she has met all other graduation requirements of his or her degree program, then the student is not eligible to graduate. In this case, the student may register for 8 or fewer additional credits of coursework in order to raise his or her GPA to the minimum 3.0 standard. If it is not mathematically possible for a student to increase his or her GPA to 3.0 by earning an “A” grade in up to 8 additional credits, the student will be dismissed from SPH without possibility of reinstatement. If the student could mathematically achieve a 3.0 GPA by registering for less than 8 additional credits, the following guidelines apply:

  • The additional credits must be graduate-level SPH courses and cannot include a practicum or a course outside of SPH.
  • The credits must be attempted beginning the next semester of registration available after the failed graduation.
  • If a student attempts 8 additional credits and does not attain a GPA of 3.0, he or she will be dismissed from SPH without possibility of reinstatement.

Minimum Grade Requirements

Although the grade range for courses is A–F, students earn no academic credit for an “F” grade. Some SPH degree programs have specific courses with higher minimum grade requirements. Students registered in these courses do not earn degree credit for courses if they attain lower than the minimum grade. These courses are:

Master of Public Health Degrees

  • Master of Public Health (MPH) students cannot graduate with a GPA below 3.0.
  • Master of Public Health (MPH) students must earn a B– or better in the core courses required: PH 717, PH 718, PH 719, and PH 720.
  • If a student earns a grade of C+ or lower in any one integrated core course, the student will not earn degree credit for the core course and must repeat the class in the next semester.

Master of Science Degrees

All Master of Science students must earn a B or better in all required courses.

Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Health students must earn a B or better in these courses: BS 723, EH 710, EH 717, EH 725, EH 768, EH 804, EH 805, and EP 713.
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Health Services Research students must earn a B or better in PH 742, PH 743, PH 744, PM 814, PM 824, PM 826, PM 837, PM 842, and PM 844.
  • Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) students must earn a B or better in all required or elective courses.

Graduate Certificates in Biostatistics

  • Students in the Graduate Certificate in Modern Biostatistics in Clinical Trials must earn a B grade in all courses.
  • Students in the Graduate Certificate in Statistical Genetics must earn a B grade in all courses.

Graduate Certificate in Public Health

Students enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Public Health must earn a B– or better in all courses.

Improving a Grade in a Course with a Minimum Grade Requirement

All faculty teaching a course with a minimum grade requirement may, at their discretion, give students who fail to attain the minimum grade at least one opportunity to improve their final course grade by revising a component of the grade as determined by the instructor. Faculty must enter the initial, below-minimum grade on the Faculty Link. Revised grades are processed via a paper grade change form submitted to the SPH registrar by the faculty member. The revised course grade cannot be higher than the minimum required grade.

The course instructor’s grade change policy must be explicitly stated in the course syllabus at the beginning of the semester. If a faculty member designates a mechanism to improve a grade in a course with a minimum grade requirement, a student must express his or her intention to improve the course grade within two weeks after the course grade is entered, and must submit the specified work before the start of the next academic semester. Exceptions to the two-week notification policy are granted only in extraordinary circumstances and can be approved only by the associate dean for education.

Repeating a Class Due to Failure to Attain the Minimum Grade Requirement

Students who do not meet a minimum grade requirement must register for the course, or its curricular equivalent, for a second time in the next semester the course is offered. For the purposes of this policy, the term “repeat” the class is used. Students may earn a grade higher than the minimum grade in a repeated course—they are eligible to be graded with the whole range of grades described above.

In all cases, a student must repeat the course in which he or she did not attain the minimum grade no later than one year from the initial registration, unless they are given specific written permission from the Associate Dean for Education to exceed this time frame. Students who do not repeat the course within one year and do not seek permission to do so may be subject to academic dismissal.

The option to improve a grade is not available in courses that do not have a minimum grade requirement. Students may not repeat such a course or its curricular equivalent. Should a student repeat the course or its curricular equivalent, the credits and grade associated with the second registration will not count toward degree requirements or the required GPA.

Conditions and Consequences of Repeating a Course

Grades for every course in which a student registers, including repeated courses, will appear on the student’s transcript. The credits from courses in which the student fails to achieve the minimum grade are not counted toward the credit requirement for graduation, although the grade is factored into the overall grade point average.

A student may not use institutional aid, SPH scholarship, or merit funds to pay for courses they are retaking in order to meet the minimum grade requirement. They may, however, use federal financial aid, such as loans. Students repeating courses are strongly encouraged to contact the Student Financial Services Office to verify their financial aid prior to the start of the semester.

Failure to Meet the Minimum Required Grade in a Repeated Class

A student will be subject to dismissal from Boston University if he or she does not achieve the minimum grade in a repeated course or its curricular equivalent. The student may petition the associate dean for education to repeat the course or its curricular equivalent. If the petition is rejected, the student will be dismissed from SPH. If the petition is granted and the student again does not achieve the minimum grade, the student will be dismissed with no option to appeal.

Failure to Meet the Minimum Required Grade in Multiple Courses

No student will be permitted to repeat more than two courses that have a minimum grade requirement during their tenure at SPH. A student who fails to achieve a minimum grade in three courses that have a minimum grade requirement will be subject to dismissal from SPH. A student who wishes to appeal his or her dismissal may do so by petitioning the associate dean for education in writing. The student should provide evidence of any extenuating circumstances to the associate dean, whose decision will be final.

Incomplete Grades

A student may request an incomplete grade if a course has met for at least 75 percent of its course meetings and has not yet met for the last time. An incomplete grade is a transitional grade that is granted when a student cannot complete course requirements on time due to serious extenuating circumstances for which the student is not responsible. Examples of such extenuating circumstances include serious illness of the student, military service, extended jury duty, or death of a family member. A student may be required to provide proof of the circumstances, such as a note from a physician.

Conditions for Approving a Request for an Incomplete Grade

Except in cases of severe extenuating circumstances, a student may not request an incomplete grade when the “drop without a ‘W’ grade” or the “drop with a ‘W’ grade” options are available for the course in question. The drop dates for standard, full-semester courses are on the SPH Academic Calendar. The dates for non-standard courses are customized and viewable on the Boston University Course Schedule. Faculty may not grant an incomplete grade as an alternative to submitting a poor or failing grade.

An incomplete grade may be granted on the condition that the student will complete the coursework on his or her own and within a specific and mutually agreed-upon time frame. In no case can that time frame exceed more than four weeks into the next academic semester. In consultation with the Associate Dean for Education, faculty may stipulate a letter grade other than F that may be assigned should the incomplete work not be completed within the designated time frame by calculating a grade based on work completed at the time the incomplete grade was approved.

The completion period for the incomplete course does not necessarily apply to directed studies, directed research, or MPH practicum courses. These courses may be graded with an “I” grade at the discretion of the instructor, and the “I” grade in this case may extend past the first four weeks of the next academic semester. Instructors may reserve the right, however, to set a time frame for completion of the work. The maximum time frame in all cases and for all students is one year from the assignment of the “I” grade.

If the incomplete coursework is not completed by the required completion date, the final grade stipulated or an F grade will be submitted by the SPH Registrar to the University Registrar’s office. The only exception to the final grade being entered is made if the student successfully presents evidence to the Associate Dean for Education that further time is warranted. The evidence must be presented prior to the required completion date.

Dispute Resolution Process

A concern or complaint from an SPH student should be directed to the persons whose actions or inactions have given rise to the concern or complaint. Whenever possible, every effort should be made to resolve the problem promptly at the level at which it occurred. The student may pursue the issue within the normal reporting structure of the academic or administrative department at SPH. If a student feels he or she has been unfairly treated by an instructor or teaching assistant of an SPH course, the student should contact the chair (or his/her designee) of the department in which course is taught. If the chair is the instructor, the student should seek assistance from the associate dean for education. Should the student need additional assistance, he or she may also see staff in the Boston University Ombudsman Office, located at 19 Deerfield Street, Suite 203 on the Charles River Campus and Suite 818 in the Solomon Carter Fuller Building, 85 East Newton Street, on the Medical Campus.

Grievance Process

When a student has reason to believe that his or her rights have been denied by reason of discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, ethnic origin, age, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or other unlawful bias, he or she may file a formal written grievance with the dean of the School of Public Health, Talbot 3 Center, 715 Albany Street, or the dean of students of Boston University, 775 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215. The grievance statement should be as specific as possible regarding the action(s) that precipitated the grievance: date, place, and people involved; efforts made to settle the matter informally; and the remedy sought. Full copies of the “Grievance Procedures in Cases of Alleged Discrimination” are available at the SPH Office for Student Services, Talbot 2 Center, or at the Office of the Vice President and Dean of Students, Boston University, 775 Commonwealth Avenue, Third Floor, Boston, MA 02215.

If a student’s grievance alleges discrimination based on disability, the director of the Disability Services Office, who is the University’s compliance officer for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, will also be provided with a copy of the grievance and will be involved in resolution of the grievance, as appropriate.