Grading System and Academic Progress

Grading Notations

Grade GPA Equivalent
A+ 4.33
A (Excellent) 4.00
A- 3.67
B+ 3.33
B (Good) 3.00 (*A cumulative GPA of 3.0 is required to remain in good academic standing and to graduate)
B- 2.67
C+ 2.33
C (Fair) 2.00
C- 1.67
D (Poor) 1.00
F (Failure) 0.00
P (Pass) N/A

SIPA uses a standard A-F grading scale.


Core, concentration, and specialization courses cannot be taken pass/fail.  Students can only opt to take elective courses on a pass/fail basis. There is no limit to the number of elective courses that can be taken pass/fail.1 Please note the regulations below regarding taking a course pass/fail:

  • Instructor's permission is not required to change the grading option to P/F (pass/fail). However instructors can opt to have a course blocked from pass/fail registration.
  • Students can change the grading option for an eligible full semester course at any time via SSOL up to the the "last day to change grading option" noted on the Academic Calendar. Note: Short courses are not subject to the pass/fail deadline. Requests for grading option changes can be submitted for a short course anytime prior to the final course session. After the official pass/fail deadline has passed requests for short courses can be submitted via the registration request form.
  • A grade of Pass is not calculated into a student's grade point average. Certain courses, such as one-point short-courses or Professional Development are offered only on a Pass/Fail basis.
  • Students can reference the SIPA academic calendar for the pass/fail deadline date.

Auditing/R credit (registered for the course; no qualitative grade assigned):

Students who audit (receive R-credit) a course must be registered for the course in SSOL and appear on the grade roster. If students are not officially registered, they will not have access to CourseWorks.  Students who wish to receive R-credit for a course must request permission from the instructor during the registration period. Registration priority should be given to students taking a course for full-credit over auditing. Instructors are not obligated to grant R-credit; however, if permission is granted, the student must meet course requirements established at the discretion of the instructor. Upon successful completion of the course, the instructor will submit the grade of 'R' for these students. Should students not meet course requirements or fail to attend class, instructors have the option of submitting a grade of UW (Unofficial Withdraw) or F (Failure). Students approved for R-credit registration are only exempt from final examinations by University policy. 

The mark of W (Withdrawal):

Given to a student who drops a course between the end of add/drop and the fifth week of classes. Students cannot drop/withdraw from a course after the date noted on the SIPA academic calendar

The mark of UW (Unofficial Withdrawal): 

  • Given to a student who discontinues attendance in a course, without submitting an official request to withdraw prior to the stated deadline on the SIPA Academic Calendar (fifth week of classes).
  • A “UW” is a permanent grade and will remain on the transcript even if the student repeats the course.

The mark of CP (Credit Pending):

The mark of Credit Pending (CP) may be entered at the discretion of an instructor in two instances: (1) in courses which regularly involve research or projects extending beyond the end of the term; and (2) in highly exceptional cases where a short extension (generally less than two or three weeks) has been approved for student completion of selected course requirements. Once the work has been completed, the instructor immediately changes the CP to a letter grade using the web grading system. If an instructor does not replace a CP with a letter grade within 30 days, the CP reverts to an Unofficial Withdrawal (UW). A CP may also be entered by the Associate Dean for Student Affairs for exceptional administrative circumstances involving, for example, leaves of absences and/or disciplinary matters.

The mark of IN (Incomplete):

Incompletes are granted or denied at the discretion of course Instructors. Incompletes can be granted in cases of incapacitating illness, serious family emergency, or in circumstances of comparable gravity. Permission can also be granted in order to allow a student to consult research materials not obtainable in the course of the semester. 

If an instructor grants an incomplete for a course, the instructor and student must agree on a date in which the coursework will be completed. This date must be no later than the last day of the exam period of the following semester. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure a grade is submitted by the agreed upon date. The instructor is not required to submit a grade for the course after the agreed upon date. The mark of incomplete (IN) is not a final grade. Therefore, if a final grade is not submitted by this date, the mark of IN will revert to UW (Unofficial Withdrawal), and the credits in the course will be forfeited. Note that students cannot be certified for graduation with a notation of incomplete (IN) on their transcript. All grades must be final in order for a student to graduate.

SIPA policy states that if the outstanding coursework is not completed by the last day of the exam period of the following term, the grade will automatically revert to Unofficial Withdrawal (UW), defined as "student did not complete attendance and/or assignments, but failed to withdraw." The mark of UW is a final, permanent grade that cannot be changed. Students with two or more marks of incomplete (IN) will have a registration hold placed on their account and may not register for classes in subsequent semesters (in exceptional circumstances a student may submit a written appeal to the Committee of Deans for approval to continue, but the Committee of Deans may decline such requests, and there is no further appeal). 

Any student who believes that his/her situation warrants the granting of "IN" must follow this process:

1. Students will initiate the Incomplete process by speaking with the instructor and securing instructor approval.

2. The student will complete the Application for Incomplete and upload the instructor’s approval by the last day of the final exam period

3. The student will be contacted and counseled by their SIPA Advising Dean. The Advising Dean will approve and post the grading notation of Incomplete.

4. After the Application for Incomplete is received by OSA, the student should meet with their Advising Dean or Program Director. OSA approves and posts the grading notation of Incomplete after receiving the completed form from the student. 

5. Once an Incomplete has been entered into the student’s record, instructors can update that notation with a letter grade in SSOL once the student has completed all course requirements.

For questions on the incomplete process, instructors should contact Senior Assistant Dean Stefan Brown in the Office of Student Affairs at

The mark of AB (Absent from the Final Examination):

Granted by the instructor, not later than the day of the examination, to a student whose attendance and progress have been satisfactory and who cannot be present because of sickness or some other extreme emergency, which must be substantiated. The student must make arrangements with the instructor to remove the AB.

The mark of YC (Year Course):

A temporary mark given at the end of the first term of a course in which the full year's work must be completed before a qualitative grade is assigned. The grade given at the end of the second term is the grade for the entire course.

Repeating Courses 

Students are allowed to repeat a course in which they received a failing grade (i.e. “F”). A failed course may be repeated only once. If repeated, both grades earned in the course will remain on the student’s transcript and both grades will be factored into the student’s GPA. 

Students cannot repeat a course in which they receive a passing grade.  

Academic Progress

Students must maintain a 3.0 minimum cumulative grade point average for all courses applicable to the MIA or MPA degree.  A student whose performance does not meet these standards may not be permitted to continue to enroll in the degree program and appropriate action will be taken by the School. If at the end of a semester a graduate student fails to meet the GPA requirement, or accumulates 2 or more INC grades, or in other ways fails to meet the standards for progress, the student will receive a written warning concerning the lack of academic progress. The student must remedy the problem within one semester. Failure to re-establish satisfactory academic standing may result in dismissal from SIPA, subject to review by the Associate Dean of Student Affairs. A student who is dismissed must wait a minimum of one calendar year from the date of dismissal before applying for readmission to the graduate program.

Satisfactory academic progress for a full-time student is defined as a minimum GPA of 3.00 and completing a minimum of 9 credits per term toward the degree. Full-time students who do not earn this minimum number of credits will have a Dean's Hold placed on their registration.

A Dean's Hold prevents a student from registering for classes and from receiving the degree. Students with two or more IN or UW or one or more grades of F will have their registration placed on Dean's Hold. In serious cases of unsatisfactory performance, a Dean's Hold may lead to dismissal from the School upon recommendation by the Committee of Deans. Students who are placed on Dean's Hold must be granted permission to register by the Associate Dean.

Effective Fall 2011: Students are required to complete all of the MIA or MPA degree requirements within five years of the first semester of matriculation at SIPA. 

The total number of attempted credits toward the degree should not exceed 90 credits.

Advanced Standing/Transfer credits do not impact the cumulative GPA, but count as both attempted and completed credits.

*Note – students enrolled in the part-time Executive MPA Program (EMPA) are required to complete an average of 6 credits per term instead of the 9 required for full-time students.