Academic Policies

As a community of future leaders of the Christian church, the seminary seeks to maintain high standards of integrity in all areas of life, including academic work, ministry, and church and community relationships.

Academic Policies

Grading System

Education programs at PRTS employ a common set of marks to indicate student’s achievement in a course. The course syllabi detail specific requirements for each level of achievement. The following criteria are used in assigning a final grade:

  • A: Excellent; superior achievement of course objectives.
  • B: Good; commendable achievement of course objectives.
  • C: Acceptable; acceptable achievement of course objectives.
  • D: Poor; marginal achievement of course objectives.
  • F: Failure to advance in the course to the extent necessary for credit to be given.
  • W: Withdrawal; official permission granted to withdraw from the course after the final date for dropping a course.
  • S or P: Satisfactory or pass; adequate achievement of course objectives, but no grade points given.
  • U: Unsatisfactory; insufficient achievement of course objectives.
  • AU: Audit; no grade points given.
  • I: Incomplete; a temporary extension granted as defined in the “Policy for Incompletes.”

Grades have been assigned the following numerical values for the purpose of computing the grade point average:

  • 95-100 A 4.0
  • 91-94 A- 3.7
  • 88-90 B+ 3.3
  • 84-87 B 3.0
  • 81-83 B- 2.7
  • 78-80 C+ 2.3
  • 74-77 C 2.0
  • 71-73 C- 1.7
  • 68-70 D+ 1.3
  • 64-67 D 1.0
  • 61-63 D- 0.7
  • 0-60 F 0.0

Grade points per subject are determined by multiplying the grade points assigned to the letter grade earned, times the number of credit hours assigned to the course. A student’s semester and cumulative grade-point average are computed by dividing the total grade points earned by the number of attempted hours.

Grade Reports and Appeals

Every student has access to an unofficial copy of his or her transcript through Populi, the seminary’s online student management system. Any discrepancy between the transcript and the student’s personal record must be brought to the attention of the seminary registrar. Students have a period of six months from the final date of the semester to appeal any grade recorded on their transcript within that same semester. After this six-month period, grades will be considered final.

Academic Probation

At the end of each academic term, a student who fails to maintain the minimum GPA for his or her program (MDiv = 2.3; MA = 2.7; ThM = 3.0) will receive a notification from the registrar warning the student of the drop in performance, even if the student’s cumulative GPA meets the minimum requirement. The student should take this warning seriously and endeavor to raise his or her average to acceptable standards during the following term. A student whose GPA falls below the minimum requirements for graduation will be placed on academic probation and will be given two semesters to raise his or her average to the minimum, or to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the registrar and Academic Dean that significant progress is being made to raise the average to the minimum standard. If sufficient progress is not made, the student will be terminated from the program. Funding sources such as the US Department of Veterans Affairs, church support, and the guaranteed student loan program will be promptly notified when a student receiving funds is terminated from a program.

Drop/Add Policy

A student is able to drop or add a course within an established “grace” period as set in the academic calendar. After the drop/add deadline, a student may no longer enroll in a course. If a student drops a course within this period, the dropped course does not appear on the student’s transcript. The drop/add deadlines are as follows:

  • for fall, winter, spring, and summer semesters – 7 days after the start of each semester. These deadlines will be noted in the academic calendar.
  • for all independent studies – 7 days after enrollment date.
  • for all modular courses – first day of course (a student adding a modular class must attend the first day of that class)

The student should be aware of the tuition refund concerning dropped/withdrawn courses as established in the section entitled “Tuition Refund of Dropped/Withdrawn Course(s).”

Withdrawal from Course(s) Policy

After the Drop/Add deadline, a student may withdraw from a course(s) only with the written permission of the instructor and registrar. The student will be assigned a “W” (withdrawn) on his or her transcript. Written petitions to withdraw from a particular course are to be made by the student to the registrar; furthermore, petitions for withdrawal must be made within the following deadlines:

  • for fall, winter, spring, and summer semesters – 6 weeks after the start of each semester. These deadlines will be noted in the academic calendar.
  • for all independent studies – 6 weeks after enrollment date.
  • for all modular courses – second day of course

Withdrawal under any other circumstance or withdrawal ”after” the withdrawal deadline will result in a failing grade “F” for the course. Exceptions will apply only if approved by the academic dean or registrar.

The student should be aware of the tuition refund concerning dropped/withdrawn courses as established in the section entitled “Tuition Refund of Dropped/Withdrawn Course(s).”

Withdrawal from Seminary Policy

A student planning to withdraw from the seminary should report this intention to the registrar in writing, and is responsible for unpaid bills to the seminary and the bookstore. Should such a student desire to return to the seminary within one academic year of withdrawing, he should notify the registrar and normally need not reapply.

Transfer of Credit Policy

A student seeking transfer credit on the basis of master’s-level course work pursued at another institution should present to the registrar prior to registration an official transcript of the previous work, syllabi of the applicable courses, and a catalog from the other institution containing course descriptions of the work for which credit is requested. After confirming equivalency of course status with the appropriate professor of the relevant course(s), credit may be granted by the registrar for up to 50 per cent of the program being completed. No credit will be given for coursework completed at the bachelor’s level, though language courses may be waived under certain conditions. In the event that courses completed at the bachelor’s level clearly duplicate courses prescribed in the student’s degree program at PRTS, permission may be given to substitute other equivalent courses. Such substitutions do not reduce the total number of credits required for the completion of the student’s degree program.

Retake Policy

In a course in which a student has received a failing grade, permission may be granted by the professor to take a re-examination or resubmit an assignment of sufficient quality to raise the grade to an F/D. Such work must be completed within one month after notification of the failing grade. If the grade is raised to an F/D, the student receives credit for the course but receives a 0.0 GPA for the course.

Students are permitted to repeat a course in which a grade was earned. When a course with an earned grade of an “F” is repeated, both the failing and second grade figure into the cumulative grade-point average. If a student repeats a course that has been passed, both grades will be shown on the transcript, but only the first grade will factor into the student’s GPA.

Late Submission of Course Assignments Policy

In all courses in which theses, papers, reports on assigned readings, or other special assignments are required, either in place of or in addition to a final examination, these written materials must be submitted on or before the date set by the professor in charge.

A student is expected to complete all work within the term. In special circumstances, however, he may request an incomplete (I), provided that he is in agreement with his professor for that course. The incomplete will be removed from the transcript upon completion of course providing it is within the time frame as expressed in the “Policy for Incompletes.”

Each instructor may deal with late assignments as he sees fit. The standard procedure, however, is that for every day late the student will be penalized by a drop of 0.7 grade points (thus, two days late would reduce the grade by 1.4 grade points, or for example, reduce the grade from an A- to a C+).

A student cannot submit the same or similar assignments for more than one requirement at the seminary, unless the instructor explicitly approves this. Neither can a student use work done for another institution (e.g., undergraduate work) to fulfill assignments in courses at the seminary. If you have questions about a possible overlap of work, please check with your instructor.

Policy for Incompletes

Students who make an incomplete (I) are required to make up or complete their work by the mid-term point of the following semester. If the work is not completed by the required deadline, the “I” will be changed to “F.” A student who makes up his work within the required time will receive a grade determined by the instructor. Exceptions to this policy are at the discretion of the Academic Dean and President.

Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism is an academic crime that is never acceptable. In serious cases, it is a flagrant sin against the eighth and ninth commandments, and the seminary cannot tolerate it in any of its forms.

There is often confusion among students as to what constitutes plagiarism. At its basic level, plagiarism is taking another person’s intellectual property and presenting it as if it were one’s own. Practically speaking, it usually involves taking basic units of language (words, phrases, sentence, and paragraphs)—or even thoughts and ideas—without properly accounting for them in footnotes or endnotes.

It is perhaps easiest to explain with examples. Note the following paragraph taken from Gerald F. DeJong’s, The Dutch Reformed Church in the American Colonies, Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America No. 5 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 228:

In contrast to some of the English colonies, New Netherland was not founded as a place of refuge for the religiously oppressed, but was established for the specific purpose of extending the Dutch commercial empire. Nevertheless, the religious needs of the settlers were not overlooked. Numerous letters and other documents of this period attest to the fact that the divines in Holland kept a watchful eye on what transpired across the Atlantic and from an early date fostered the Dutch Reformed Church there. By the time New Netherland feel to the English in 1664, eleven Dutch Reformed congregations had been organized on American soil, all but two of which were located in the colony of New York. The conditions confronting the churches were those of the wilderness frontier: communities were generally isolated, living conditions were harsh, ministerial salaries were irregularly paid, and most of the people were of a rough and boorish background. Nevertheless, despite primitive conditions, most of the ministers were well educated and dedicated me.

The following points, including improper and proper examples of citation from the above paragraph, must be understood concerning plagiarism:

  • Plagiarism includes undocumented copying of whole phrases.

Wrong: “Numerous letters and other documents of this period attest to the fact that the divines in Holland kept a watchful eye on what transpired across the Atlantic and from an early date fostered the Dutch Reformed Church there.”

  •  Plagiarism includes undocumented copying of the essential substance of a sentence, even though one changes some words.

Wrong: “While the English colonies may have been started as a haven for religiously persecuted people, the Dutch colonies were founded for commercial purposes.”

Right: “As Gerald DeJong argues, unlike their English counterparts, the Dutch colonies were founded for commercial purposes. (footnote)”

  •  Plagiarism includes copying of a phrase or phrases of another author, even if they are in one’s own sentence.

Wrong: “Dutch theologians did not ignore the developments across the Atlantic, but kept a watchful eye on what transpired in the colonies.”

Right #1: “As Gerald DeJong has documented, Dutch theologians did not ignore the developments across the Atlantic, but followed events in the colonies from afar. (footnote)”

Right #2: “Dutch theologians did not ignore the developments across the Atlantic, but followed events in the colonies carefully. (footnote)”

  • Plagiarism does not include repeating things that are common knowledge, which you might find in a dictionary or encyclopedia, and that anyone could have formulated in that specific manner. These things need not be documented, unless you are doing so at length or you are including definite specifics of your source author. In such a case, you should simply have an opening footnote stating that you are leaning heavily on a particular source.

Right: It is unnecessary to footnote: “New Netherland fell to the English in 1664.”

The best way to avoid unintentional plagiarism is to do your research in a methodical way, making adequate notes of your sources so that ideas do not make their way into your mind without your being able to trace them. Follow this general rule: if in doubt, footnote (although one should take care not to over-document).

Instances of plagiarism will be dealt with as follows:

  • First offense: The student is spoken to by the professor and/or the dean of students and the incident is recorded and entered into the student’s permanent record.
  • Second offense: In a second case of plagiarism, the student is suspended for one year. Re-admittance to study at PRTS requires the approval of the president of the seminary in consultation with faculty and the Board of Trustees (BOT).
  • Third offense: In a third case of plagiarism, the student is expelled from the seminary and will not be permitted to graduate with a degree. Expulsion will proceed as determined by the faculty committee with the president and approved by the Board of Trustees.

Scholarship students who withdraw or are expelled as a consequence of plagiarism or any other discipline are required to reimburse the seminary 75% of the total funds received in scholarships.

All cases of plagiarism must be referred to the president, who will then consult with the full-time faculty. Each case will be dealt with individually and may not go exactly according to the above-named steps. In a serious offense (intentional, lengthy, etc.) the first step may be skipped. All second and third offenses—and serious first offenses—of plagiarism will be reported, as decided by the president in consultation with the full-time faculty, to the local church consistory (session or council) of which the student is a member, and to the BOT for any additional action. The president, in consultation with the full-time faculty, is to exercise discretion in this area, and the student retains the right to appeal to the BOT.

Distance Learning Policies

Any student who desires to take a course via distance learning must submit a “visiting student” application available on the seminary website. This will initiate the process of enrolling in your desired course. The student will be billed $250 per credit hour for the course, as well as a non-refundable distance learning fee of $50.00. For distance learning students, the refund policy for a dropped/withdrawn course is as follows:

  • Within two weeks, an 80% refund is granted
  • Within four weeks, 60%
  • Within six weeks, 50%
  • After six weeks, 0%.

Notification of a dropped or withdrawn course (as outlined in “Drop/Add Policy” and “Withdrawal from Course[s] Policy”) should be provided by submitting a written statement to this effect (email is fine) to the registrar. The appropriate refund will be sent promptly. If a student fails to notify the registrar of a dropped or withdrawn course within the established deadline, an “F” will be noted on the student’s transcript and no refund will be granted.

The distance learning student is subject to all the same requirements, deadlines, and penalties as set by the instructor for the on-campus students in the course instance.

Independent Study Policies

For all language courses (online Greek and Hebrew):

All students enrolled in an online language class have a one month trial period during which they may freely take the course and benefit from the instruction and guidance of the course instructor. After one month has passed, however, the student will be billed $250 per credit hour for the course, as well as a non-refundable distance education fee of $50.00. The seminary’s drop/add policy (as outlined above) begins to apply after the student’s trial month is over.

Notification of a dropped course (as outlined in “Drop/Add Policy” and “Withdrawal from Course(s) Policy”) should be provided by submitting a written statement to this effect (email is fine) to the registrar. The appropriate refund will be sent promptly. If a student fails to notify the registrar of a dropped or withdrawn course within the established deadline, an “F” will be noted on the student’s transcript and no refund will be granted.

All students have fifty-two weeks (one year) to complete the course(s). If the course is incomplete after this point, the student will be charged a 30-day course extension, assessed at 20% of the course(s) tuition cost. A maximum of two extensions are allowed; if the course is still incomplete after this time, the course will be finalized and any incomplete assignments will receive a failing grade. Should the student request to be withdrawn from the course before the extensions expire, however, a “W” may be granted with the approval of the academic dean.

Non-language Independent Study Courses

Any student who desires to take any course as an independent study (other than online Greek or Hebrew) must submit the independent study request form to the registrar (forms are available from the registrar or the seminary website). In order to enroll in an independent study, the student and over-seeing professor must agree to a syllabus that establishes the requirements and deadlines of the course. ”A maximum of 15 credits of independent study courses can apply towards the MA and MDiv degrees, whereas a maximum of 6 credits of independent study courses can apply towards the ThM degree.” A student who has received approval to enroll in an independent study will be billed $250 per credit hour for the course, as well as a non-refundable distance learning fee of $50.00. On the date the registrar enrolls the student, the student is considered to have begun the class.

Should the student fail to meet the deadlines as established by the syllabus, the student will be charged a 30-day course extension, assessed at 20% of the course(s) tuition cost. A maximum of two 30-day extensions are allowed; if the course is still incomplete after this time, the student will receive an “F” for the course. Should the student request to be withdrawn from the course before the extensions expire, however, a “W” may be granted with the approval of the academic dean.

The seminary’s policies concerning dropping and withdrawing from a course are effective on the date of enrollment. The refund policy for a dropped/withdrawn course is as follows:

  • Within two weeks, an 80% refund is granted
  • Within four weeks, 60%
  • Within six weeks, 50%
  • After six weeks, 0%.

Notification of a dropped course should be provided by submitting a written statement to this effect (email is fine) to the registrar. The appropriate refund will be sent promptly. If a student fails to notify the registrar of a dropped or withdrawn course within the established deadline, an “F” will be noted on the student’s transcript and no refund will be granted; exceptions must be approved by the academic dean. No independent study may exceed 26 weeks in duration.

Attendance Policy

Each student is expected, barring lawful reasons, to attend every class for which he is registered. Absences caused by illness or other justifiable causes will be permitted to a limited extent. Students should not accrue more unexcused absences than the number of course credit hours. Should absences endanger the student’s performance in class, the instructor will counsel the student. Further absences will normally result in either the reduction of course grades or expulsion from the course. Unexcused absences may also result in the student being placed on academic probation.

Student Life and Conduct

Our students represent a wide range of ages, previous employments, church backgrounds, and nationalities. The wide variety enriches the atmosphere and culture of the seminary while providing students with many perspectives and occasions for “iron to sharpen iron,” to assist each other, and to bear each other up in prayer and support. Chapel is held weekly during the spring and fall semesters to allow for student fellowship and mutual spiritual learning, worship, and prayer.

As a community of future leaders of the Christian church, the seminary seeks to maintain high standards of integrity in all areas of life, including academic work, ministry, and church and community relationships. Given these objectives, the seminary faculty and governing committees expect students to live according to high standards of faith and to use wise judgment in matters pertaining to personal conduct. Students are expected to show maturity in Christ, love for one another, pronounced patterns of devotion and service, and the responsible use of Christian liberty. All members of the seminary community are expected to act in accordance with local, state, and federal laws at all times, whether on or off campus.

The seminary is a smoke-free environment, and is committed to being an institution free of the use of illegal drugs and of the abuse of alcohol. All faculty, staff, and students are required as a condition of employment and/or enrollment not to use illegal drugs or to abuse alcohol. Behavior that is immoral, illegal, or disruptive will result in dismissal.

This standard of behavior is expected to extend into the academic lives of students as well, prohibiting all forms of academic dishonesty, including plagiarism. Plagiarism is an academic crime that is never acceptable; in serious cases, it is a flagrant sin against the eighth and ninth commandments and the seminary cannot tolerate it in any of its forms. There is often confusion among students as to what constitutes plagiarism; students are required to abide by the guidelines and principles presented in the Student Handbook.

Question about a policy?