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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

Puritan Reformed employs 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.
  • P: Pass; adequate achievement of course objectives, but no grade points given.
  • 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 and MABC = 2.3; MA = 2.7; ThM and DMin = 3.0; PhD = 3.5) 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 Puritan Reformed Scholarship Committee and/or church support 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) with the permission of the 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).”

Tuition Refund of Dropped / Withdrawn Course(s)

A student dropping or withdrawing from an individual course may receive the following refund on tuition:

For traditional semester-length (including distance education) and independent study courses:

  • Within two weeks, an 80% refund is granted
  • Within four weeks, a 60% refund is granted
  • Within six weeks, a 50% refund is granted
  • After six weeks, no refund is granted.

For modular or intensive courses:

  • Within 3–4 weeks prior to the first day, an 80% refund is granted
  • Within 2–3 weeks prior to the first day, a 60% refund is granted
  • Within 1–2 weeks prior to the first day, a 50% refund is granted
  • Within 0–1 week prior to the first day, no refund is granted.

For scholarship students, the above drop/add policy applies.

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 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. Work that has received a “C” or lower, as well as work completed more than 10 years prior to the request will normally not be accepted for transfer. 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 by successfully passing a language placement exam. In the event that courses completed at the bachelor’s level clearly duplicate courses prescribed in the student’s degree program at Puritan Reformed, 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 a passing grade. Such work must be completed within one month after notification of the failing grade. If the grade is raised to a passing grade, 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.

Policy for Assignment Extensions

The syllabus for every course designates the dates assignments are due and the penalty that will be imposed on unexcused late submissions. Extensions may be granted on the following basis:
  • The student requesting an extension must submit in writing the reason for his/her inability to meet the deadline of the assignment before the scheduled due date.
  • This request will be submitted to a committee consisting of the Academic Dean, the Registrar, and the Dean of Students. This committee, in consultation with the professor of the course, will consider the validity of the request. If the committee determines that the student’s explanation is valid, it will grant an extension.
  • The professor will have the discretion to set a new due date for the project, although the extension would not normally exceed three weeks after the original date.
  • Only one extension will be granted. If the request for an extension is not granted, the project will be subject to the penalties set for unexcused late submissions.

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

Upon approval of the extension committee, students who are granted an incomplete (I) are required to make up or complete their work within the allotted extension time (typical extensions range from one to four weeks, but in no case can an extension exceed twelve weeks after the final day of the semester in which the course was taken [spring, summer, fall, or winter]). If the work is not completed by the extension deadline, which is restricted to twelve weeks, the “I” will be changed to an “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.

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, sentences, and paragraphs)—or even thoughts and ideas—without properly accounting for them in footnotes or endnotes. Direct quotations must be indicated by the use of quotation marks and a footnote citation.


It is perhaps easiest to explain with examples. Note the following paragraph taken from Gerald F . DeJong, 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 fell 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 men.”

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.” (missing footnote and page reference)


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 and page reference)


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 and page reference)

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 you being able to trace them. Follow this general rule: if in doubt, footnote (although one should take care not to over-document).


In implementing this policy, our school recognizes different degrees of plagiarism, including gross plagiarism and plagiarism by improper citation.

Gross plagiarism consists of the failure to cite a source in the paragraph where its content is used (even if that source is cited elsewhere in the project). This is a significant violation of academic integrity, as it intentionally misrepresents the intellectual property of another writer as one’s own.

Plagiarism by improper citation consists of the failure to follow the principles of right citation given above, though the source is cited in the paragraph where it is used. For example, this occurs when quotation marks are not placed around phrases that are exact quotations of the source. Or, this occurs when the source’s content is only slightly changed or paraphrased by replacing certain words instead of being communicated in the student’s own words. This is still an academic violation.

Any instance of plagiarism, whether gross plagiarism or plagiarism by improper citation, will result in the student being spoken to by the professor and/or academic dean, and the incident being recorded in the student’s permanent record with the seminary.

If it is deemed that the plagiarism is a case of plagiarism by improper citation, the plagiarism does not affect a substantial part of the project (i.e., it is not lengthy), and there is no pattern of repeated and intentional plagiarism on the part of the student, the professor may opt to penalize the plagiarism simply with a grade reduction on the project or by requiring the student to rewrite the project properly.

However, if deemed to be a case of gross plagiarism, or plagiarism that affects a substantial part of the project, or that this case and others show a pattern of repeated plagiarism by the student despite being instructed on this matter, this is a serious offense to be disciplined as follows:

  1. First offense: The student receives a failing grade for the project.
  2. Second offense: The student receives a failing grade for the project and is suspended for one year. Re-admittance to study at the seminary requires the approval of the president of the seminary in consultation with faculty and the Board of Trustees (BOT).
  3. Third offense: 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 BOT.

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 academic dean, 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 the case of an exceptionally serious offense (blatant, intentional, and lengthy) the first step may be skipped. All second and third offenses—and exceptionally 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.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Policy

In the interest of complete transparency, a student is to acknowledge any use of AI tools performed for any assignment throughout their time at Puritan Reformed (just as he/she would with any other resource). While AI tools may be used to assist students in research (as one might use a search engine or an encyclopedia), and as an aid in proofreading (as one might use a thesaurus or spelling and grammar checker embedded in a word processing program), AI tools must not be used to generate the original content of any assignment. Generative AI tools must not be used, therefore, to produce a thesis, outline, argument, argument flow, preliminary draft, or final draft of any graded work (including oral presentations and sermons) for any course at Puritan Reformed. Doing so is the equivalent to submitting someone else’s work under your name and is considered plagiarism; infractions will therefore be penalized as such (see above for an explanation of the penalties for plagiarism).

Furthermore, generative AI is not recognized as a trustworthy source of information and is not, therefore, an appropriate authority to cite. While discouraged as a reliable reference source, should you choose to take any text directly from an AI generator, this should be specified within quotation marks just as one must do so when quoting any other source. Here are a few examples of proper and improper AI use as it may be found throughout the paper writing process:


During the Research Process

Proper Use: The three figures that I’ve compared and contrasted in this paper were provided to me through putting the following prompt into ChatGPT: “Who were five influential sixteenth century figures that helped shape seventeenth century Puritanism?”

Improper Use: I was helped in formulating a thesis and outline of this paper through putting the following prompt into ChatGPT: “What were three contextual factors that promoted the popularity of the Puritan movement in English theology after the death of Queen Elizabeth?”


During the Writing Process

Proper Use: (footnote) I was wrestling with how to communicate these ideas in English, so I used DeepL to help rewrite the previous two sentences. My original two sentences were as follows: “(insert original wording of the two sentences here).”

Proper (but not recommended) Use: (footnote) I took this information from ChatGPT with following prompt: “Who were Oliver Cromwell’s chaplains throughout the English Civil War?” While this is technically proper use, it is not recommended for a graduate-level research paper given that AI is not considered a trustworthy source of information (similar to using Wikipedia for your research papers).

Improper Use: (footnote) For this introduction, I am indebted to the content created for me by ChatGPT when I put in the following prompt: “How did William Perkins’s A Golden Chaine influence the experimental character of Puritanism?” After receiving an answer to this prompt, I put the answer in my own words as the introduction to the paper, which is why I did not use quotation marks in the paragraph above.


When AI tools are used and cited properly, the course professor reserves the right to deduct the student’s grade in a manner according to the student’s dependence upon AI tools to produce the assignment. It is prudent, therefore, that dependence on AI tools that make substantial changes to a student’s content or prose be avoided, especially if this is for significant or large sections of a paper. While a professor may deduct a student’s grade for proper AI use and citation, if any case of AI use without citation is discovered, the professor will fail the assignment and the assignment will be recorded on the student’s record as an instance of gross plagiarism.

Students for whom English is a second language, if studying within a context where English is the understood medium for research and writing (i.e., through the Grand Rapids campus), should not rely on AI resources to translate the entirety of their assignments. That is, ESL students studying through the Grand Rapids campus are not able to first produce their assignments within their primary language and then use AI resources to translate these assignments into English. Rather, the student’s work, original to that student, must be conducted in English as the target language. As illustrated in the above example of proper use, however, using AI to rewrite relatively brief parts of the assignment is acceptable (although even here the student must provide the original wording in a footnoted source).

Distance Learning Policies

The seminary offers a number of asynchronous course offerings that can be found in the semester schedule under the “online courses” section. Any Puritan Reformed student is also able to take an on-campus course from a distance with the use of live-stream capabilities. In order to do so, a student must inform the Registrar before the course start date of his/her plans. Students must plan to take the course through a consistent medium throughout the entire course offering. If a student knows, for instance, that she will be gone for the last 6 weeks of course lectures and would like to live-stream at that point, she must inform the Registrar. Courses taken through the live-stream medium do not count towards a degree program’s residency requirements (i.e. – both synchronous and asynchronous course offerings count as distance courses).

Any use of live-stream capabilities to attend course lectures will result in a student being charged the course distance fee of $75. Exceptions to this rule can be granted at the discretion of the Registrar in cases of unforeseen and irregular circumstances, such as sickness of a student or family member.

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

Any student who desires to take any course as an independent study 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 $275 per credit hour for the course, as well as a non-refundable distance learning fee of $75.00. On the date the registrar enrolls the student, the student is considered to have begun the class and will have exactly 6 months (26 weeks) to complete the course.

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?