Registration and Degree Requirements

This is content from the Catalog 2019–2020 back issue. Please visit the current catalog for current information.


Entering graduate students register during the official registration period posted in the registration timetable for the relevant semester. Students may also register just prior to the start of fall classes, or in the case of programs that begin in the spring, or summer just prior to the beginning of the semester. Continuing graduate students are encouraged to participate in early registration whenever possible. Graduate students must meet general guidelines and payment schedules set by the university.

Full-Time Registration Requirements for Students

Graduate students must register for six or more credits during the Fall or Spring semesters and, when applicable, three credits during the summer to be considered full time.

Academic Standards

A cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 (on a scale where A = 4.0) in courses required by the graduate program is required in order to maintain satisfactory academic standing and graduate degree certification. When the cumulative GPA falls below 3.0, the student will be placed on academic probation. Once a student is placed on probation, the student has two semesters to attain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, or the student will be dismissed.

No credit is granted for graduate courses in which a grade lower than a B- has been received or in the case where courses are evaluated as either credit/no credit, where credit is given. Grades lower than a B-, however, will appear on the student’s transcript and will be computed into the student’s GPA, although the student may not use the course for degree requirements.

Graduate students who do not meet other academic/program standards will be dismissed from their graduate program. This process entails a warning letter from the chair of the graduate program to the student. If the necessary academic standards are not attained within a period specified by the graduate program, the graduate program’s chair recommends to the appropriate Dean that the student be dismissed from the program. Students will be notified of the intended action. Appeals of such action may be made in writing to the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (VCAA) within ten business days.

Graduate Committees and Primary Academic Advisors

With the exception of certain professional programs, most graduate programs utilize a graduate committee system for advising and evaluating graduate students. At the Master’s level, the committee is comprised of a minimum of three faculty members. One member will chair the committee and serve as the student’s primary academic advisor. At least two members of a student’s graduate committee must be full time tenured or tenure track faculty at UH Hilo.

For students in a non-thesis option, the graduate committee serves as an examination and evaluation body of the student’s requirements as listed by the graduate program. For students utilizing a thesis option, the committee serves as the thesis committee. Acceptance or rejection of a student’s work as fulfilling degree requirements is determined by a majority of the graduate committee.

Some professional programs may not utilize a graduate committee system. In these cases, a designated faculty member serves as the student’s primary academic advisor. Acceptance or rejection of a student’s work as fulfilling degree requirements is determined by a majority vote of the graduate program’s faculty.

Minimum Residence Credits for Degree Certification

Regardless of any previous graduate experience, a minimum of 24 credit hours must be taken at UH Hilo before a degree can be granted. This is known as the “residence requirement,” and applies to all graduate degree programs at UH Hilo. At the graduate level, a maximum of six credit hours earned under courses designated as “thesis” may be counted toward the Graduate Division’s minimum residence requirement. Students continuing their studies for a doctoral degree in the same UH Hilo program from which they earned their masters’ degree need not fulfill a second residence requirement.

Minimum Credits in Graduate Level Courses

Students are required to complete a minimum of 24 credits in courses at the graduate level before a degree may be granted. Specific graduate programs may require additional credits at the graduate level; students are advised to read program requirements and discuss them with their primary graduate advisor.

Use of Undergraduate Courses for Graduate Credit

Graduate students may take up to six credits in 400-level courses toward their graduate degree requirements with the prior approval of the primary advisor, graduate program chair and the Graduate Division. Courses numbered 499 may not be used for graduate credit. Credits used to meet requirements for an undergraduate degree may not be used to meet graduate program requirements. To register for 400-level courses, complete the Petition to Transfer, Substitute, and/or Waive Courses form and submit it to the Graduate Division.

Dual Level Courses

Some courses are dually listed at the 400- and 600-level. Courses identified by graduate programs as core courses are not eligible as dual level offerings. For dual level courses, credit in the graduate course is not available to students who have received credit in the corresponding undergraduate course.

Dual level courses must be evaluated as a unit based upon their specific content, including specification of differences in expectations for undergraduate and graduate students. Courses that have changing content from semester to semester, such as those ending in the numbers -94, -97 and -98, are not eligible for use in dual level offerings.

Overload Policy

Students may register for up to 15 credits without the approval of the graduate program chair. Any course load above 15 credits requires approval by both the graduate program chair and the Graduate Council Chair as indicated on the Student Overload Approval Form. After obtaining the approval of the graduate program chair's signature the form must be submitted to the Graduate Division for the Graduate Council Chair's signature; the form is then submitted to the Office of the Registrar. The Overload Form must be approved before the end of the add deadline, and will be retained in the student's file in the Graduate Division.

Incomplete Grades

An instructor may assign an Incomplete (I) when a student has done most of the course work satisfactorily but because of unforeseen circumstances has not completed all course requirements. The Incomplete is not for the purpose of converting a failing grade, or unsatisfactory work, to a passing grade. Incomplete grades should not be given to allow students to extra credit work to raise their grades. The student must request the Incomplete option from the instructor, but it is the instructor's decision whether or not to approve the request. Each student who receives an "I" should consult with the instructor to determine what work must be done to remove the "I".

If this work is completed by the deadline specified in the UH Hilo Academic Calendar then the instructor who assigned the "I" can change it to the appropriate grade using the Change of Grade form, taking the completed work into consideration. In exceptional circumstances, the division chairperson or the dean can change an "I" grade using the Change of Grade form.

If the coursework is not completed by the deadline, the "I" grade for graduate students will become an "NC" or "No Credit". The instructor may set a deadline sooner than that listed in the University calendar, reflecting the instructor's availability to extend his/her commitment beyond the course. The time limit for Incomplete removal prevails whether or not the student maintains continuous enrollment. Some departments and programs may have more restrictive policies regarding incomplete grades.

The incomplete policy has specific implications for students receiving tuition scholarships and other kinds of financial aid and for international students holding visas. Graduate students who receive federal or state aid may lose their eligibility if they receive any Incomplete grades. See the Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy.

All courses taken by graduate students are subject to the above policy.

Incomplete grades must be resolved before students can receive a graduate degree..

Updated 12/2017

Repeating Courses for Credit

A few graduate courses (numbered 500 and above) are repeatable for credit. Examples include thesis research and courses that are approved via the curriculum review process as “repeatable for credit" (e.g. Special Topics classes).

Retaking Courses for a New Grade

With the exception of courses that are explicitly repeatable for credit (see above), graduate courses cannot be retaken unless approved by the program chair and graduate division prior to registration. With the permission of the primary advisor and the graduate program chair, courses may be retaken, but not for additional credits. No more than two courses may be retaken, and no graduate level course may be retaken more than once during the student’s graduate career. The grade received will be averaged with the previous grade in that course in computing the UH Hilo cumulative grade point average (GPA). For graduation purposes, however, a program grade point average may be computed which includes only the grades earned in the courses that are part of the student’s graduate program. A statement which specifies the recomputed program GPA will be reflected on the student’s academic records and transcript. Submit the completed Graduate Repeat Course Notification Form to the Graduate Division where the final signature will be obtained.

Continuous Registration

All students admitted to a degree-granting program must maintain continuous registration each semester for at least one credit hour. Students who do not register will be removed from the graduate program and will be required to reapply to the Graduate Division. Students do not need to maintain matriculation during the summer session unless final degree requirements are to be completed during this period. Students must be registered during the semester when the degree is granted.

Leave of Absence

Under exceptional situations, students may apply for a Leave of Absence. Students on leave are excused from the registration requirement during the period of the leave. Leaves are normally granted for six months with an extension of 6 months for a total of up to one year. A Leave of Absence is granted only in exceptional circumstances, such as illness or other unusual personal hardship, and requires detailed justification. Leaves of Absence are not granted to students who wish to absent themselves to undertake thesis or dissertation research elsewhere. If possible, requests for Leaves of Absence should be submitted one month prior to the semester for which the leave is requested. Students must submit a Returning Student Application to the Graduate Division upon return.


Students who withdraw from courses for which they are registered at the University must follow a formal withdrawal procedure if they wish their record to indicate good standing. Absence from class does not constitute due notice of withdrawal. No grades are recorded for students who formally withdraw by the listed withdrawal date that is noted in the Catalog. Withdrawal from all classes after the listed withdrawal date may be granted, but only in exceptional circumstances, such as illness or other unusual personal hardship, and requires detailed justification. Withdrawal from classes may affect financial aid eligibility. See the Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy in the UH Hilo Guide to Financial Aid. For international students, student visas require that students be registered full time 6 credits in Fall and Spring; 3 credits in Summer (if the student chooses to attend classes during the summer). Withdrawal from courses may result in a failure to meet visa requirements.

Transfer of Graduate Credits

Students matriculated in advanced degree programs must petition to have previously earned graduate credits from other institutions transferred toward their University of Hawai‘i at Hilo graduate degrees within their first semester at UH Hilo. Using the Graduate Division’s Petition to Transfer, Substitute, and/or Waive Courses form, students submit this petition to their graduate program. A copy of the official transcript from the other institution must be on file with the Graduate Division, and a course description or syllabus should be provided by the student.

Credits petitioned for transfer must be relevant to the student’s UH Hilo degree program, must have been earned at a regionally accredited university, must not have been used to satisfy the requirements of another degree, and must have been earned in graduate-level courses for which the student earned at least a B. In cases where a graduate student wishes to take graduate coursework elsewhere for transfer credit during their tenure at UH Hilo, the course work must be pre-approved, using the Petition to Substitute, and/or Waive Courses, by the student’s primary academic advisor and graduate program chair. Petition for transfer of these credits must be completed within a semester of completion of the course work, and will otherwise be subject to the same regulations as credits petitioned for transfer from before the student’s acceptance to UH Hilo.

Credits earned through correspondence courses or through courses or experiences offered under the auspices of proprietary schools, business or industrial training programs, or schools conducted by federal agencies such as the Department of Defense normally are not considered for transfer.

Courses taken more than five years prior to matriculation on in the Graduate Division are accepted only when the graduate program chair attaches a statement justifying the transfer.

The graduate chair in the student’s program forwards all approved petitions to the Graduate Division or designee for final approval. Approved transfer credits will be included on the student’s official Graduate School transcript as a single entry of total credits accepted in transfer. Letter grades from transfer credits are not considered in the determination of grade-point average.

Limitations on the number of credits acceptable in transfer are set in the first instance by the minimum residence requirement of 24 credit hours for any advanced degree; transfer credits cannot be applied toward the residence requirement. For example, for a master’s program requiring a minimum of 30 credit hours, no more than six transfer credits may be applied toward the degree. When graduate programs require more than 30 credit hours, the Graduate Division or designee may accept a correspondingly larger number of transfer credits.

Policy Prohibiting the Awarding of a Second Degree in the Same Field

The UH Hilo policy is that a second degree at the same level (master’s or doctoral) can be awarded only when a significant amount of additional coursework in a different field is completed. Normally students who have already earned a master’s or doctoral degree in a given discipline at either a foreign or U.S. institution may not earn a second degree in a similar field at the same level from UH Hilo.

Transcript Notations of Approved Concentrations Within a Major Program

For each advanced-degree recipient, approved concentrations, or specializations, may be listed on the official graduate transcript, along with the graduate major. Such listings are limited to two concentrations. In addition to the titles of approved and satisfactorily completed majors and concentrations, official graduate transcripts show the titles of doctoral dissertations and master’s theses. All such special transcript listings are made only at the time of completion of final degree requirements.

Courses Taken in Other Graduate Programs at UH Hilo

Graduate students may take courses offered by other graduate programs at the university with the consent of the course’s instructor. These other courses may count toward the student’s degree program only with the authorization of the student’s graduate program, and this authorization must be obtained before the student registers for the course.

Waiver of Regulations and Requirements

Some Graduate Division regulations and/or program requirements may be waived by the VCAA or designee in exceptional individual instances. A petition for waiver must be endorsed by the student’s graduate program committee or graduate chair, who append their reasons for believing that the waiver request would not breach the spirit of the specified regulation or requirement.