HDFS Timeline to Degree Completion

The timeline for degree completion varies considerably from student to student. Below you will find information about:

  • Benchmarks and expected timeline in HDFS
  • Monitoring of student progress
  • Satisfactory progress toward degree completion
  • What to do if a student will not meet a benchmark by the maximum timeline due to extenuating circumstances

HDFS Benchmarks and Expected Timeline

To encourage timely completion of degrees and to help establish guidelines for awarding merit based financial support, the faculty has adopted an official policy on the definition of satisfactory progress toward degree completion. Tables 1 and 2 below summarize the target and maximum benchmarks for satisfactory progress toward degree completion. These tables assume full-time status. Part-time students have altered benchmarks and a plan should be established with their advisor and the GPC chair. Semesters include fall and spring (summer is not considered as a semester).

Benchmarks Visual – HDFS MS-PHD

Benchmarks Visual – HDFS PhD

Definition of Satisfactory Progress

The Graduate School specifies minimum criteria for “satisfactory progress.” The requirements include maintaining a 3.0 GPA and considering incomplete grades to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next Fall or Spring semester in which a student is enrolled. A student may be placed on probation or suspended from the Graduate School for low grades or for failing to resolve incompletes.

Per SoHE policy, A student will be judged to be making unsatisfactory progress if they: Have not completed all degree requirements, including thesis or dissertation: (a) within three years of full time study for the MS degree, (b) within 6 years of full time study for the PhD degree, and (c) within 4 years of full time study for the MFA degree. HDFS further defines satisfactory progress as achieving benchmarks and milestones within the timelines described above. Students who are judged to not be making satisfactory progress may be placed on probation and may lose eligibility for graduate student funding awards such as scholarships and assistantships. Further, students who receive unsatisfactory progress ratings in two consecutive semesters may be dropped from the program. Students may appeal a decision to be dropped from the program by submitting a written request to their advisor outlining the reasons they believe reconsideration is warranted in relation to established criteria for satisfactory progress.

Monitoring of Student Progress

Each year, the graduate program faculty assess student progress (including incomplete grades), usually in conjunction with the Annual Review of Graduate Students (ARGS) process. Progress is monitored by both the SoHE Graduate Program Coordinator and the Graduate Program Chair. If the faculty identify issues with student progress, the advisor is asked to work with the student to remedy the issue. Students can also take the initiative to check in with their advisor about their progress and plan for timelines and deadlines.

There are many legitimate reasons that students take longer to complete their degree. Our focus with monitoring student progress is to make sure that delays are not based on problems that we could help with (e.g., planning support, overcoming resistance, working through being “stuck”, or other personal, professional, or academic issues).

In rare instances, an advisor may feel that an advisee is not prepared to be successful in the HDFS graduate program. Under such circumstances, the advisor will take the lead in working with the GPC Chair to solicit feedback from relevant faculty (e.g., faculty with whom the advisee has worked as a student, TA, PA, or RA). The GPC Chair and advisor will confer with the Graduate School and meet with the advisee to discuss their concerns and decide on a plan for the student to complete or exit the program. If the advisor is the GPC Chair, another member of the GPC will serve in the Chair’s role for this process.

What to do if a student will not meet benchmarks due to extenuating circumstances

Our students and faculty live full lives and students sometimes may not feasibly be able to meet the benchmarks set out in our handbook. Given that this has the potential to impact their standing and funding opportunities, when students have extenuating circumstances (such as research delays or significant personal life events), they can work with their advisor to request an extension of the timeline.  The formal procedure for requesting an extension (outlined below) will ensure consistency in requests, approvals, and tracking of benchmark extensions. It is best for the student, advisor, and HDFS GPC to document what is happening early on to ensure that there is a concrete plan for meeting the benchmark and helping the student remain on track.

  • Student and faculty advisor submit a written benchmark extension request to HDFS GPC.
    • Written requests should consist of a brief paragraph specifying the benchmark in question and providing a justification or rationale for receiving an extension.
    • Requests should include a plan and estimated timeline for how and when the benchmark will be met. This should include clear required deliverables or objectives that the student will achieve, with specific deadlines.
  • Requests can be submitted via email to the HDFS GPC chair. Requests should be submitted as soon as it is clear a student will not meet HDFS maximum benchmarks.
  • HDFS GPC approves the request and provides it to the Graduate Program Administrator to keep on file.


School of Human Ecology Graduate Programs Handbook Copyright © 2022 by Michelle Holland. All Rights Reserved.

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