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Exceptions to Full-time Enrollment/Reduced Course Loads (RCLs)

Reduced Course Loads (RCLs)

Enrollment in less than a full-time course load MAY be authorized in the following situations:

  1. If the student is medically unable to maintain a full-time course load (with letter of recommendation from licensed clinical psychologist or medical doctor).
  2. If the student is having difficulty during the first semester of their degree due to (1) initial difficulties with the English language, (2) with the reading requirements, or (3) unfamiliarity with American teaching methods.
  3. If the student has been placed in or advised by their academic advisor to take a course at an improper course level (with letter of explanation from DGP/advisor).
  4. If the student is in their final semester.

If you are eligible for one of these exceptions, you must receive authorization from OIS first in the form of a new I-20 prior to dropping below full-time status. Dropping below full-time enrollment without authorization in place is an immigration violation.

PLEASE NOTE: There may be financial, insurance, or GSSP eligibility consequences for dropping below full-time status. Please check with the Cashier’s office, Student Blue insurance (if applicable), and the Graduate Student Support Program Coordinator in the Graduate School regarding your Graduate Student Support Program eligibility (if applicable) to confirm if there will be any issues.

Additionally, please note that Reduced Course Loads only authorize less than full-time enrollment in the immigration database. There may be additional academic steps necessary to drop below a full-time course load, such as completing a schedule revision form. Please check with your academic advisor or Director of Graduate Programs to see if there are any other academic requirements to drop below full-time.

Reduced Course Loads for medical reasons require documentation from a medical professional who can attest to the difficulty and explain why a reduction in course load is recommended. With a medical Reduced Course Load it is permissible to drop some or all courses and the Reduced Course Load is valid for only one semester at a time, but may be renewed each semester for up to one year if necessary. Following the semester(s) of Reduced Course Load it is expected that the student will continue to enroll as a full-time student unless it is the student’s final semester. Please do not drop below full-time – or fail to register full-time – until you receive confirmation that the Reduced Course Load request is approved in SEVIS.

The RCL form plus accompanying documentation should be submitted in GlobalHome. Documentation must be from a licensed clinical psychologist, medical doctor, or doctor of osteopathy.

RCLs for academic difficulty reasons require OIS approval BEFORE dropping below full-time. The DGP / Academic Advisor must indicate on the form the academic reason for the RCL request and in signing the form indicate that they do not object (from an academic advising perspective) to the student receiving an academic RCL for the stated reason. The OIS Advisor may need to request, or the DGP / Academic Advisor may wish to provide, additional information related to the academic circumstances which justify the academic RCL. A student may not drop below half of the required credits that make up a full time semester. Students should not drop below full-time – or fail to register full-time – until first receiving approval of the RCL from an OIS advisor.

If a student is in their final semester and will be considered to be enrolled less than full-time, that student should submit their completed RCL form before the first day of the requested semester. They should pre-register for the intended number of reduced credits. A scheduled appointment is not required for paperwork submission but is encouraged if a student has questions/concerns about program completion in his final semester. An RCL authorized for a final semester (which shortens the Program End Date in SEVIS to that semester) cannot be extended. A student MUST complete their program by the end of the anticipated final semester.

Students are not permitted to enroll exclusively for distance education courses, including in their final semester and even if they qualify for a final semester reduced course load. This enrollment requirement is true whether a student’s final semester is a fall, spring, or summer term.

 Note: Thesis and Dissertation students requesting RCL’s must provide on the RCL form the date of their already-scheduled defense date, and that date must be on or before the “No Registration Required ETD Review Deadline” for the semester following the semester of the RCL. Students who have not already scheduled their defense to occur before this date do not qualify for the final semester RCL.