Academic Policies and Procedures

Academic Freedom

The right to academic freedom is the right of every faculty member. Academic freedom is defined as the freedom of thought and expression as it applies to teaching, publication, oral presentation, and extramural activities. It includes the right of faculty members to choose and use materials that they deem appropriate to program or course goals in their classes without interference.

Institutions of higher education exist for the common good. The welfare and strength of United States University and of society at large depend on the uninhibited search for truth and its free expression. Academic freedom is based upon the premise that scholars are entitled to immunity from coercion in matters of thought and expression, and on the belief that the mission of United States University can be performed only in an atmosphere free from administrative or political constraints and tolerant of thought and expression. Academic freedom is fundamental for the protection of the rights of both the faculty in teaching and the student in learning. Academic freedom is also essential to protect the rights of the faculty to freely discuss and debate all ideas, however controversial or unpopular, within United States University or before the broader community. The exercise of academic freedom cannot serve as cause for discipline, dismissal, or non-reappointment. Academic freedom does not include communication or material presented in class that constitutes discrimination, sexual harassment, illegal behavior, or encourages students or others to engage in criminal or unethical behavior.

In the event a faculty member’s choice of course materials are challenged, the burden will be on the challenger to establish by material evidence that the challenged material is academically inappropriate for the course. The Provost’s Office will be the academic administrator charged with oversight of this process. Determination as to the appropriateness of the course material in question will be made within 60 calendar days of the date that the Provost’s Office receives written challenge to the academic appropriateness of the material in question.

Notwithstanding the broad right of faculty members to select and use academically appropriate materials for their courses, faculty members should be sensitive to the possibility that some students in a course may find certain materials to be personally offensive. Faculty members can elect to alert students at the beginning of their courses to any potentially controversial course materials.

Incomplete Grades

An Incomplete (I) grade is assigned when a student is unable to complete the requirements of a course due to extenuating circumstances beyond the student’s control, such as illness, hospitalization, death or care of family member. A student may request an Incomplete grade if at a minimum 60% of a course is completed and in good standing.

The student must initiate the request for an Incomplete to the faculty prior to the last day of the course. Faculty may require student to provide documentation of the extenuating circumstance. If the faculty approves the request for the Incomplete, a student may be given a maximum of four (4) weeks from the end of the course to meet the criteria outlined by the faculty for an Incomplete. It is the discretion of the faculty to give a shorter deadline.

Faculty will send the approval to the Office of the Registrar for processing. It is the responsibility of the student to follow up with the faculty to remove an Incomplete. Failure to resolve the Incomplete by the deadline given will result in the grade defaulting to an “F” or “NC” based on the grading criteria of the course.

A grade of Incomplete is not considered a grade and may not satisfy the prerequisite requirement of any subsequent courses.

Credit Hour Policy

United States University offers credit bearing programs and courses in semester credit hour system. A semester is composed of two sessions of 8 weeks (a total of 16 weeks). At USU, one credit hour is defined as 15 hours of direct faculty instruction and a minimum 30 hours of out-of-class student work for the 8 weeks session.

USU’s definition of a credit hour is consistent with the federal regulation (CFRs 600.2 and 600.4), which defines the credit hour as “the amount of work represented intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than:

  1. One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or
  2. At least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other academic activities as established by the institution, including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.”

One hour of direct faculty instruction is equal to 50 minutes of classroom time. In courses in which direct instruction does not apply, a credit hour may be measured by an equivalent amount of work, as demonstrated by student achievement.

For nursing laboratory and clinical courses, one credit is awarded for 48 hours of supervised laboratory or clinical instruction.


Student Complaint and Grievance Policy

The Complaint, Appeal and Grievance Policies and Procedures are designed to support and foster a fair, objective, respectful and ethical set of policies and procedures for resolution of disputes.  The policies and procedures provide students with a process that protects the University community, including students, faculty and staff.

Complaints regarding sex-based discrimination must contact the Title IX Coordinator found under the Statement of Non-Discrimination.


Complaint:  The subject of a complaint is normally an action, decision or omission within the control or responsibility of the University’s faculty or staff that causes a student to feel that policies have been incorrectly interpreted.  A complaint is often resolved informally or through mediation.

Grievance:  A grievance is normally an allegation based on specific facts that there has been a misinterpretation, discriminatory application, or violation of a University Policy or Procedure, and may result in disciplinary action against a faculty member, staff member, or student.  It may also be a complaint that failed to reach resolution after informal processes have been attempted.  Admissions decisions, graduation appeals and similar academic decisions are not grievable issues, unless they are complaints of a civil rights nature, including complaints related to age, sex, race, religion, creed, color, ethnic/national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, pregnancy, genetic background, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, or other personal characteristic protected by applicable local, state or federal law.

Appeals:  United States University recognizes two types of appeals.

  1. USU recognizes the right of every student to challenge and/or appeal a final grade. See Grade Appeal procedure below.
  2. Students who have been academically dismissed for failure to meet Satisfactory Academic Progress standards (SAP) may file an appeal if they believe University policy or procedures were not followed or if there were extenuating circumstances that impacted their academic performance. Extenuating circumstances may include but are not limited to the death of a relative, an injury or illness of the student, or emergency care for an immediate family member.  See SAP appeal procedure below.

Overview of Procedures

The name of a complainant/grievant and all details with respect to the complaint and its resolution will be maintained in a confidential file in the Office of the Registrar.  All such information will be kept confidential, provided however that such information may be disclosed when administratively required, required to complete the investigation, and/or required by legal compulsion, or when the University believes it is obligated to report the matter to employers or potential employers, educational institution or agencies seeking information as to the complainant or to otherwise take independent formal action.  In cases of academic dishonesty (see page xx discussing violations of the student code of conduct), the Dean or Program Director/Lead may consult with the instructor in finalizing the academic actions that may be taken.  The University may post or describe specific conduct complaints and their resolutions, as long as individuals’ names are redacted from any such posting or communication.

Procedures for Resolution

Complaint procedure:  Students with complaints should first strive to resolve the issue informally.  For example, students with complaints relating to classroom issues should follow these steps:

  1. Discuss the issue with their instructor. Both the student and the faculty member to resolve the issue at this level.
  2. If resolution does not occur at the instructor level, unresolved complaints should be submitted in writing to the Dean or Program Director/Lead for the program of enrollment.
  3. If the complaint is not resolved at the Director/Dean level, the unresolved complaint becomes a grievance and the Grievance Procedure (see below) will be followed.

Likewise, students with complaints regarding the unequal application of a University policy should strive to resolve the issue informally as described above, first bringing the matter to the attention of their Enrollment Advisor in the case of Admissions policies, and their New Student or Academic Advisor once enrolled.  Unresolved complaints should then be submitted to the advising director, and if unresolved at that level, the complaint becomes a grievance and the steps below will be followed.

Grievance Procedure:  The intent of the grievance procedure is to resolve a dispute over significant issues, not minor disagreements.  Examples include but are not limited to alleged violations of academic freedom; a repeated pattern of harassment or other inappropriate behavior; and legally prohibited unequal treatment including but not limited to discrimination or harassment on the basis of age, sex, race, religion, creed, color, ethnic/national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, pregnancy, genetic background, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, or other personal characteristic protected by applicable local, state or federal law.


  1. A student must submit the grievance in writing in detail to the Office of the Provost and include all pertinent information. Such information must include the informal steps taken to resolve the issue, with all steps fully documented as to person(s) with whom the student met, date, results of the meeting(s) and materials presented during the informal resolution stage. The student must be specific as to the issue being grieved, citing the example(s) of treatment leading to the grievance.
  2. The Office of the Provost will review the grievance within five (5) working days, requesting additional information from the grievant if necessary. The Provost will appoint a Grievance Committee that shall include at a minimum two faculty members not from the student’s program of enrollment and one administrator not to include the Program Director/Dean of the student’s program of enrollment, the Provost, or the President.
  3. The Grievance Committee will have 10 working days from receipt of the grievance from the Provost to review the grievance, obtain further information from members of the University who may have knowledge of the situation and the grievant, and make a determination as to grievance resolution, providing its recommendation to the Provost.
  4. The Provost will have three (3) working days to provide the University’s response to the grievant.

University decisions regarding grievance resolution are final.  Should a student feel that the University has not adequately addressed a grievance, the student may consider contacting external agencies such as:

WASC, Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100
Alameda, CA 94501

Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education
Arizona Students: If the complaint cannot be resolved after exhausting the institution’s grievance procedure, the student may file a complaint with the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education. The student must contact the State Board for further details.
The State Board address is:
1740 W. Adams, Ste. 3008
Phoenix, AZ 85007

California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE)
A student or any member of the public may file a complaint about this institution with the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education by calling 888-370-7589 or by completing a complaint form, which can be obtained on the bureau’s Web site

California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN)
If a nursing student does not feel that the University has adequately addressed a complaint or concern, the student may consider contacting the following respective agency:
1747 North Market Boulevard, Suite 150
Sacramento, CA 95834

Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission (GNEP)
A student in the State of Georgia may appeal any final decisions made by the University to:
Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission
East Exchange Place, Suite 220
Tucker, GA 30084-5305

New Mexico Higher Education Department
A student in the State of New Mexico may file a complaint by contacting New Mexico Higher Education Department. Pursuant to New Mexico Code, no adverse action shall be taken against the complainant for registering the complaint.
New Mexico Higher Education Department
2044 Galisteo Street, Suite 4
Santa Fe, NM 87505
Web Site:

The Licensure Division of the University of North Carolina System Office
A student in the State of North Carolina may file a complaint with the System Office:
North Carolina Post-Secondary Education Complaints
c/o Student Complaints
University of North Carolina System Office
910 Raleigh Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2688
Web Site:

Title IX Disclosure

In compliance with Title IX, Section 106.8(b)(2)(i), the Title IX Coordinator Contact Information is as follows:
Liz Fernandez, JD
Title IX Coordinator
7675 Mission Valley Road, San Diego, CA 92108
Phone: 619-876-4250

The University, in accord with Title IX section 106.8(b)(1), does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, height, weight, national origin, religion, age, marital status, gender, sexual orientation, veteran status, physical or mental disability, medical condition as defined by law, or any basis prohibited by law. The University is committed to non-discrimination in its delivery of educational services and employment. The Title IX policies are outlined in the catalog and in greater detail in the Title IX Grievance Process.

In compliance with Title IX section 106.45(b)(1)(iii) & § 106.45(b)(10)(i)(D), the Title IX personnel completed training. All materials used to train Title IX Coordinators, investigators, decision-makers, and any person who facilitates an informal resolution process can be accessed here.

Appeals Processes:

Grade Appeals:  Faculty members are vested with the authority to establish course requirements and standards of performance; they are expected to articulate and communicate these at the beginning of each course and apply all grading criteria uniformly and in a timely manner.   Final grades submitted by faculty to the Office of the Registrar are presumed to be accurate and final.

The University recognizes the right of every student to challenge or appeal a final grade.  A student who has questions about a grade received for a course should seek to resolve the issue by first consulting with the instructor.  If the issue has not been resolved after consultation, and the student believes there are grounds for appealing the grade, the student is required to follow the procedures below for formal challenges and requests for grade changes.  Grounds for appeal can be made when students can provide documentation for one or more of the following:

  • An error in calculating the grade
  • Inconsistent application of grading criteria

Procedure: When students believe that they have grounds for appealing a grade issued by an instructor because of an occurrence of one or more of the circumstances, the following procedures must be followed:

  1. The student must submit an Appeal Form available from their Academic Advisor within 30 days of grade submission for the course. The appeal must include supporting documentation that demonstrates the occurrence of one or more of the above-mentioned grounds.  Documentation may be in the form of e-mail correspondence, graded assignments, proof of timely submission, etc. The Appeal Form and supporting documentation must be submitted to the Dean or Program Director/Lead.
  2. If the evidence meets the criteria, the Dean or Program Director/Lead will request a response from the instructor, due within 5 working days of receipt.
  3. The Dean or Program Director/Lead will render a decision within 10 working days of receiving the grade appeal. Formal notification of the Dean or Program Director/Lead’s decision will be sent to the student and Office of the Registrar. The Faculty will be notified in the event that any material change in the grade. The decision in such cases is final.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Appeals:  It is the student’s responsibility to ensure he or she has met the terms and conditions of filing an SAP appeal (as defined above) and the appeals process itself in order for the appeal to be reviewed.

  1. The student must complete the SAP Appeal Form, obtained from their Academic Advisor, in writing within 30 calendar days from the date notification of dismissal was sent to the student and submit to the Registrar. The appeal must include
    1. an explanation of why the student is submitting an appeal
    2. explanation of the mitigating circumstances as to why the student failed to meet SAP standards during the warning/probationary period
    3. documentation supporting the appeal
    4. action plan addressing how these circumstances no longer pose an issue to the student’s success and what the student will do to meet SAP standards moving forward
  2. Once received, the Registrar will review the appeal and will appoint a committee, including but not limited to the student’s faculty, program director/lead, advisors, student accounts office, etc. to review and make recommendation. The student will receive a response from the Registrar within 10 business days. 


Student Code of Conduct

The University is committed to upholding a learning environment in which all members of the community are held to the highest standards of conduct consistent with respect for the law, fulfillment of contractual obligations, consideration for the rights of others, and a high level of personal integrity. All members of the University may face sanctions when not behaving in a manner consistent with the mission and policies of United States University both on- and off-campus.

Students should refer to the Student Code of Conduct Handbook for more information.


Copyright Infringement Policy


Leave of Absence

Students are expected to maintain continuous enrollment in their program of study. A leave of absence (LOA) is granted for jury duty, military reasons, medical reasons, significant non-academic issues or other extenuating circumstance as approved by the Office of the Registrar.

A student must be in attendance for at least one session (8 weeks) to be eligible to request an LOA. An approved LOA cannot exceed more than 180 calendar days in a twelve month period. The 12-month period begins on the first day of the student’s LOA. Students should speak with their Academic Advisor prior to any request for an LOA.

Students are responsible for obtaining the approval of the leave of absence. All requests for an LOA must be submitted in writing to the Office of the Registrar explaining reason for leave, dates for which leave is needed, and include appropriate supporting documentation.  Students may not be granted an LOA if they are not in good academic standing (not on disciplinary action, academic probation or academically dismissed from the University).

Students are expected to return within the specified timeframe and attend by the end of the add period of the scheduled session. Students not in attendance by the end of add period will automatically be considered a withdrawal.  Any Title IV recipient that fails to return from an LOA may affect their loan repayment times and exhaustion of some or all of a student’s financial aid grace period.

Non-Degree Seeking students are not eligible to take a Leave of Absence.