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Course, Program and Graduation Policies

Academic Residency Requirements

A minimum of 24 credits of course work for an associate degree program, and 12 credits of course work for a certificate program, must be completed at the college in order to fulfill the academic residency requirement at NECC. CLEP and CLL credit cannot be used to fulfill residency credit.

Adding and Dropping a Course During the Drop/Add Period

For full semester courses, NECC’s drop/add period begins the first day of the semester and runs for one calendar week. During this period of time students may complete the following registration transactions:

  1. Drop any course they have pre-registered into and no withdrawal grade is assigned to the course; it is not recorded on a student’s transcript and the student receives a full refund for any payment made for the course(s)
  2. Students may add courses if the following criteria are met:
    • Face-to-Face or Hybrid class has not met yet and the course is open
    • Student receives written permission of the instructor to be added or overloaded into the class
    • On-line courses may only be added prior to the first date of the term, unless the instructor has given written permission (signs registration form or emails the student permission to add), regardless of date of orientation

Once a class has met once, students may drop, but they may NOT add into the course, unless by permission of the instructor.

Please note: Please consult with Enrollment Services or an Academic Advisor regarding adding and dropping courses that do not meet for the full semester.

Additional Associate Degrees or Certificates

Students may seek an additional associate degree or certificate by being accepted for matriculation into an additional program either while enrolled in or after graduating from their current program. Students must submit either an Action or Dual Major Form which are available at the Career Planning and Advising Center or Enrollment Services. To qualify:

  • Students must satisfy graduation requirements.
  • Students must satisfy all of the specific program requirements.
  • Those with an NECC associate degree must complete a minimum of 15 credits at NECC beyond the most recent associate degree to earn an additional associate degree; and 9 credits at NECC beyond the most recent associate degree to earn a certificate.
  • Those with an NECC certificate must complete a minimum of 15 credits at NECC beyond the most recent certificate to earn an associate degree; and 9 credits at NECC beyond the most recent certificate to earn an additional certificate.

Auditing a Course

Students may audit a course for no course credits by electing to enroll and attend a credit course for self improvement or individual interest, without the responsibility of fulfilling academic assignments. An Audit Request Form, available from the Registrar, must be completed during the first twenty (20) calendar days after the start of the semester.

Enrollment of auditors in courses is subject to the approval of the vice president of academic affairs or Registrar Representative and the individual faculty member concerned. An audit grade CANNOT be changed to a regular course grade. Tuition for an audited course is the same as a regular course.

Change of Major/Program

Change requests must be received with the written approval of an academic advisor, a department chair/coordinator of the program to which the student seeks to be admitted, or a faculty advisor.

Course Loads

Students are responsible for knowing what courses are required in their curriculum and for meeting all other academic requirements.

Students are encouraged to take the number of courses they believe they can manage with good performance. Note, however, that omitted courses or their equivalent should be taken in summer session in order to graduate in two years.

Students may request to take more courses in one semester than the suggested schedule if they have attained a QPA of 3.00 or higher at Northern Essex and have the approval of their advisor. Final registration approval will depend on the availability of course seats.

Course Pre-requisites

If students do not have the necessary pre-requisite(s) for a course in which they wish to register, it is necessary to obtain permission from the area assistant dean/dean of the academic department/program which offers the course.

Courses Taken at Another College while Enrolled at Northern Essex Community College

A student may request permission to take a course at another college while enrolled in a degree or certificate program at Northern Essex.

The forms are available at Enrollment Services. Grades for courses transferred from another college are not computed in the QPA average at Northern Essex. Approval is subject to the following: students must

  • Meet all Academic Residency Requirements (see NECC website)
  • Meet all conditions prescribed in the student’s academic program requirements
  • Provide Northern Essex with a detailed description of the course
  • Receive written approval from the appropriate program coordinator and Enrollment Services before taking the course at another college
  • Earn a grade of C or better in the course and provide NECC with an official transcript upon completion of the course

Credit Hour Policy

Northern Essex Community College follows a semester system with the fall and spring semesters generally consisting of approximately 15 weeks, which includes one week for exams. Terms that vary from that length adhere to this policy. Regardless of delivery method —traditional classroom, online, or hybrid—or length of the term, every NECC course requires the equivalent of 50 minutes of instruction per week and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work, per credit hour.

The faculty are responsible for the curriculum. Credit values for courses are determined at the department level based on faculty expertise and course objectives. All curriculum and review/approval committees and bodies of Northern Essex Community College are charged with following the policy on credit hours in their review and approval of all courses and for certifying that the expected student learning for the course meets the credit hour standard.

Laboratory Courses

Courses with a focus on experimental learning under the direct supervision of a faculty member require a minimum contact time of 2 hours per credit (2:1 ratio).

Internships/Practica/Field Experience/Co-Op/Externships/Clinical

Courses of study in which a faculty member regularly interacts and directs student outcomes with periodic contact require a minimum contact time of 2 hours per credit (2:1 ratio). The learning experience may also contain a site supervisor and directed activity/learning outside of a lecture setting.

Directed Studies Courses

In order to provide for a unique, highly individualized course of study for a single student, or a relatively small number of students, each academic department/program in the college offers Directed Studies courses. Such courses are designed to provide further study through directed readings, directed research projects or seminars, or special class work related to research in a specific subject. Each Directed Studies course is usually initiated in response to student interest, is limited to 5 or fewer students and should not be confused with a Special Topics course.

Dropping a Course

Students may drop (withdraw from) a course on or before the last day to receive a “W” grade in accordance with dates listed in the college Academic Calendar. To drop a course, students must complete the Drop portion of the Registration Form, and submit the form to Enrollment Services for processing. Before dropping a course, students should consult with their academic advisor, Financial Aid office, if appropriate, and also inform the instructor of the course that they are dropping the course. Students who are enrolled (matriculated) in a program and plan to drop ALL their courses and discontinue their studies, should officially withdraw from the college. The following withdrawal grades are assigned when a course is dropped:

Period 1: No withdrawal grade is assigned and the course is deleted from the registration record if a course is dropped during the official “drop and receive a refund” period. The present refund period is defined as the first fourteen calendar days for a full semester course, and for courses meeting eight weeks or less, the period of time prior to the third class meeting. For specific information about refunds, refer to the Refund Policy.

Period 2: A “W” withdrawal grade, which is nonpunitive, is assigned to a course that is officially dropped after the end of the course’s refund period through the date specified in the current Academic Calendar. Note: A “NW” non-participation grade is assigned if the student is dropped for non-participation by the course instructor during the official withdrawal period.

Students may not drop a course after Period 2 ends, unless there are extenuating circumstances for which the student must provide official documentation and meet with the dean of academic advising, transfer and articulation. Students who drop all of their courses will be considered to have withdrawn from the college, and if matriculated, their program of studies. Students who were matriculated in a program will have to reapply for program admission per the Withdrawing from College policy. In addition, grades will be assigned in accordance with dates specified in the Academic Calendar and per college policy. Note: “W” grades (see Grading System) currently carry no earned credit or quality points, but do appear on student transcripts.

The length of a Drop/Add period for accelerated or extended courses or sessions may vary, but is equivalent to the above mentioned policy, and posted accordingly. Exceptions to these policies may be made only by the vice president of academic affairs. Consult the Academic Calendar for dates relative to dropping a course. Academic calendars are posted on the college website.

Full-time Status

A student must carry 12 credits to be considered full-time.

Graduation Requirements

Northern Essex Community College awards associate degrees in arts and sciences, and certificates to all qualified students at commencement exercises for each class. In order to receive this award, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Completion of all required courses in a curriculum with a passing letter grade, or with the minimum letter grade specified for that course
  • Completion of the number of credit hours prescribed by a particular curriculum
  • Completion of a minimum of 24 credit hours of course work at NECC in order to qualify for a degree, and a minimum of 12 credits of classroom work to qualify for a certificate, not inlcuding CLEP, Credit for Life Learning, Challenge Exams, and Advance Placements credits.
  • Starting in the fall of 2014, any student enrolled in an associate degree program who is new to NECC and has no academic history at the college, must take at least one course designated as intensive in each of NECC’s six core academic skills in order to graduate. In most cases, the program’s core required courses include these intensive courses. Plan to see an advisor for more complete information about this graduation requirement.
  • Attainment of a cumulative quality point average (QPA) of 2.00 or higher
  • Completion of the petition for graduation with fee prior to deadline date as prescribed in the Academic Calendar
  • Payment of all financial obligations and the return of all equipment at the college
  • Student may be required to re-petition, with a fee, at a later date if they do not complete appropriate requirements

High honors are awarded at commencement to all students with a cumulative quality point average of 3.50 or higher. Honors are awarded to all students with a cumulative quality point average of 3.00 to 3.49 inclusive.

Matriculated Status

Students are strongly encouraged to contact an NECC advisor prior to registering for their first course. Proper selection of courses will assist students to more quickly and efficiently achieve their goals. Unclassified students who have not matriculated in a program and who have completed 15 credits at NECC must contact an advisor before they enroll in additional courses to determine their NECC status.

Once students have matriculated – been accepted by the college into one of its associate degree or certificate programs of study – they must maintain a prescribed academic standing in order to continue from one semester to another. Matriculation must occur in order to graduate in one of NECC’s program of study.

Program/Course Requirements

When a course is listed as a requirement for a degree/ certificate in a given curriculum, a student who meets the knowledge/experience criteria may request approval to waive the course from the appropriate area dean and the vice president of academic affairs. No credit is received for a waived course. The student will need to substitute an alternative approved course to fulfill their program requirements.

Readmission to an Academic Program

Returning matriculated students who have left the college for one or more semesters must be readmitted to the college. If the absence is for more than two consecutive semesters (excluding summer), current graduation requirements in the program must be met.

Repeating a Course

Students are allowed to take any credit bearing course a maximum of two times. Under special circumstances, students may request to take a course a third time. In order to take a course a third time, students would need to meet with their faculty advisor or academic advisor to develop a plan designed to assist them in successfully completing the course. Taking a course a fourth time would need the approval of the Dean of the Academic Area responsible for the course. All grades will appear on the student’s transcript, but only the highest grade will be used in calculating the quality point average (QPA).

Exceptions: Program or department requirements that are guided by more restrictive regulations will override this Policy. Students receiving Financial Aid will also need to meet with the Director of Financial Aid to review their eligibility to continue to receive aid for the course.

Special Notice about Dropping a Course or Withdrawing from College

Students who are receiving any form of Financial Aid or Veterans Educational benefits, international students on a student visa and students participating in college sports or other activities which have eligibility criteria, should consult with the respective office PRIOR to dropping a course. Reducing hour credit load may adversely affect eligibility to receive Financial Aid, Veterans Educational benefits, could jeopardize the student’s visa status, or make one ineligible to participate in collegiate sports or other activities. In addition, most private insurance companies require that students be full time (12 credits or more) to be eligible for coverage.

Special Topics Courses

Special Topics courses may be offered by any academic department/program with the approval of the associate dean responsible for that Area and the chairperson of the Academic Affairs Committee. The associate dean, at the time of signing by the Academic Affairs Committee, shall forward an informational copy of the Special Topics course to the vice president of academic affairs.

Special Topics courses are usually initiated by faculty or assistant/associate deans and are created for more than five (5) students. Special Topics courses are regular semester college courses and may be from one to four credits. Classes meet on a regular schedule.

Dates for submission of Special Topics proposals to the Academic Affairs Committee will follow the schedule established by the office of the vice president and dean of academic affairs. Approval for Special Topics courses may be granted FOUR times by the chairperson of the Academic Affairs Committee. If the proposer expects to offer the course for more than THREE separate semesters, a formal course proposal should be submitted to the Academic Affairs Committee at the same time as the THIRD request for a Special Topics approval. Both proposals will be considered for approval in order that the course may be offered until the Academic Affairs Committee and president have acted upon the formal course proposal.

Transferring and Awarding of Credits Designated as Satisfying the Mass Transfer Block

All students transferring into Northern Essex Community College from any of the Massachusetts Public State Institutions will be awarded credits for the Mass Transfer Block as a unit as long as the following criteria have been met:

  • The Transfer Block must be designated and identified on the student’s transcript by the sending institution
  • The student’s cumulative Grade Point Average for the Transfer Block must be a minimum of 2.0
  • The Transfer Block must have all the categories of courses and credits defined in the Mass Transfer Policy
Mass Transfer Block
English Composition/Writing 6 credit hours
Behavioral and/or Social Sciences 9 credit hours
Humanities and/or Fine Arts 9 credit hours
Natural or Physical Science 7 credit hours
Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning 3 credit hours
Total 34 credit hours

“D” grades will be accepted only as a part of the Mass Transfer Block and students may be required to take no more than 6-8 credits or two additional courses towards general education requirements. Career or program specific course requirements are outside of the general education course categories and must be completed in order to obtain a certificate or degree. If an academic program or a prerequisite course requires a grade higher than a “D” to graduate or to take the next level course, the student will be required to repeat the course and earn the required grade. Students who transfer into the college with the Transfer Block are not guaranteed acceptance in any specific program.

Transfer Credit

An official transcript from the previous college is required to award transfer credit. Students will be notified by mail from the Registrar of the transfer credits awarded and generally, transfer credits will not exceed 36 credits.

Transfer credit may be awarded for college level courses earned with a grade of C or better at another accredited institution. Grades given for transfer courses are not computed in the quality point average (GPA) at Northern Essex Community College.

Courses that do not have an equivalency at NECC will be transferred in with the appropriate course prefix followed by the number of credits and the course title that appears on the transcripts from the previous institution.

Transfer Credit Appeals Process

Credit Appeals Process for Students Transferring In

Students wishing to transfer in credits from other institutions should first present official transcripts for review by the college Registrar or their designated Academic Counselor. If a student disagrees with the awarding of transfer credits by the Registrar or Academic Counselor the steps below should be taken:

  • The Registrar or Academic Counselor refers the student concern to the Dean of Academic Advising, Transfer and Articulation who will consult with the appropriate Division Dean or Assistant Dean.
  • If there is no resolution at the Division Dean or Assistant Dean level, the issue will be referred to the Vice President of Academic Affairs for final resolution.
  • The Dean of Academic Advising, Transfer and Articulation will then inform the student of the Vice President’s final decision.
Assistance with the Credit Appeals Process for Students Transferring Out

For Northern Essex Community College students transferring out to other colleges who disagree with the awarding of transfer credits, the contact person is the Dean of Academic Advising, Transfer and Articulation. Students in such situations should present their argument to the Dean. If the appeal is reasonable and supportable, students will be encouraged to advocate for themselves. In the event that students cannot resolve the issue, the Dean will advocate on behalf of the student.

Veterans’ Access, Livelihood, Opportunity, and Resources (VALOR ACT) Evaluation of Credits

Students who have served in any of the military branches of the United States Armed Forces, regardless of active duty or reserve status, may request credit for military training, experiences, and coursework in accordance with the requirements of the VALOR Act.

Northern Essex Community College uses the American Council on Education (ACE) Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Services as the primary method for the evaluation and awarding of academic credit for military occupation, training, experiences and coursework. Other evaluation methods such as, College Level Exam Program (CLEP), DSST subject exams, or Challenge Exams, or portfolio reviews will also be used.

Information provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ and Department of Defense’s Joint Service Transcript websites states that the Air Force does not provide American Council on Education Transcripts. Current members and veterans of the Air Force will need to contact the Community College of the Air Force, or the Veterans Coordinator for information about transfer credit.

The primary contact for all questions related to credits and the VALOR Act should be directed to the Veteran’s Coordinator. The coordinator can be reached at veteransservices@necc.mass.edu.

If awarded credits qualify to be included in the Mass Transfer Block, they will be used to meet the requirements of the Mass Transfer Block for all veterans who complete the block. For more information about the Mass Transfer Block, contact advising@necc.mass.edu.

Withdrawing from College

Students who must drop all of their courses should officially withdraw from the College. Officially withdrawing from the college will ensure that the correct grades are assigned for each course. To officially withdraw from the college, a student must complete a Withdrawal From College Form available from the Registrar.

When a student officially withdraws from college, the student’s course(s) will be assigned withdrawal grades as prescribed in the Drop a Course policy. Students who discontinue their studies and officially withdraw from college are no longer considered to be enrolled at the college or matriculated in their program. If the student wishes to return to the college and wants to be enrolled (matriculated) in a program, the student must officially reapply for admission to a program.