Full Course of Study Requirement
One of the most important requirements of F-1 international students is maintaining full-time student status throughout their degree program. Failure to enroll full-time each required term could result in loss of your legal status in the U.S. At Saint Peter’s University, full-time enrollment is defined as follows:
Undergraduate Students = 12 credits or more in both the spring and fall semesters.
Graduate Students in Trimester-Based Programs = 6 credits or more per trimester
Graduate Students in Semester-Based Programs = 9 credits or more per semester
Dropping below the full-time credit minimums listed above is a violation of F-1 status and will lead to the termination of the student’s SEVIS record.
ANNUAL VACATION AND SUMMER BREAK
At Saint Peter’s University, the summer term is optional. This means that you are not required to enroll full-time in the summer. You can choose to enroll full-time or part-time. You can also choose to enroll in in-person or online courses.
NOTE: F-1 students who begin their program in the summer must enroll full-time and can only count one class or three credits of online courses towards full-time enrollment.
No more than the equivalent of one on-line/distance education class or 3 credits per session may count towards the “full course of study” requirement during a required term. An online or distance education course is a course that “does not require the student’s physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class.”
REDUCED COURSE LOAD (RCL)
The exceptions for less than full-time enrollment are very limited and must be adhered to at all times. A student who drops below a full course of study without the prior approval of the CGL will be considered out of status. There are three circumstances where the CGL can authorize an F-1 student to take less than a full course of study, often referred to as a Reduced Course Load (RCL):
- Academic difficulties
- Medical conditions
- Completion of a course of study
A student may be authorized a RCL for academic reasons in the following situations:
- Initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements: If an F-1 student is experiencing difficulties with English language proficiency or reading requirements, they may be granted a reduced course load for an appropriate period to provide additional support and resources to improve their language skills.
- Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods: F-1 students who are not accustomed to the U.S. education system may face challenges adjusting to the teaching methods, course expectations, or academic culture. In such cases, a reduced course load may be authorized initially to allow for a smoother transition and better academic adaptation. RCL due to unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods will be authorized only in the first semester/trimester of studies at SPU to students with no prior educational experience in the U.S.
- Improper course level placement: If an F-1 student is mistakenly placed in a course level that is too advanced or too basic for their academic abilities, they may be allowed to enroll in a reduced course load while the proper course placement is determined or adjusted.
Authorization for a reduced course load due to academic difficulties is limited to one term at each program level. An RCL must consist of at least six credit hours or half of the minimum requirement for a full course of study for the program for which the student is enrolled. To maintain status, students must resume a full course of study in the next regular session. An authorization to drop below a full course load for academic reasons does not impact a student’s eligibility to take a reduced course load for medical reasons.
F-1 students with documented medical conditions can take a reduced course load or no course load at all. A student must provide the CGL with medical documentation, which is kept in the student’s file. The documentation must be from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy or licensed clinical psychologist in order for the CGL to authorize a reduced course load. The authorization period cannot exceed an aggregate of 12 months per program level. If the student has already had 12 months at less than full-course load, the student is not allowed any additional part-time study based on a medical condition until advancing to the next program level.
COMPLETION OF COURSE OF STUDY
In some cases, F-1 students in their final term do not need a full course load in order to have enough credits to graduate. Students who have fewer courses remaining to fulfill their program requirements may be eligible for a reduced course load during their final semester or term. In these cases, students can take just the courses needed to complete their program in their last semester.
HOW TO APPLY FOR REDUCED COURSE LOAD
Applications for RCL must be submitted to and approved by the CGL prior to enrolling for less than full-time. Students must remain enrolled full-time until they receive authorization from the CGL for the RCL or risk loss of legal status.