Your MPA degree will certify that you have mastered a set of knowledge and skills as of the date you are awarded your degree. Thus timeliness of degree completion is fundamental to the integrity of your degree. UIS policy on graduate work creditable toward the MPA is governed by the six-year rule. All graduate credits taken as an MPA major and applied toward the MPA degree must be completed within six years from your first semester of entry in the program, excluding prerequisites.
Please note that the six-year clock only starts running when you enroll for your first UIS course creditable toward the 40 hours required for the MPA. UIS accepts transfer credit going back five years before your first semester of MPA enrollment, and the program routinely accepts UIS graduate work taken five years prior to your first semester of MPA enrollment if these credits were not counted towards another degree. Also, no matter which term you may have applied, the clock will not start as long as you enroll in prerequisites only. Thus, you could take your entire conditional admission year doing only prerequisites and still have six full years to complete the 10 courses or 40 semester hours required for the degree without violating the six-year limit.
Finally, should you stop out and not complete all requirements for full admission to the program within a year of your original application and enrollment in the program, and then apply for readmission to the program at some later date, that later term of entry will constitute your first term of program entry.
It is in your interest to complete your degree within six years. As long as you finish the degree within six years, degree requirements affecting you arise mainly from the term you entered the MPA Program; as you go beyond six years, the requirements affecting you derive mainly from the term you graduate.
If you exceed the six-year limit, the following conditions apply:
- only those transfer credits earned within eight years of your graduation date will be counted toward the degree; and
- any UIS graduate courses that you took prior to your admittance into the MPA Program and that will be more than eight years old on your MPA graduation date will be ineligible to meet MPA degree requirements.
In addition, exceeding the six-year limit may require you to retake any or all UIS courses completed after you were admitted to the MPA Program that are over six years old. You may also be required to retake MPA courses in areas where there has been a significant upgrade in content as reflected in the UIS catalog in force for the term you graduate, even though you may have taken the course within the last eight years.
Six-Year Rule Extension
Students may request an extension of the six-year rule. An extension will not help you avoid the loss of transfer credits or courses taken prior to MPA entry that are going to be over eight years old by the time you graduate. However, an approved six-year extension, submitted in a timely fashion, can protect you from losing other courses over six years old taken while you were an MPA major. It can also possibly relieve you of the need to take potential upgrade courses if you complete the degree during the time period approved in your extension request. Extensions are generally granted for a maximum of two years.
Leave of Absence
If after you have been granted full admission to the MPA Program, it becomes clear that you must interrupt your MPA studies for longer than one academic semester, contact your faculty adviser to discuss petitioning for a leave of absence from UIS.
Leaves of absence are serious business; they are not granted lightly. From the program point of view, a leave is best viewed as a six-year rule extension granted mid-course. The mid-course part of the idea is very important. A leave of absence essentially blocks out the period for which it was granted within the six-year rule. Leaves of absence must be requested on a semester-by-semester basis. Because leaves of absence have the potential to seriously erode the intent behind the six-year rule and thus treat some students coming up on the six-year mark very differently than others, requests for them attract close program scrutiny.
Should you require a leave, your faculty adviser needs to know about the specific situation you are facing, the duration of the leave requested, and how the leave can help alleviate the situation that might justify granting it in the first place.
Finally, assuming you are granted a leave, it will be approved for a specific period of time. If you decide to enroll for UIS course work before the leave expires, your six-year clock will resume with the term you start taking classes again.