Academic procedures

Expectations and course registration

Definition of a credit hour
Grading system

Standards of academic achievement   


Student records

Academic honors

Graduation requirements

Expectations and course registration

The responsibility for planning the academic program rests largely with the student. Information in the undergraduate academic life section of this catalog and other academic announcements must be reviewed carefully in order for the student to take the required courses at the right time. The counseling services of faculty advisors, department chairpersons, the registrar and the deans are available to assist students.

The academic advising program at Bluffton is based on the premise that significant learning and growth can occur when students and advisors work together. At the beginning of the fall semester, first year students indicate whether they want as their advisor their Becoming a Scholar instructor or a member of the department in which they intend to major. Upon declaring their major, all students are assigned an advisor in their department. Transfer students who have decided on a major are assigned to an advisor in the appropriate department. The registrar advises transfer students who have not yet chosen a major. Students who are still deciding on a major are advised by the director of the Center for Career and Vocation. It is recommended that students declare a major by the second half of their sophomore year.

Bluffton University operates on a semester calendar. All course credit is given in semester hours. See current academic calendar.

Bluffton reserves the right to cancel any course if fewer than seven students enroll.

A full-time student load is considered to be at least 12 hours per semester. Students enrolled for fewer than 12 hours in a semester are classified as part-time students. These students may not participate in intercollegiate activities nor hold office in co-curricular activities. Part-time students may reserve a room in the residence halls only with special permission of the dean of student affairs. Part-time students are strongly urged to contact the director of financial aid to see if their status affects their financial aid. 

Students must obtain permission from the registrar to enroll in more than 17 semester hours in one term. Honors Program students may enroll in 18 hours per term. Presidential Scholars may enroll in 20 hours per term.

Most courses may be audited with permission of the instructor. Auditing may be denied for full courses or under enrolled courses. Courses which may not be audited include applied music, directed studies, practicums, internships and independent studies.

Students registering to audit a course must indicate at the registrar's office that the course is to be audited. An audit fee is assessed to all students who audit courses. Students, having audited a course, may not change their registration to receive credit after the end of the add period. An audited course may be taken a second time for credit. Credit by examination is not allowed for courses that have been audited.

The deadline for adding courses is generally the end of the first week of the semester, with the specific date indicated on the academic calendar. The deadline to add BENV 300 Cross-Cultural Experience is the Tuesday prior to the start of spring semester classes. After the add period has ended, students may not add courses unless they have exceptional reasons to do so. The deadline for dropping courses is generally the end of the second week of the semester, with the specific date indicated on the academic calendar. After the drop period has ended, students may withdraw from a course and receive a grade of W up to a point halfway through the course. The deadline for non-emergency withdrawals is set on the academic calendar. After that time, withdrawal is allowed only for medical or other exceptional reasons. Permission to withdraw after the deadline must be obtained from the registrar. The instructor will assign a grade of WP (withdrawn passing) or WF (withdrawn failing). A W and a WP do not affect a student's grade point average but a WF has the same effect on the grade point average as an E.

Upon enrollment in a course, students at Bluffton become accountable for all the requirements of the course. Thus, they are directly responsible to each instructor for all required work in each course, including work missed because of absence. The instructor is responsible for informing students at the beginning of each course of the course requirements, including the class attendance policy.

 Definition of a credit hour

Bluffton University defines a credit hour as a unit of measure that gives value to the level of instruction, academic rigor, time requirements and fulfillment of learning objectives for a course taken at the university. Basically, it is a proxy measure of student learning as defined by the fulfillment of learning objectives reasonably judged to require at least 12.5 clock hours per credit hour or 37.5 clock hours for a 3 credit hour course. Bluffton offers courses with a variety of learning formats and delivery modes. The following guidelines help define the average minimal time commitment required for one credit hour:

  • Not less than 50 minutes of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of 100 minutes out of class student work each week for 15 instructional weeks (including exam week) for one semester hour of credit are expected for a course taught in a traditional format.
  • At least an equivalent amount of time as required in # 1 above is required for other academic activities including laboratory work, internships, practices, cross-cultural experiences, independent studies, studio work, directed studies and other academic work leading to the awarding of credit hours.
  • At least an equivalent amount of time as required in # 1 above is required for courses taught in an online or accelerated format.

Grading system

A permanent record of student grades is maintained by the registrar. Grades are entered in the permanent record as follows:

A, A-

excellent achievement

B+, B, B-

good achievement

C+, C, C-

fair achievement

D+, D, D-

poor achievement, but passing


failing, the course must be repeated if credit is desired


credit, student earned a C- or higher in the course


no credit, student earned a D+ or lower in the course


withdrawn; not included in semester or cumulative GPA


withdrawn with passing work at the time of withdrawal; not included in semester or cumulative GPA


withdrawn with failing work or without official approval, included in semester and cumulative GPA as an E

I incomplete (because of illness or other emergency, the student was given an extension of time to complete a course. To receive an incomplete a student must consult with the course instructor to determine if an incomplete is appropriate for the course. The course instructor and student must then present the rationale for an incomplete to the Associate Dean, who can grant permission. It is expected that an incomplete should be removed within the first two weeks of the semester following the one in which it was given. If this is not the case, the student may be advised to drop one of the classes in which he or she is currently enrolled. If not removed by the end of the semester following the one in which it was given, the incomplete becomes an E.)


Points are assigned to grades as follows:

  A   4.0 A-   3.7
B+   3.3 B   3.0 B-   2.7
C+   2.3 C   2.0 C-   1.7
D+   1.3 D   1.0 D-   0.7
  E   0.0  


To graduate from Bluffton University, a student must have a grade point average (GPA) of not less than 2.0. This average is calculated by dividing the total number of grade points by the number of semester hours attempted. Courses graded on credit/no credit basis are not included in this calculation. Students transferring to Bluffton from other institutions do not receive grade points for the grades earned at the previous institutions. Cumulative grade point averages are based only on work completed under the auspices of Bluffton University.

A student may elect to take a course for credit or no credit rather than the traditional letter grades, subject to the following restrictions:

  • This option may not be used in courses required for a major, a minor nor for a Bluffton Enduring Values course;
  • No more than 20 semester hours taken under this option may count toward the graduation requirement of 124 hours;
  • This option may not be exercised until a student has successfully completed 15 hours of traditional letter grades.

The procedure for declaring this option is for the student to report to the registrar at the beginning of the term the course in which to exercise the option; the request must be made before the end of the drop period. Students who, after the drop period, withdraw from a course taken with the credit/no credit option will receive a NC grade. Courses that are offered for credit/no credit grades only must fall within the limitations of point two above, but there may be exceptions to points one and three.

The grade credit is interpreted to mean any grade within the traditional range of grades A through C-. A no credit is the equivalent of the traditional D and E. The grades credit and no credit will not carry a point value and thus will not be computed in the grade point average.

Any course taken as a prerequisite for a general education course must be passed with at least a grade of D-. Any course taken as a prerequisite for any other course must be passed with at least a grade of C-. Circumstances may, on occasion, justify the waiver of this requirement by the instructor of the subsequent course.

Any course in which the grade of D+ or lower is earned will not be counted toward any major or minor. Circumstances may, on occasion, justify the waiver of this requirement by the department in which the student completes the major or minor.

Students earning a D or E in a course may repeat the course to improve their grade and grade point average, as well as their understanding of course content. Students earning a C in a course may repeat the course with permission from the registrar. In a repeated course, only the most recent grade will be calculated in the grade point average, although all grades will appear on the permanent record.  A special topics course repeated with a new topic may not be used to replace an earlier failing grade.

Only the credit from the course as repeated counts in the total semester hours passed and the GPA. The student is expected to pay for the course each time it is taken. Students wanting to take advantage of this must declare their intention to the registrar s office at the time of registration for the course.

See financial aid implications of repeated courses.

A Bluffton University student who feels that a final course grade has been unfairly or erroneously assigned has a right to appeal. The student should first discuss the grade with the professor who assigned it. The student must contact the professor as soon as possible after the disputed grade is issued and no later than 10 class days after the next term begins. After talking with the professor, if the student is still convinced that the grade is an unfair or erroneous evaluation of the student s performance, the student should contact the academic dean. The contact must be made within 20 class days after the next term begins. The academic dean will talk with the student, the professor and the department chair to attempt to arrive at a mutually satisfactory settlement of the disagreement. If the dispute is not resolved to the student's satisfaction, the student may initiate a formal grade appeal:

  • No later than 10 class days after the dean of academic affairs confirms that the dispute is not resolved to the student's satisfaction the student should file with the academic dean a written appeal which includes:
    • a statement of the nature of the complaint
    • the evidence, if any, on which the complaint is based; and
    • the redress or remedy that the student seeks.
  • Upon receiving the written appeal, the academic dean will impanel a hearing committee composed of three faculty members and one student. The academic dean will select one faculty member from the faculty at large and one faculty member each from lists of three faculty submitted by the student and the professor. The student will be nominated by the Student Senate.
  • The hearing committee will review written statements and information supplied by the student and professor. Both the student and the professor have the right, but are not obligated, to make a personal appearance before the panel. All discussions and written statements will be treated as strictly confidential. The hearing committee has the power to make recommendations to the professor, the student and/or the academic dean.

Typically the faculty member has the responsibility to determine the final grade for the course. In the event that the faculty member does not follow the recommendation of the hearing committee, the committee may petition the academic dean who, in consultation with and under the direction of the president of the university, will make the final determination.

Academic grievances over matters other than final grades should follow the general procedures outlined for final grade disputes.

Certain Bluffton University academic departments and professional programs may use additional procedures for grade appeals and academic grievances.

Students enrolled in courses through other institutions who wish to appeal a grade must follow the grade appeal procedure and abide by the decision of the teaching institution.

Final exam policy
In order to guarantee a fair and efficient final examination program, the Bluffton faculty has agreed to uniform procedures in administering final examinations. It is the policy of the university to not make exceptions to the final examination schedule, except in rare cases.

Students may petition for a change in final examination schedule for one of the following reasons:

  • Three exams in one day
  • A death in the immediate family
  • Serious illness
  • University-sponsored extra- curricular commitments
  • Emergency or extreme circumstances not covered above.

To apply for a change, a student must stop in the registrars office and pick up a Change of Final Exam Request Form. Once the request form has been completed, it is to be submitted to the associate dean of academic affairs for review. If approved, the student then makes arrangements for an individually scheduled examination time with the course instructor. Except in emergencies, the request must be retuned to the registrar's office at least one week prior to the beginning of the examination period. 

Students needing to take exams early due to transportation issues home will not be excused. Necessary arrangements should be made in advance to avoid this conflict. All requests will be evaluated by the associate dean of academic affairs. 

Standards of academic achievement

Unsatisfactory academic performance at Bluffton University, as defined here, will result in one of the following three possible actions.

PROBATION. Any time, after having received grades in a minimum of two courses at Bluffton University, that a student's cumulative grade point average falls below the requisite level indicated below, the student is placed on academic probation until the cumulative grade point average reaches the required level for the appropriate classification:

First year (fewer than 27 semester hours completed) 1.5
Sophomore year (at least 27, fewer than 58) 1.7
Junior year (at least 58, fewer than 88) 1.9
Senior year (at least 88 semester hours completed) 2.0

Reclassification of class level will be made at the end of each semester. Students who are on probation will attend a probation meeting and develop a plan for success. Students initially placed on academic probation will automatically be placed on
 financial aid warning.

SUSPENSION. At the end of each semester, the academic performance of all students in attendance during the semester will be reviewed. Those on probation for the previous semester and whose cumulative grade point average is still below the requisite level for their classification will be subject to suspension through the following semester.  Moreover, any student having attempted 24 semester hours including transfer credit, whose grade point average for the semester is below 1.0 will be subject to suspension. Any student having attempted fewer than 24 semester hours including transfer credit whose grade point average is 0.0 will be subject to suspension.

For nursing program students, when the GPA at Bluffton would make the student eligible for suspension, a combined GPA of Bluffton and Rhodes credit will be calculated. The combined GPA will be used in determining suspension and/or dismissal. 

Students who have been suspended must apply for readmission and provide evidence that it is in their best interest to be readmitted. Work taken at another college or university during the period of suspension will not be accepted for credit at Bluffton University. Students who are re-admitted after an academic suspension who wish to reinstate financial aid must appeal to the financial aid appeals committee.

Any student having been suspended twice shall be considered dismissed. Students having been dismissed will not be eligible for readmission.

Bluffton University reserves the right to administratively withdraw for the remainder of the semester any students at any time when in the judgement of the university authorities the student has grossly neglected studies. Typically, an administrative withdrawal is imposed when a student is not attending or actively engaged with at least half of their classes. A student who is administratively withdrawn receives no credit for work done during the term in which the withdrawal occurs. Any tuition refund will follow the standard refund policy in the academic catalog.

Bluffton University reserves the right to remove, withdraw, suspend, or dismiss any student at any time when in the judgement of the university authorities the student has been guilty of serious misconduct. The disciplinary sanction may include removal from class for several days, withdrawal for the remainder of the semester, suspension for a succeeding semester, or dismissal from the university. A student who is removed from class for disciplinary reasons is not allowed to make up any work missed. A student who is withdrawn for disciplinary reasons receives no credit for work done during the term in which the withdrawal occurs.  Any tuition refund will follow the standard refund policy in the academic catalog.

All students subject to suspension or dismissal have the right to appeal.  In order to appeal an academic suspension or dismissal, a student must submit a letter to the registrar stating the basis for the appeal and a letter from a faculty member supporting the appeal.  On the designated date, the Suspension/Dismissal Committee will meet to review any appeals received by that date. 

The Suspension/Dismissal Committee, a subcommittee of the Undergraduate Academic Programs Council, consists of the registrar (who chairs the committee), the vice president and dean of academic affairs and/or his/her designate, the vice president for student life and athletics, the chairperson of the Undergraduate Academic Programs Council, and another faculty member designated by the Undergraduate Academic Programs Council.  The role of the vice president for student life and athletics will be to represent nonacademic considerations that may have affected a student's ability to achieve a satisfactory level of academic work.  Information which appropriately belongs within the campus conduct system will not be introduced to the Suspension/Dismissal Committee unless it is in support of the student.  (The suspension or dismissal power of the Suspension/Dismissal Committee will not be used to displace the normal procedure for disciplinary cases.)  The committee will seek input from other faculty and staff members as seems appropriate.  In making its determination, the committee will consider the best interests of the student and the university.  In most cases, if the appeal is approved, the student will be placed on academic probation. Students whose academic suspension or dismissal appeal has been approved and who wish to reinstate financial aid must appeal to the financial aid appeals committee.

Students who wish to withdraw from the university during a term or at the end of a term must inform all offices involved. Information on withdrawal, indicating the offices in which withdrawing students are to be interviewed, is available from the registrar's office. Students who withdraw before the deadline for nonemergency withdrawals will receive W's for all courses.

Students may withdraw after the deadline for nonemergency withdrawals and before the end of the semester only for medical or other exceptional reasons. Permission to withdraw after the deadline must be obtained from the registrar. When permission is given, instructors will assign grades of WP (withdrawn passing) or WF (withdrawn failing). A WP does not affect a student's grade point average, but a WF has the same effect on the grade point average as an E.

Students who leave after the nonemergency withdrawal deadline for a reason other than an emergency as determined by university personnel or without notification to the university are considered unofficially withdrawn for academic and financial aid purposes. These students will be assigned grades based on the requirements of the entire semester, typically E's.

When it is determined that a student has stopped attending classes and has withdrawn (officially or unofficially), the Registrar contacts the instructors for that student to determine the last date of attendance (LDOA) in each class. The latest date of attendance then is the withdrawal date used for both official and unofficial withdrawals.

Academic forgiveness allows a student returning to Bluffton University after at least a five year absence the option of keeping the credit for courses in which a grade of C- or better was earned (as well as courses with grades of CR), while removing from the grade point average all grades earned at Bluffton University prior to readmission.

The academic forgiveness policy and its conditions are as follows:

  • At least five years must have passed since the student last attended Bluffton University.
  • Academic forgiveness applies only to courses taken before readmission.
  • The previous GPA is eliminated.
  • After a student elects academic forgiveness and eligibility is verified, a notation will be added to the student's transcript indicating that this policy has been applied.
  • Credit earned at Bluffton prior to readmission with a grade of D+ or lower is forfeited.
  • Credit earned at Bluffton prior to readmission with a grade of at least C-, or with a grade of CR, will be carried over at the time of re-entry.
  • Grades from all coursework taken at Bluffton will be used in calculating eligibility for Pi Delta membership.

All students enrolled for at least 12 hours in a semester are considered full-time students. All students are classified by the registrar in one of the four classes first year, sophomore, junior, and senior or as special students.

Class standing is determined by the number of hours completed, as shown below:

First year fewer than 27 semester hours completed
Sophomore at least 27, fewer than 58
Junior at least 58, fewer than 88
Senior at least 88 semester hours completed

All students must complete a major in order to graduate from Bluffton University. A major is a program of study designed to equip students with the knowledge, skills and values related to a particular discipline. The requirements and curricula for majors are designed and proposed by departments and approved by the faculty. Requirements for all majors are specified in the  Bluffton University catalog.

Students may choose to complete a minor. A minor is a secondary field of study requiring 18 to 22 hours. The requirements and curricula for minors are designed and proposed by departments or interdisciplinary groups of faculty members and approved by the faculty.

A concentration is an option available to students in some majors at Bluffton University. Concentrations require focused and coordinated academic work either within the major or within an area of study meaningfully related to the major. Concentrations include a minimum of nine semester hours.

Students may declare their majors as early in the college program as they feel ready. Early declarations are advantageous in that students' advisors are then selected from within the major field. Normally students declare a major by the end of their sophomore year at the latest. Students who have not declared a major prior to registering for the fall semester of their senior year are not permitted to register until they have completed the declaration process. To declare a major, a student should meet with the department chair to indicate the planned major. The department chair will assign an advisor to the student and notify the registrar's office of the student's major. 

Students who declare more than one major are expected to meet in full all requirements of both majors, including the departmental comprehensive exams.

Students declare the major or minor that is in effect when they declare the major or minor. 


Course evaluations are available online for at least a week at the end of the semester. Students are notified of evaluation availability by email. 

Evaluation results will be tabulated and a report will be sent to each instructor with an evaluation summary for each course as well as a summary for all courses taught by all faculty members. No reports will be given to faculty until grades are turned in. Copies of the reports are filed in the academic affairs office.

Assessment is an ongoing effort by Bluffton University to measure student learning in order to determine the degree to which Bluffton is meeting its goals for educating its students. The information gained through assessment is crucial to the university's efforts to improve its educational programs. To that end, student papers and other assignments may be read by university employees other than the immediate classroom teacher. When student work is used for assessment purposes, precautions are taken to insure the anonymity of the student, and the student's confidentiality will be respected.

Special studies

Directed studies allow students to do the work of a regular, specified course by studying the material without regular classroom attendance. This may be done either during the semester the class is offered or when the class is not currently offered. The same learning must be demonstrated as that achieved by students attending the regular class; alternative arrangements for exams and other requirements are subject to approval of the instructor.

Approval to take a course as a directed study must be obtained from the instructor, the department chair, and the academic affairs office. Approval will be granted when there is undue hardship to the student because of transferring into Bluffton University or because of unexpected health concerns. Other extraordinary circumstances as determined by the academic affairs office may warrant approval. Approval will not be given for a student to complete a second major or a minor; for a student to graduate sooner than his/her cohort; for a student's convenience; because a student failed the course earlier; or, for the student to raise his/her GPA.
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Qualified students shall be allowed to complete up to four courses through departmentally supervised independent studies. Such independent study options shall be open to either majors or non-majors in the departments involved. Students are expected to obtain written permission from the supervising faculty member and obtain departmental approval by completing a form available from the registrar's office. The student then returns the completed form to the registrar at the time of registration.


Bluffton University grants academic credit for internships or practicums directed toward clearly defined academic objectives. The function of academic-arranged internships is to integrate the knowledge, theory and skills learned in the classroom with practical experience. Bluffton University encourages each academic division to offer internships and to delineate the educational objectives for its respective program. Students must meet the academic and personal qualifications of the academic division supervising the experience. The academic divison's policies ensure that the student has the knowledge and skills required for the field experience. Students are expected to have junior or senior status. the selection process for evaluating applications and establishing appropriate deadlines for applications are determined by each academic department.

Students may earn a maximum of 20 semester hours of credit toward graduation through examination. This includes external examination programs as well as credit-by-examination offered through the university. In general, the level of the course being tested may not be lower than course work previously completed in the field.

Students may request permission to seek credit for a course through examination. The request, accompanied by some indication that the student possesses sufficient background for credit, is made to the chairperson of the department in which credit is sought and to the dean of academic affairs. Upon receiving permission and after paying the credit-by-examination fee, the student may take a special examination. A second fee will be charged upon successful completion of the exam.

The examination itself is to expect of the student at least the equivalent competence of what would be expected of students actually completing the course. On the basis of the examination results, a letter grade is to be recommended by the tester. The notation of credit (CR) will be made on the student's permanent academic record if the grade recommended is C- or higher; otherwise the notation no credit (NC) will be made.

Credit by examination is not allowed in a course which previously has been audited or for which tutorial assistance has been obtained unless the student pays the full tuition charge.

Students may also earn credit through nationally recognized examination programs for examinations in which passing scores are earned. These programs include CLEP, PEP and DSST which were developed to give recognition to adults who have acquired knowledge outside the traditional classroom situation and who wish to receive college-level credit for this work.

Full credit is normally given for all courses completed at any regionally accredited college or university in which the applicant has earned a grade of C- or better. All transcripts submitted by any student will be reviewed individually. Credit will be awarded only for work shown on an official transcript, that is, a transcript sent directly from the originating institution to the registrar's office. Neither individual grades for classes nor GPA are transferable. Please see the Admissions information for students for a list of colleges with which Bluffton University has articulation agreements.

All students enrolled at Bluffton University who want to take course work at another institution to transfer back to Bluffton University are asked to complete a form requesting advance approval for the course (the form is available from the registrar's office). If the course work is to meet a general education requirement or is for elective credit, the registrar will grant or deny approval; if it is to be applied to the student's major, the department chair will grant or deny approval. In all cases, the minimum grade requirement for transfer work is C-.

Study abroad opportunities are available around the world. In consultation with the academic advisor, students may choose from a number of programs in a variety of academic disciplines including programs offered by BestSemester, BCA Study Abroad and CASAS. These programs afford excellent opportunities for study and travel in a foreign culture and language area. In addition, Bluffton sponsors an urban studies semester in Washington D.C. For additional information, please refer to descriptions under the off-campus programs and to the assistant director of cross-cultural programs.

Each varsity athlete and student support personnel (trainers, managers and student assistant coaches) is eligible to receive one academic credit per academic year for participating in collegiate athletics with a maximum number of four total credits during their athletic career.  Two-sport athletes may only receive credit for one sport each academic year. Credit is credit/no credit.  Credit must be assigned during the traditional season of each sport.  In the event that any sport (for example basketball) goes through two semesters, students may elect which semester to receive the credit.  Student athletes can earn this one hour credit each year by the following means: 

Completing the entire sporting season by attending practices, meetings, competition and year-end banquet. 

If an athlete becomes injured during the season, he or she must continue to attend practices, meetings, competition (as required by the head coach) and year-end banquet to be eligible for credit. 

Student records

Official transcripts of a student’s academic record can be released only at the request of the student. Bluffton University partners with the Parchment organization to ensure security for all transactions. Transcripts can be sent in either electronic or paper format. See the registrar’s webpage for instructions, fees and additional information.

Notification of Rights Under FERPA
Bluffton University Policy on Student Records

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records and affords students certain rights with respect to those records.

FERPA deals with the question of what information is private by directing institutions to list information that is considered directory information and therefore not protected as private.

In accordance with FERPA guidelines Bluffton University has designated the following items as Directory Information:

student name, campus address, home address, cell phone number, home telephone number, e-mail address, major field(s) of study, class, full or part-time status, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, photographs, dates of attendance, degrees, honors and awards granted, date of graduation and previous schools attended.

All information not included in the above list should be considered private. This would include, for example: grades, GPA, class rank, probation or suspension status, and remaining requirements for a degree. You may opt to prohibit disclosure of directory information as well by signing a form available in the registrar’s office. 

As a student, you may release your protected information to whomever you wish. Information may be released electronically through your MyBluffton account, using the “Give permissions to my data” option (found on the Student tab). Students may release specified data through this option to any designated individual. Students may set end dates for the release or may rescind the release at any time. Monitoring information released in this manner is the responsibility of the student.

Alternatively, students may sign a statement in various offices around campus indicating what information is to be released and to whom. Thus, a signed transcript request authorizes us to release a transcript to the address(es) submitted by the student.

To report violations:
Students may report FERPA violations to or request information from Iris Neufeld, Bluffton University FERPA Officer, at or 419-358-3322.

FERPA guarantees students these rights:

  • Right to Inspect: You have the right to inspect and review all of your education records maintained by or at this institution within 45 days of our receipt of your written request. To exercise this right, contact the registrar’s office for instructions at or 419-358-3321.

  • Right to Request Amendment: You have the right to seek to have corrected any parts of an educational record you believe to be inaccurate, misleading or otherwise in violation of your rights. This right includes the right to a hearing to present evidence that the record should be changed if this institution decides not to alter the education record according to your request. To exercise this right, contact the registrar's office for instructions at or 419-358-3321.

  • Right to Prevent Disclosure: You have the right to prevent disclosure of education records to third parties with certain limited exceptions. It is the intent of this institution to limit the disclosure of information contained in your education records to:
    • those instances when prior consent has been given to the disclosure;
    • items of directory information (see list above) unless you have directed the university in writing to suppress the release of this information. If you would like to suppress the release of directory information, please contact the registrars office;
    • or items under the provisions of FERPA which allow disclosure without prior written consent. This includes information necessary for school officials to perform their assigned tasks, disclosures related to some judicial orders or lawfully issued subpoenas, and some other circumstances as defined by FERPA.

  • Right to File a Complaint with the U.S. Department of Education: If you believe that Bluffton University has failed to comply with the requirements of FERPA or has violated your FERPA rights, you have the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, Student Privacy Policy Office, 400 Maryland Ave, S.W., Washington, DC 20202-8520 or by emailing Instructions about filing a complaint and a complaint form are available on their web page.

  • Right to Obtain Policy: You have the right to obtain a copy of this student records policy. You can obtain a copy of the policy from the registrar’s office. You may also contact the registrar’s office with any questions that you have about your FERPA rights.
A school official is a person employed by Bluffton University in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research or support staff position (including security personnel and health staff); a person serving on the board of trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee. A school official also may include a volunteer or contractor outside of Bluffton University who performs an institutional service or function for which the school would otherwise use its own employees and who is under the direct control of the school with respect to the use and maintenance of personally identifiable information from education records, such as an attorney, auditor or collection agent or a student volunteering to assist another school official in performing his or her tasks. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities for the school. 

Notice regarding FERPA rights is emailed to students annually and is available from the registrar’s office.


 Academic honors

Superior scholastic ability among students is given recognition in several ways:

is published at the end of each semester. It includes the names of all undergraduate degree-seeking students with at least a half-time load of graded courses whose GPA for the period is no lower than 3.6. Students on the dean's list whose cumulative GPA, as based on at least 20 semester hours, is no lower than 3.75 will be indicated as receiving distinction for continued high achievement. Students with incompletes are disqualified.

is an honorary scholastic society established to promote high standards of scholarship. Admission is by vote of the faculty from those seniors who, at the time of their graduation, have met the following criteria:

  • Students who have completed 30 or more but less than 62 semester hours at Bluffton University at the time of graduation and have a GPA of 3.90 or better.
  • Students who have completed 62 or more but less than 93 semester hours at Bluffton University at the time of graduation and have a GPA of 3.80 or better.
  • Students who have completed 93 or more semester hours at Bluffton University at the time of graduation and have a GPA of 3.75 or better.
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are given annually to the best scholar in each major. Special awards may be given to the international student with the highest scholarship record, to the best independent study of the year, and to students with special achievement in other areas.

at Bluffton is a four-year program designed to challenge intellectually ambitious, highly motivated students in all disciplines. While pursuing their major field of study, students enroll in honors sections of certain general education courses plus a junior honors course. Students also engage in service learning and cultural events.
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is designed to recognize students of high ability who affirm the concept of liberal arts education and to make more visible students of high academic performance as a stimulant to student attitudes toward higher scholastic attainments.

C. Henry Smith Scholars are selected by the Undergraduate Academic Programs Council or its designated committee each spring from among next year's juniors and seniors who have a GPA of 3.3 or above. Only 15 scholars are chosen each year. Criteria include: 1) high academic performance, including GPA, performance in independent studies and academic substance of courses taken; 2) recommendations from two faculty members (one from within the student's major and one from outside the student's major); and 3) participation in and contribution to the community at large.

C. Henry Smith Scholars may be utilized in course planning, teaching and/or special tutoring. If the student helps with course preparation and has regular instructional contact with students, remuneration may be at a rate higher than that for regular campus employment. Alternately, C. Henry Smith Scholars may receive credit for duties performed within the scope of an organized learning project instead of remuneration. C. Henry Smith Scholars participate in regularly scheduled student-faculty seminars.

are awarded by the faculty at commencement to a student who has met the following requirements for a program of independent study in her/his major field:

  • A student must have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher in major courses in order to submit a departmental honors proposal.
  • The student should start working on their idea in the fall term of their junior year. During this time they need to pick a faculty advisor. The student and advisor should meet with the department chair early enough to discuss the proposal and obtain approval so that the student may register for independent study in the spring term to write the proposal.
  • The student registers for a 1-2-hour independent study no sooner than the junior year. A special departmental honors proposal form is used for registration purposes. It needs to be signed by the sponsoring faculty member and the department chair. During this independent study, the student develops, with supervision from a sponsoring professor in the student's major, a proposal for his/her honors project. 
  • At the end of the independent study, the student presents the proposal to a sponsoring committee consisting of the major professor assisted by two other faculty members, one of whom is from outside the major department. Additional resource persons, such as staff members and persons from outside the Bluffton University community, may be asked to advise.
  • The proposal, signed by members of the sponsoring committee and by the appropriate department chair (or chairs), is submitted by the sponsoring professor to the Special Studies and Honors Committee before April 1 of the junior year.  In exceptional circumstances, the committee is willing to consider a proposal submitted by Sept. 15 of a student's senior year. A successful fall proposal would need to have been started before the fall semester in the previous summer. The student defends the merits of the proposal before the Special Studies and Honors Committee.
  • If the Special Studies and Honors Committee approves the proposal, the student registers for an additional 3-6 credit hours of independent study to complete the proposed study using the Departmental Honors Project independent study form. (The total number of required hours for Departmental Honors, including the 1-2 hours granted for researching and writing the proposal, is 5-7 semester hours of independent research spread over at least two semesters.) Departmental courses, such as one taken as a research seminar, will not fulfill the independent research requirement. (Note: If the proposal is not approved by the Special Studies and Honors Committee, the student cannot pursue Departmental Honors; however, the student has the option of completing the proposed study by registering for standard independent study hours.)
  • The student submits progress reports to the sponsoring professor periodically throughout the course of the study.
  • Near the end of the study, the sponsoring committee gives an oral examination to the student concerning the project and the immediately related area of study. The sponsoring committee then submits to the Undergraduate Academic Programs Council a recommendation for or against granting honors. The major professor is responsible for assigning a grade to the independent study hours.
  • Following the oral examination, but no later than two weeks before the final faculty meeting of the final term of the study, the student makes accessible to the faculty the product of the study. Copies of written documentation, provided by the student, are to be placed in the library.
  • The Undergraduate Academic Programs Council makes a recommendation to the faculty for or against granting honors. Faculty approval of the Undergraduate Academic Programs Council's recommendation is necessary to grant the student Departmental Honors.

Bluffton requires a comprehensive assessment for each senior in his/her field(s) of study. The purpose of the assessment is to give students opportunity to demonstrate their ability to correlate and apply knowledge they have obtained in their studies in major and related fields. The evaluation of students' performance becomes part of their permanent records. 

The form of the comprehensive assessment will vary among departments. In some it is a written examination; other departments may choose to require some other method to evaluate a student's performance such as standardized tests, portfolios or oral interviews.

Bluffton University currently grants five degrees: the bachelor of arts, the bachelor of science in nursing, the master of arts in education, the master of arts in organizational management and the master of business administration. 

 Graduation requirements

A student seeking a degree must meet the requirements for graduation stated in the catalog in effect at the time of the student's entrance. If requirements affecting a student have changed since entrance to the university, the faculty will decide whether the new requirements are binding. Exceptions to requirements may be made by the academic affairs office.

Following are general requirements for the baccalaureate degree:

  • completion of 124 hours of academic work;
  • completion of the requirements for the general education program;
  • completion of the arts and lecture requirement;
  • completion of the language entrance requirement;
  • participation in institutional assessment activities;
  • completion of a program of study in a major with a GPA of 2.0 within the major program (in some majors 2.5 is required);
  • a GPA of at least 2.0 overall;
  • a minimum of 30 semester hours at Bluffton University;
  • a minimum of 24 of the last 30 hours completed at Bluffton University;
  • satisfactory achievement in the departmental senior comprehensive exams;
  • an affirmative recommendation of the faculty based on the student's academic record and personal character; and
  • participation in the baccalaureate and commencement services, unless exception is granted by the dean of academic affairs.

Degrees are granted four times a year, at the end of each semester and at the end of the summer sessions. To be assigned a particular graduation date students must have completed graduation requirements within 21 days after that graduation date.  Candidates for degrees must complete an online Application for Graduation provided by the registrar's office no later than the beginning of the semester preceding the one in which the degree is to be secured. There is only one commencement service, which is in the spring. Diplomas are distributed only to students who have participated in graduation ceremonies or have been exempted from participation by the dean of academic affairs.  For detailed graduation information please see our graduation procedures for students.

Upon completion of a degree, the transcript for that degree is sealed: the hours, GPA, majors or minors earned for that degree will not be changed.

A second bachelor's degree in any of our undergraduate majors or in one of our degree completion programs may be granted to a graduate of Bluffton or to a graduate of another regionally accredited institution. 
Applicants for a second bachelor's degree will meet with admissions staff from the office of adult and graduate studies and must meet the minimum requirements for admission as a post baccalaureate student. Admission to Bluffton will be based on the applicant's cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 and good standing at the last institution attended.
Graduation requirements
To earn a second bachelor's degree, students must successfully complete:
  • a minimum of 30 additional semester hours of credit at Bluffton beyond completion of the first degree;
  • a minimum of 24 of the last 30 hours completed at Bluffton University;
  • combined credit in both degrees which add up to at least 150 semester hours;
  • all requirements for the major including departmental senior comprehensive exams;
  • a general education program as part of the first degree or completion of Bluffton's general education program; 
  • the cross-cultural requirement either through options offered by Bluffton or through comparable course work;
  • 3 semester hours of biblical studies and theology by completing REL 100 Introduction to Biblical Worldview, REL 200 Introduction to Biblical LiteratureBMP 407 Faith and Community, or a comparable course from an Anabaptist perspective;
  • BENV 400 Christian Values in a Global Community or BMP 410 Living in the Global Community;
  • a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the second degree and the new major;
  • an affirmative recommendation of the faculty based on the student's academic record and personal character;
  • participation in the baccalaureate and commencement services, unless exception is granted by the dean of academic affairs.
To qualify for academic honors in a second bachelor's degree, the student must earn the requisite grade point average in all Bluffton hours taken after completion of the first degree.

July 2023