Chapter 2 - Enrollment, Registration, Tuition and Fees

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2.1 - Enrollment Policies

Registration processes are administered through the Office of the Registrar. Policies regarding tuition, fees, and residency should be directed to the Registrar.

All students who attend classes at ISU must register and pay assessed tuition and fees. The ISU Office of the Registrar’s website at is the official source of information about registration for all students at ISU. Specific dates for registration are listed:

  • on the Registrar’s Web page,
  • on the University Calendar, and
  • in the Iowa State Daily

Registration for summer session should be completed during the spring at the same time as registration for fall semester. All students are encouraged to register for courses on the Web through AccessPlus. Detailed instructions are provided at

2.1.1 Full-Time Status

During the academic year, graduate students not on assistantship must be registered for a minimum of nine credits to be considered full-time students or five credits to be considered half-time students. Students on an assistantship appointment during the academic year are considered full-time. 

2.1.2 Credit Load Limit 

Registration in credit courses is limited to a maximum of 15 credits per semester (10 credits for summer session) for graduate students, per Board of Regents. Maximum limits for graduate students are shown in the following table: 

Appointment Base  Semester  Summer Session 
no appointment  15 credits  10 credits
1/4 - time or less  15 credits  10 credits
over 1/4 - time to 1/2 time  12 credits  6 credits
over 1/2 - time to 3/4 - time  9 credits  5 credits

The credit-hour limits for graduate students may be exceeded only in exceptional circumstances with the written recommendation of the major professor. For more information on registration requirements for those students on assistantship appointments, see Graduate Students on Assistantship in Chapter 3

2.2 - Registration Policies

A graduate student is required to be registered during the following: 

  • Preliminary and final oral examinations 
    • In cases where the term of degree conferral is after the term of the final oral examination, the registration requirement is met during the term of the final oral exam.  
  • Assistantships that are more than 5 class days  
  • Every fall and spring between the preliminary oral exam and final oral exam 

Once registered, the graduate student is responsible for all tuition and fees. Tuition and fee schedules for the current year are published on the Registrar’s website at For more information on fee payment options and other concerns, browse the Account Receivables website at

2.2.1 Doctoral Post-Prelim Continuous Enrollment 

Doctoral students who have completed coursework and passed (full or conditional) the preliminary oral examination are required to register each fall and spring term, regardless of whether university facilities, equipment, or staff time are used in person or in absentia. 

Continuous registration may be maintained by taking 1) required and/or elective courses or research hours to complete the plan of study or 2) Doctoral Continuous Registration (GR ST 681A). Doctoral Continuous Registration (GR ST 681A) requires a one credit hour tuition and fees payment and is not allowed on the POSC. Registration for GR ST 681A is required only in the fall and spring terms. 

2.2.2 Required Registration During Graduate Assistantships

The Graduate College requires that graduate assistants register for a minimum of one credit each term that they hold an appointment. 

If an appointment encompasses fewer than five class days, no registration is required. Assistants who do not register by midterm of the current term will be registered by the Graduate College; applicable tuition and late fees will be added to their university bill. The minimum registration requirement for a graduate assistant is one credit (GR ST 681B or 681C meets this one credit requirement). 

2.2.3 Required Registration for Preliminary and Final Oral Exams

Doctoral students must register during the term of the preliminary oral examination, and all graduate students must register during the term of the final oral examination for a minimum of 1 credit or for Examination Only (GR ST 681B) if no course work is needed. Examination Only (GR ST 681B) requires payment for one credit hour tuition and fees and is not allowed on the POSC. If students take the final oral examination between terms (including the first day of classes), registration can be either for the term before or the term after the examination. A student who fails to register as specified above must complete the appropriate registrations before the "Graduate Student Approval Form" is signed by the Graduate College. 

Graduate students who are not required to take a final oral examination should complete all required coursework on the POS before or during the term of graduation. Any transfer credits must be completed the term before the graduation term and follow normal transfer rules

2.2.4 Registration After Graduation

Upon conferral of a graduate degree, there will be a hold on future registration. A graduate student must be actively pursuing a Program of Study, or be classified as a nondegree graduate student, to enroll in graduate classification. The student must apply to pursue an additional Program of Study if they wish to continue graduate enrollment. Several options are available to students who wish to continue taking classes (see Chapter 7 for more information on releasing the graduation hold). 

2.2.5 Registration/Schedule Changes

After a student has enrolled for classes, registration is completed for the semester unless the student wishes to change the class schedule. Changes must be processed before the deadlines printed in the university calendar, available on the Registrar’s website at in the ISU Schedule of Classes. Students who fail to attend class are not dropped automatically; they must submit a “Request for Withdrawal” form. Consult the ISU Schedule of Classes for instructions on dropping and adding classes during the three periods of the term. 

2.2.6 Audit Registration

Audit registration means taking courses without receiving formal credit. The audit policy provisions are as follows: 

  • Instructors must approve ALL audits. 
  • Students must register for audits by day 10 of the semester. 
  • Changes to or from an audit must be made in the first 10 days of the semester. 
  • Students are assessed tuition and fees as though they were taking the course for credit. 
  • The course DOES NOT count in determining full-time student status. 

Audited courses do not appear on the student’s permanent record unless the “Audit(s) to Appear on Transcript” form is completed and signed by the student, course instructor, and major professor. Copies of this form, which are available from the Graduate College website, must be filed with the Graduate College, 1137 Pearson Hall. (For a list of Graduate College forms, check the Graduate College’s website at After the fifth class day, if a student changes a regular course to an audit, that course will appear on their permanent record as a drop. Audits are not acceptable as registration for loan deferments. 

Audits may be listed on the plan of study, but do not carry credit. 

2.2.7 Off-campus Registration

Students who take off-campus courses taught by members of the graduate faculty must register for off-campus credit. Only students who are enrolled in graduate off-campus degree programs and who register for research credit (599 or 699) as part of the program will be allowed to register in an off-campus section of the research course. 

However, if an off-campus student is enrolled only in research credits, they must be registered for the Graduate College minimum of one credit. Registration in these sections will be restricted to students who are in the off-campus program. Thus, graduate students in on-campus programs will not be allowed to register for an off-campus section as a mechanism to avoid or lower tuition and/or fees. Instructions for registering for off-campus credit courses are available from the website at

2.2.8 Reentry Registration 

Reentering graduate students with active status do not need to complete a reentry application, but they should contact their major professor(s) to select courses and to obtain registration information. Students with inactive status must undergo a reinstatement process. Students enter inactive status when they have not been registered for four consecutive terms excluding summer.

2.3 - Special Populations

2.3.1 ISU Staff Members and Credit Load Limit

Any full-time member of the research, instructional, or extension staff at the rank of instructor, research associate, or assistant scientist may carry up to six course credits per semester and three credits per summer session, subject to the approval of the head of the department or section and provided it does not interfere with other duties. This privilege may be extended to members of the research, instructional, or extension staffs at the rank of assistant professor with approval of the college dean and the Dean of the Graduate College. Staff members at the rank of associate professor or professor cannot become candidates for graduate degrees from ISU.

2.3.2 International Students Taking CPT or OPT 

International students may be required or may choose to supplement their regular coursework with Curricular Practical Training (CPT), or they may wish to engage in Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completing their programs at ISU. 

CPT is an academic learning experience (sometimes an internship) related to the major field of study that allows students to apply the knowledge that they gained through their coursework in a business environment. Students can engage in CPT while they are still completing their programs at ISU. Participation in CPT is authorized by the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) after a student submits an electronic application. A student needs to be enrolled in a CPT-related course each semester they engage in CPT. Some students may use internship coursework credits. If no formal instruction is included as a part of CPT activities, an international graduate student may opt to take an internship/practicum course for R credit. If an internship course is not available in the student’s discipline, they may take GR ST 697 for R credits. However, GR ST 697 is acceptable only for students engaging in full-time CPT. Similarly, departmental courses like this cannot be used for part-time CPT. The internship R credits may not be used to meet the registration requirement for the term of the preliminary or final oral examination. If the CPT is related to a student’s research, they may use research credit registration for CPT. 

OPT, authorized by the U.S. Federal Government, allows a student to work in the U.S. in a job related to the student’s major for up to 12 months after completing their program at ISU. Note that a student is considered to have completed their program at the end of the semester in which they have defended the dissertation/thesis/creative component. Students should apply for OPT well in advance of completing their programs, as the OPT authorization process can take more than three months. Furthermore, students who pursued a STEM major are eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of their OPT. There are additional requirements which should be reviewed when considering the STEM OPT extension. 

The complete information about CPT and OPT, is available on the ISSO website ( The International Student Advisers at the ISSO will also be able to answer any questions about the specifics of CPT and OPT

2.4 - Withdrawals and Cancelations

2.4.1 Withdrawal from Registration 

Withdrawal is not permanent for graduate students; it always applies to a specific term. Reentry is activated when registration for a future term occurs. To withdraw for a specific term, a student should consult the Office of the Registrar and request an academic withdrawal.

2.4.2 Cancelation of Registration

Students wishing to cancel registration in coursework must call or write the Office of the Registrar before the first day of classes to avoid tuition assessment. A letter of confirmation is sent to each student from whom notification is received. A student who calls should request the name of the person taking the call and make a record of the name as well as the time and date of the call. Beginning the first day of classes, students must formally withdraw from the university in order to terminate their registration. 

2.4.3 Doctoral Post Prelim Continuous Registration

If a temporary lapse in a student’s academic program is required due to military service, medical leave, maternity leave, or personal/family leave, a doctoral student may petition the Graduate College to be allowed to register for Doctoral Post Prelim Registration (GR ST 680), which allows for the assessment of a special minimum fee only. Note that registration in GR ST 680 1) is not allowed after the completion of the final oral examination, 2) is not sufficient registration for the term the preliminary or final oral examination is taken, 3) does not defer student loans, 4) needs to be requested each term, and 5) is required only in the fall and spring terms. 

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