Minimum Enrollment

The Graduate School is currently operating under two policies regarding enrollment minimums in graduate programs. The UNC General Administration has established minimum enrollments for each major (regardless of location of delivery for now). Appalachian has established minimum enrollments for off-campus (and online) programs. There is no other specific minimum for on-campus programs at this time, although discussions are on-going.

UNC Defined Minimums

Every two years, the UNC General Administration requests reviews of graduate programs that are considered low productive. From the most recent (2013) UNC report:

Academic programs are considered to be low productive if they meet all of the following criteria:

Master's and Specialist degree majors:

  • Authorized to enroll students for at least six years
  • The number of degrees awarded in the last two years is less than 16
  • Enrollment in the most recent year is less than 23 (for EDS this number is 10) as counted at the fall semester snapshot
  • Degrees awarded are fewer than 10

Professional Doctoral degree majors:

  • Authorized to enroll students for at least eight years
  • The number of degrees awarded in the last two years are fewer than 31
  • Enrollment in the most recent year is fewer than 31
  • The number of degrees awarded in the most recent year are fewer than 16

Appalachian Off-Campus Minimum Enrollment Policy

After review of the costs of offering coursework at remote sites and online (including faculty remuneration, travel, facility rental, library, and other costs), the Provost's Council approved the following minimum enrollment guidelines in Spring 2013.

These guidelines are based on an average "cost of doing business" and assume that 12 graduate students enrolled in 6 hours per term will be the absolute minimum enrollment to assure a break-even situation for the program.

New and Continuing Distance Education Program Enrollment
Policy on Minimum Admission Requirements


The decision to start a new program, regardless of the delivery modality or level, represents a
commitment to active students to provide them with the opportunity to achieve their educational
goal. Programs with low enrollments are a financial challenge to the university that frequently
result in a less than optimal experience for students and instructors. Thus, the following policy
and procedures serve to guide the initiation of new, and continuation of existing programs that
are delivered in partnership with the Distance Education Office (DE).

Definition of Terms

Start: The launch or initiation of a sequence of courses that constitute a program of study,
whether delivered onground or online, or to a cohort or in a rollingstart
Cohort: A group of students who are admitted in a specific semester in a given academic year
and matriculated through a set sequence of courses at a particular site or online. Should a
cohort student need to take a term off, continuation in the program is often dependent on
whether another cohort will be offered.
RollingStart Format: A program whose schedule of courses enables ongoing
admission in most, if not all, academic terms. RollingStart programs enable students greater flexibility,
including accommodating their need for breaks in their studies.
Teach out: The process of ceasing new student enrollment and assuring that all active students
have access to all of the remaining courses in their program of study.


Graduate DE programs (cohorts or initial rolling admission) with fewer than 15 admitted
applicants and undergraduate DE programs with fewer than 18 admitted applicants on the
application deadline can not be approved to start by the Division of Educational Outreach and
Summer Programs unless an exception is granted as outlined below. Further, in any given
semester rollingstart formatted programs in which the total number of enrolled students
(combination of continuing students and new admits) falls below 12 for a graduate program or
15 for an undergraduate program will immediately cease new admissions at that site (or online)
and will be required to begin a teachout process for all existing active students.


To facilitate this policy, DE will make available a report that delineates the status of each
DEdelivered program scheduled in the next term. Four weeks prior to the application deadline
for a given term DE will publish to all concerned parties (including the Graduate School, the
college, the department, etc.) a status report identifying those programs that are in danger of not
meeting the required minimum number of students. Once this warning is issued the program
and dean’s office will develop a plan to a) recruit sufficient students, b) delay the start if
indicated and appropriate, c) seek an exception as outlined below, or d) cancel the program. DE
staff will be available to provide input into this process as needed. Once the deadline has
passed, the DE office will “greenlight” those cohorts with either sufficient numbers (as outlined
in the Policy section above) or those that have been granted an exception (see below). DE will
subsequently consult with “redlighted” programs (those that do not admit the required number
of students) on a teachout plan for remaining students.


Exceptions are anticipated and can be made by the provost in consultation with the college
dean and DE. An exception might be granted when a) grant funding allows for low enrollments,
b) a college chooses to average enrollments across more than one existing cohort, or c) a
college or department chooses to continue with low enrollment to balance faculty workloads.
Notification by the college of all exceptions will be made to all concerned parties in a timely