To help you benchmark your posthumous degree policy against other institutions’ and consider the options if your policy is under review, we compared policies at 84 institutions for associate, bachelor’s and graduate programs.

Some policies were only a few lines long. Others detailed the process for approving the degree, how it would be noted on the transcript and the diploma, and when and where it would be presented.

Our analysis of the policies’ stipulations revealed common practices, including:

Completion requirements

Policies at all but two of the institutions contained requirements that students must have reached a particular point in their program to receive the posthumous degree, including:

• For associate degrees, institutions required that the student be “nearing completion,” within 10 hours or within 15 hours of finishing at the time of death.

• Among the 73 policies that applied to bachelor’s degrees, a few policies merely said the degree must be “substantially completed.” One required that general education requirements be met.

But most were more specific:

  • One required that the degree be completed but not conferred.
  • Twenty-one said that the student must be enrolled in the courses needed to complete the degree at the time of death.
  • Nineteen required that the student have senior status at the time of death. Plus, another 15 had hour or percentage requirements that would indicate senior standing (e.g., 75 percent complete; within 30 hours).

• Most graduate-level policies required the student to be enrolled in coursework at the time of death that would complete the degree, or, if a thesis or dissertation was required, a draft must have been submitted before the death.

Additional requirements

A few institutions required students to have a particular GPA to be eligible for a posthumous degree (e.g., 2.0 for undergraduates and 3.0 for graduate students).

Four institutions required that a student be in good financial standing to receive a posthumous degree.

Several would not grant the degrees to students who died committing illegal acts.

And two allowed exceptions to the requirements if the student who died was on active military duty, died during a heroic act, or performed other exemplary acts.

Alternate credentials

Fourteen of the 84 institutions offered an honorary credential for deceased students who did not qualify for the posthumous degree. Four of them required the student to have completed part of the degree to qualify, ranging from one full-time term to 90 credit hours.

Presenting the diploma

Forty-one policies specified when the diploma would be presented. Of those, 31 institutions present the diplomas at commencement if the family members want that. Nine award them to family members at a private ceremony, and one presents them to family members at an awards ceremony within the school.

Campus debate raises issues

During a recent review of the posthumous degree policy at the University of Florida, two camps advocated for their versions. One group, after researching policies at other institutions, wanted to award posthumous degrees only to students who had completed most requirements. A degree should represent a particular level of achievement, they reasoned.

But the other group argued that the institution could show compassion for grieving families by granting degrees to students at any point of enrollment. After all, the deceased student couldn’t use the credential in any way, and having the degree awarded gave great comfort to families.

After months of discussions and counter proposals, the Academic Policy Council made a compromise proposal that the Faculty Senate appears likely to approve.

For undergraduate students, the proposed policy requires that they completed 80 percent of requirements to be considered for a posthumous degree. That degree is reported to the Board of Governors.

But students at any point in their program may be awarded an “In Memoriam Degree.” These will not be reported to the board. Families will be presented with a diploma that looks much like other diplomas.