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UC Santa Barbara General CatalogUniversity of California, Santa Barbara

Quarterly Enrollment Limits

Undergraduate Students. Minimum Cumulative Progress (MCP) is a policy designed and approved by the faculty to provide important guideposts to ensure timely degree completion. The MCP requirement establishes a reasonable expectation of student workload. For undergraduates, the average academic study load is 15 units per quarter; the minimum full-time study load is 12 units. For more information concerning MCP requirements refer to the College of Engineering ( and College of Letters and Science ( websites.

Students who are not able to carry at least 12 units per quarter must petition to register in a deficit program (or part-time status) at the time of registration. Students may petition for permanent approval of deficit programs. Under certain conditions, reduced fees may be available through the Office of the Registrar for undergraduate students who have advance permission to carry 10 or fewer units per quarter. Requirements regarding reduced fees can be found on the Office of the Registrar's Fee Reduction page.

Warning: Financial aid students who receive a Pell Grant, a Cal Grant A, a Cal Grant B, and/or UCSB Scholarships will have these grants reduced if they receive a fee refund as a result of their deficit load program. In most cases, the financial aid reduction will exceed the fee refund; thus, it is highly recommended that grant recipients consult with the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships prior to applying for a deficit load. 

Students who are approved for a permanent deficit load automatically receive the fee refund and do not have the opportunity to decline it. Students who are on a deficit load program for only one quarter and choose to apply for a fee refund must do so through the Office of the Registrar prior to the published deadline.

All students receiving Pell Grants or Cal Grants will have those grants reduced if they are enrolled in less than 12 units. Additionally, students who receive UCSB Scholarship will have their award reduced if they are in less than 6 units. This enrollment measurement is taken on census date of each quarter, which is the day after the deadline for adding classes.  Please note that “variable unit” course units will be counted according to the number of units shown on the student’s registration record on census date. The units earned at the end of the quarter are not used in this unit count. Such unit reductions may involve billing the student’s BARC account for the amount of the reduction. If a student’s grant is reduced or cancelled based on census date units, it cannot be increased or reinstated if the student adds more units at a later date.

The maximum number of allowable units for undergraduates each quarter varies among the three colleges. These limits are indicated in the college publications and in GOLD. Students who wish to enroll in more than the maximum number of allowable units must petition to their college for an excess program at the time of registration.

Graduate students. Continuous registration (Senate reg. 275A) is required of all graduate students. To achieve official registration status during the academic year (Fall, Winter, Spring Quarters), students must be registered, with fees paid, in a minimum of 8 units (although 12 units per academic quarter is expected).

Graduate students may petition for Part Time Tuition Status. Eligibility and petition processes is detailed on the Graduate Division's website:

A student must have an official registration status in order to complete degree milestones, including:

  • Take or complete a master's comprehensive exam or project 
  • Advance to doctoral candidacy
  • File a thesis or dissertation
  • Have a degree awarded 

Official registration status is required for the following privileges:

  • Employment in an academic appointment title (TA, GSR, Reader, Tutor)
  • Campus services (e.g., Library privileges, University housing, Student Health Services)
  • Receive financial aid (loans, fellowships)
  • Defer loan repayment
  • International student immigration status

Changes in course enrollment. After registration, changes in course enrollment are only allowed with the necessary approvals and no later than the published deadlines for that quarter. Such changes include dropping or adding courses and changing grading options. After the published deadline date to drop, add, or change grading option, a schedule change fee is assessed for each course action. Unapproved withdrawal from, or neglect of, a course in which a student has enrolled in will result in a failing grade. See the Office of the Registrar's Calendars and Deadlines page for quarterly deadlines and information.