Reduced Course Load

What is a reduced course load?

A student enrolled in less than a full course of study. Federal regulations allow for an RCL in limited instances if approved by a DSO.

What is full-time enrollment status? 

An international student on an F-1 visa is legally required to maintain full-time enrollment during the fall and spring semesters. F-1 students are not required to enroll in classes during the annual summer break or scheduled college recesses. However, if a student starts in February, March, or April, they must enroll as a full-time student (6 credits or equivalent in the Intensive English Program). Please note that students may only count a maximum of one online, distance education, or telecourse toward full-time enrollment. Full time at ECC is defined as:

  • 12 semester hours minimum per semester for college-level classes.
  • 20 clock hours per week per session for the Intensive English Program.

What are the consequences of dropping below a full course load?

An F-1 student who drops below a full course of study without the prior approval of the DSO will be considered out of status pursuant to 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(6)(iii). Falling out of F-1 status is a very serious violation of your responsibilities as an international student, and it can have long-term consequences on your immigration benefits in the U.S. A student who is out of status is no longer eligible for benefits such as practical training, on-campus employment, and travel signatures to re-enter the U.S. If a student fails to rectify their status, they are at risk of being deported and/or being unable to secure visas to enter the U.S. in the future.

Prior Approval Requirement


Reduced course load requests must be received at least two weeks before you anticipate reducing your course load. You must verify that your RCL request has been approved prior to registering for less than a full course load and/or before dropping a course that will result in less than a full course load. The submission of this form does not guarantee an RCL request will be approved. Please note that an RCL based on financial need is not a qualifying reason.

Special Documentation Required

  1. Students seeking an RCL during their final semester must submit a verification letter and education plan from the International Academic Advisor. 
  2. Students seeking an RCL for academic difficulty must present a typed letter from the International Academic Advisor verifying the need for an RCL. Students enrolled in the Intensive English Program who request an RCL based on initial difficulties with the English language must submit a letter from the Director of the Intensive English Program verifying this need.
  3. Students with a temporary, serious medical condition may apply for an RCL based on medical necessity provided they submit a letter recommending an RCL from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist to the DSO to substantiate the illness or medical condition. The letter cannot be dated more than 30 days before the start of the semester for which the RCL is requested. All letters must adhere to the following:
    • Typed on physician’s letterhead, dated, signed by the physician, and clearly states the physician’s contact information.
    • State that full-time enrollment is not advisable due to a medical condition for a specific semester.
    • Specify a recommended number of enrollment hours for the semester the RCL is requested.
    • Indicate a date the student is expected to resume a full course load. 

An RCL for medical reasons cannot exceed an aggregate of 12 months while the student is pursuing a course of study at a particular program level. If an RCL is requested beyond one semester, a student must submit a new request form and updated medical documentation.

Applying for a Reduced Course Load


You may begin the Reduced Course Load Application online or download and complete the Reduced Course Load - PDF.