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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

91% of colleges let students erase low grades

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Is that D in Macroeconomics going to hurt your chances of getting into business school? Take the course again to raise your grade and keep that D from being counted in your grade point average.

Grade forgiveness — letting students erase low grades by retaking the course — is pushing up grade point averages at U.S. colleges and universities, writes Jeffrey Selingo in The Atlantic.

According to a forthcoming survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, a trade group, some 91 percent of undergraduate colleges and 80 percent of graduate and professional schools permit students to repeat courses to improve a grade. When this practice first started decades ago, it was usually limited to freshmen, to give them a second chance to take a class in their first year if they struggled in their transition to college-level courses. But now most colleges, save for many selective campuses, allow all undergraduates, and even graduate students, to get their low grades forgiven.

At Ohio State, which expanded its grade-forgiveness policy to all undergrads three years ago, about 10 percent of students retake courses to raise their grades each year, reports Selingo. Of those who failed the first time, about 15 percent fail again.

A is now the most common grade given to college students, he writes. “In 2015, 42 percent of grades were top marks, compared to 31 percent in 1988.”

My high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Carmichael, would let students retake tests.  He said as long we learned the material by the end of the semester, that was all that mattered. Not many did retakes: It was easier to study the first time and take the test once. (It was a “Level 1” class, so nearly all of us had good work habits.)

If a college student has to retake the entire class, which takes time, effort and money, then presumably they’ve earned the second-chance grade fairly. It’s not like awarding high school credit for two weeks of credit-recovery worksheets.

Is it dishonest to raise the GPA by ignoring the first-time flub?

Graduating cum laude is the norm at some colleges, writes Melissa Korn in the Wall Street Journal.  “Nearly half of students who graduated from Lehigh University, Princeton University and the University of Southern California this year did so with cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude honors, or their equivalents. At Harvard and Johns Hopkins, more got the designations than didn’t.”

We’re all special.

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