Around Tappan Square
No Entry No More
system adds Ds and Fs to student transcripts
by Courtney Mauk '03
A 32-year-old Oberlin tradition came to an end
in December when faculty members voted to eliminate the College's
credit/no entry grading option, in part to boost student retention
and four-year graduation rates. Adopted in 1970, the CR/NE system
allows students to take classes for credit without earning a letter
grade. Its benefit to students? Coursework below a C- level does
not appear on transcripts.
Proponents of the vanishing program say that CR/NE
has encouraged students to venture outside their fields of specialty
without the fear of damaging their GPAs. "Knowing I had that
option was why I took an extra class--Computer Science 100--even
though I didn't need the credits, nor did it fill any requirements,"
says Leslie Levine '03. "I actually learned a skill that has
been useful to me."
But the advantage of CR/NE have been overshadowed
by concerns that students are misusing the system as an informal
means of dropping classes without penalty. Such students take up
spaces in popular courses, which can prevent more committed classmates
from registering for them.
A new grading system, which will affect new students
in the fall of 2004, replaces CR/NE with a pass/no pass option.
A "P" will appear on transcripts for grades A through
D; an "NP" will indicate a failing grade. Although some
students will benefit from the change--a grade that is equivalent
to a D will be now be credited toward graduation--others are troubled
that an "NP" will be visible to graduate schools and prospective
In a related shift, the College will begin recording
grades of Ds and Fs earned through the traditional grading system.
Current-ly, any work below the C- level is considered not passing
and does not appear on student records.
"At other prestigious liberal arts colleges where
failing grades are put on transcripts, only 2 to 3 percent of students
receive Ds and Fs, whereas at Oberlin, approximately 7 to 8 percent
of grades are 'NE,' or not-passing. That's compelling data,"
says Dennison Smith, professor of neuroscience and psychology and
a member of the Educational Plans and Policies Committee, which
drafted the proposal.
"We concluded that one of the reasons for
the higher rate of non-passing grades here was not that Oberlin
is harder, but that some of our students prefer losing class credit
to receiving a lower grade on their transcripts. For some students,
the result of this strategy is to fall behind in earning credits
toward graduation, and that can lead to a failure to graduate."