Grading change concerns BGCC

Lindsey Reed

It’s a little more than a mile away.

Its enrollment is growing.

And some say its students may get hit the hardest.

It’s the community college – a place where changes from a proposed new grading system could mean the difference between a student moving to the main campus or staying put.

Sherry Reid, interim dean of the community college, said she is not convinced that a plus/minus grading system would make a huge difference.

While Reid said there would be some benefits, she’s not ready to switch.

“Our present system is working, so I don’t see the need in changing it,” she said.

Reid said students at the community college are currently required to have a 2.0 grade point average to transfer to the main campus or to pass a developmental course.

Under the current proposal in the University Senate, a C-minus would equal a 1.7 GPA, which would not be enough for a student to move on from a developmental class, such as English 055 to English 100, or transfer to the main campus.

“Policies on GPA would have to be re-examined,” Reid said. “Unless it would do a lot of good things, I don’t know if it would be worth the time and effort put into changing things.”

Regardless of the merits or disadvantages of a change in grading policies, the community college wants to be equally affected from decisions on the main campus, Reid said.

“We want to abide with the same policies,” she said. “The grade a student earns should mean the same as what they make on the Hill.”

Reid said there needs to be more research on the impact of the new grading system before a decision to change it takes place.

Brian Strow, an economics professor who proposed the plus/minus grading system, said a large percentage of community colleges are moving toward plus/minus systems.

“It would have a similar effect on all students,” he said.

Students would have to work harder to meet the 2.0 GPA requirements from the community college, Strow said.

Strow said he would not oppose a requirement to meet the needs of students with 1.7 GPAs.

Charles Borders, a history instructor and executive committee senate member representing the community college, said he sees benefits in a plus/minus grading system.

“I think it’s going to help most students in the long run,” Borders said.

Borders said some students are so concerned with maintaining a 4.0 GPA that they will withdraw from a class if they think it will lower their GPA, which doesn’t look good on transcripts.

While Borders sees benefits, he said the majority of professors at the community college don’t seem to be in favor of the change.

“I represent the community college, and I’m going to vote for what they want,” he said.

Despite the issue that some students near graduation would be affected by the switch, starting with incoming freshman would be more realistic but impractical, Borders said.

He said students would eventually adapt to the change.

“If they know the system is here, they can prepare for it,” he said.

Michelle Hollis, a math professor and senate member from the community college, said she thinks it is important to remember that all students would be affected differently by a change in the grading system.

“All students aren’t fighting for an A-plus,” she said.

Hollis said she is concerned because policies are related to a 2.0 GPA requirement, which could lead to changes in retention rates.

“I see a whole lot of policies and curriculum being rewritten to accommodate borderline students,” she said.

Hollis said she also worries that students would not be able to get accepted into another university if they had to transfer, because many colleges require at least a 2.0 GPA for entry.

She said many questions went unanswered in this month’s senate meeting.

She said some things, such as prerequisite requirements and scholarship requirements, would need to be addressed for senators to make accurate decisions.

“They haven’t taken all these little things into consideration,” she said. “I would like to hear more answers before I made a vote.”

Carroll said an attempt to increase student effort should not be a reason to implement a new grading policy.

“That’s the person’s responsibility – not the professor’s,” he said.

Steve Fitzpatrick, a freshman from Burlington, Vt., is currently taking a class at the community college and said he is against a change in the grading system.

“There’s no real reason to change it,” he said. “I think it’s going to hurt a lot more students than it would help – the dropout rate might even increase.”

Georgetown freshman Nicholas Reed said the plus/minus system could also affect more than just GPAs.

“It would very much influence my choice of classes,” Reed said.

He said there are better ways of getting students to work harder if effort is one of the reasons behind the idea of changing the grading system.

“The only way to make people work hard is for the professor to try to relate more to students and break down topics to real issues,” he said.

Deborah Lively, a biology and chemistry professor at the community college, said she favors the plus/minus grading system because it would give her the opportunity to reward her students that had higher averages.

“I support the plus/minus system because it more accurately reflects their grades and academic standards,” she said.

She said she is aware of students’ concerns, but said a change would still benefit students.

“I understand they’re not going to be happy, ” she said. “I see nothing wrong with rewarding those higher students.”

John Bradley, president of Student Government Association, said SGA representatives in the senate will be looking into the effect of plus/minus grading on the community college.

He said he is not sure of the degree in which the community college would be affected yet.

“If in fact it is implemented, we will look at what needs to be done as far as they’re concerned,” he said.

Reach Lindsey Reed at [email protected]