NKU lowers standard for transfers

A new academic policy at Northern Kentucky University will allow future transfer students to receive credit for courses where they earned a grade of D+, D or D-.

The policy will take effect for all new transfer students who enroll in classes beginning in the fall 2004 semester.

The current grade transfer policy states that a transfer student must have earned a minimum grade of C- to be awarded credit.

“It seemed that we were requiring more of our transfer students,” said Vice Provost Paul Reichardt.

According to Reichardt, NKU is the only public university in the state that does not currently give credit to transfer students for D grades.

“It will bring us in line with the other institutions,” Reichardt said. “If [other larger universities] are doing it, it can’t be that bad.”

“The Council on Postsecondary Education had been suggesting [this] for a number of years to all the public universities,” Reichardt said.

This is one of the three main motives for the policy change, according to a memorandum sent to university administrators from Reichardt.

Additional rationales include treating transfer students and native students equally, and becoming more competitive in recruiting transfer students.

“There’s a general principle in terms of transfer work that you’re supposed to treat your transfer students like you do your regular students,” Reichardt said. “The more you can align the way you’re treating transfers with the way you’re treating your native students, the more solid your policy is.

“Here we were saying to the transfers, ‘We won’t give any credit for a D.’ Here we were saying to the native students, ‘Your D’s are all right.’ So, there was a kind of a mismatch there.”

Reichardt also explained how this policy might help increase the number of transfer students that the university recruits.

He believes that if a prospective transfer student is considering NKU, attaining credit for a course and not having to retake it may be an added incentive.

Right now, Reichardt sees this as something other universities have to offer that NKU does not.

“I am convinced by the argument that we ought to be treating all students alike,” he said. “And if the other institutions that they’re coming from are accredited, and we’re accepting their other grades, why wouldn’t we accept the D grades?”

Reichardt has received a range of responses from faculty, noting that they are “divided” on the policy change.

Kirsten Fleming, department chair of mathematics and computer science, has decided to simply accept the new policy.

“We have to do it,” Fleming said. “If I can’t control something, then it’s the case of making the best of it.”

Although Fleming agrees that the policy is important in the sense that all students should be treated equally, some of the logistics pose a problem for her.

“I think that there’s another aspect of it that hasn’t quite been handled yet,” Fleming said.

“If we’re going to treat everyone the same, when those D’s come in, they should figure into the GPA. Because if [a native student] gets a D in a class it will go in [his or her] GPA, so if someone transfers a D it needs to go in their GPA as well, so that we’re treating everyone the same.

“If we’re treating everyone the same, then I’m happy.”

For Tom Zaniello, director of the honors program, this is a much bigger issue than just receiving credit for a course.

“I sometimes worry that people only talk about the credits, and they don’t talk about the bigger implication, which is how to make students better learners and how to make professors better teachers,” Zaniello said.

“The fact that they got the credits for the D, to me is bookkeeping, not the real solution or attack of the problem, which is we don’t want them to get D’s,” he said.

“How are we going to make sure they’re going to produce better results?”

“I think I would question giving credit for D’s in general,” Fleming said.

Because of the way the university is set up, Reichardt believes individual departments still have control over their own standards.

“Any academic program can say, ‘We don’t accept D’s. You can bring them in, you can count them as elective credit, but they’re not going to count toward our major,'” Reichardt said. “So we still got that standard, I think a very strong standard, in terms of our stance on D’s.”

Fleming said she is fully aware that this new policy will not affect her department.

“It makes no difference to the major whatsoever,” she said. “If someone takes Calc I and gets a D, we’re not going to let them into Calc II. If they take Calc I somewhere else and they get a D, we’re not going to let them in either.”

“Mainly what this touches on, I think, is the general education courses,” said Reichardt. “The Council on Postsecondary Education has for a long time now been pushing the public universities to be consistent among themselves as to what they’re counting for general education.”

Reichardt also believes that some people are under the false impression that this is a step backwards in light of the new initiative for admission standards, which could be implemented as early as fall 2005.

“This is perfectly consistent with the new admission standards,” Reichardt said.

“Faculty [members] are concerned about it because we weren’t giving any credit before and it looks like maybe on the surface that we’re lowering our standards,” he said. “But again, if you look at it from the perspective of what we’re doing for our own students, doing the same thing for the students coming in looks a little bit more reasonable.”

Under the new admission standards proposal, transfer students would continue to be admitted under the current policy, with the new stipulation that they must have a 2.0 GPA in order to be considered for regular admission.

“It means if they’re below 2.0 grade point average, then we have the right to take another look at them and decide whether or not we’re going to admit them.”

According to Reichardt, the proposed admission standards have been well received so far, although they are pending final approval by the Board of Regents.

“I think it will take a strong will for the institution to do it because it’s a big change,” Reichardt said.

“We have been an open admission university and people in the community have thought about us as letting everyone in, giving everyone a chance. And it’s true – we want to give people a chance. But we’ve found out there are some students that have so many academic deficiencies, that they don’t have much of a chance here, unless they can reduce the number of deficiencies.”

Reichardt also believes NKU’s situation has changed, as students now have the option of attending Gateway Community College.

He called the admission standard “a step in the right direction…toward making sure the students who are admitted really can do college-level work.”

Reichardt sees the D grade transfer policy change as a good step for the university as well.

“I think the D policy is defensible,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”