Since the UNC System’s Board of Governors meeting in November, students have been worrying about the proposed and considerably shorter drop/add period. Currently, the course adjustment period is decided by individual universities. The new policy proposes a streamlined 10-day adjustment period for all UNC-System schools. This is a severe cut from the nearly midterm drop date we now enjoy, eight weeks after the start of the semester.
Tom Ross, president of the UNC System, spoke at the N.C. State Student Senate meeting Wednesday night. As a proponent of the adjustment, he argued that a consequence of having a long course drop window is that many students currently are not able to register for graduation-required classes because some students fill the seats, only to drop the course mid-semester. But because seniors are allowed to enroll first, this should technically not be an issue. Additionally, college is expensive, and anyone who wishes to prolong the process is doing so out of necessity, not laziness.
Ross also said, “We are under a good bit of scrutiny to become more efficient, and one of the measures of efficiency is the cost per degree.” He proposed that the new policy will help students graduate on time, saving financial aid and loan money. But this may not be true on an individual basis, based on the number of credit hours different majors require. This argument also does not hold against students who receive no financial aid or loans. We have plenty of five-year seniors on campus: They’re called engineers.
One theory behind the policy is that by decreasing the number of drop days, students will have more incentive to complete all courses. However, this may lead to lower GPAs as students will only have 10 days to decide if a course is too difficult or time-consuming for their current schedule. Some classes only meet once a week, so you will have to decide after only two class meetings if the course is too challenging. More often than not, students do not have grades within the first ten days of classes, meaning there is no real basis to judge a course’s difficulty.
BOG policy suggests, “Students are expected to complete all the courses for which they are registered at the close of the Course Adjustment Period.” Those who withdraw after the adjustment period ends will receive a “W” on their transcripts, indicating that they chose to withdraw. These count as attempted hours. Chancellor Randy Woodson said at the Student Senate meeting that withdrawals do not affect permanent GPAs. However, according to the BOG policy manual, students who attempt more than 140 hours to complete a baccalaureate degree will face a 50 percent tuition surcharge.
Furthermore, the “W” will create a stigma upon which employers and graduate admissions offices may look negatively. The BOG should be working to build its students’ resumes, not implementing policies that could decrease their chances of being hired or succeeding academically.
Ross referred to N.C. State and UNC-Chapel Hill as “outliers” on this particular issue. This is due to the fact that many other schools have a much shorter drop period than we now have instated. The Daily Tar Heel published an editorial regarding the issue. Its editorial board made the point that shortening the drop period would discourage students from exploring interesting courses that are not in their field of study. It is clear that this change in policy is not popular among both institutions. We would also appreciate if Ross could clarify his references to “efficiency,” his main justification to supporting the new drop date. We understand this boils down to inefficient use of money, but we’d appreciate if that was clearly communicated, then they could perhaps convince us better.
When asked if he was open to a compromise of say a four or six week drop rate, Ross responded, “What I am open to discussing is when the policy will take effect.” He said the decision will come no earlier than the end of this month and, if passed, will be implemented no sooner than the fall of 2013.