GW may nix incomplete marks from transcripts

Faculty are contemplating a policy shift that would remove the unwanted “incomplete” mark from transcripts of students who do not complete a course.

For years, students have lamented the University’s policy on incomplete courses, which applies when students withdraw from courses for any reason – including due to medical concerns. Students often have to clarify the mark on their transcripts to employers or graduate school admissions officers because it comes with no explanation.

The Faculty Senate’s educational policy committee will consider the change this fall, which would bring the University in line with some its peer schools, including Boston University.

Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman, who called for the review, said he has questioned the idea of incompletes on transcripts, and has also had conversations with associate deans scrutinizing the policy.

“One of the things I always want to do is make sure we’re doing what helps our students out the most as they go forward and present their transcripts and stuff to employers, other grad schools,” he said. “On the other hand, I think we also want these transcripts to accurately reflect the record.”

Sophomore Megan Shah, who finished several courses at home in California last year for medical reasons, said the incomplete on her transcript is often interpreted negatively. Shah’s transcript shows the grades she received in her classes, but an ‘I’ is in front of them.

“It does make me nervous,” Shah, an international affairs major, said. “I’ve already had to explain this to employers. Because this was due to a serious medical issue, I thought my grades would be recorded like any other semester.”

Provost Steven Lerman said the policy change is best left up to faculty to decide.

“There are students who get incompletes because of illnesses or other things. It’s not clear that employers understand that nuance,” Lerman said. “On the other hand, there are cases that students get incompletes because they just didn’t get the work done, and one could argue that is at least useful information to a potential employer.”

New York University students who are unable to complete a course for a good reason receive incompletes until they make up the work. Boston University gives students up to a year to complete coursework if they have a valid reason to not complete the class on time.

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