Officials should expand freshman forgiveness to all undergraduates

The largest freshman class since 2008 stepped onto campus last academic year, but only 45 of those students took advantage of the opportunity to retake a class in which they received a poor grade.

The freshman forgiveness policy is intended to help freshmen adjust to GW by allowing them to retake a course in which they earned a D+ or lower. But there are other reasons why a student may perform poorly in a class other than acclimating to campus. The program gives freshmen a second chance at a class that may have hurt their GPAs, and all students should have the same opportunity.

The freshman forgiveness program ignores students who may struggle in class later on in their college careers for reasons like illness, poor mental health or family emergencies. All students could face difficulties in college that are out of their control, but the freshman forgiveness program only aims to help students who are struggling with adjusting to college. Officials should recognize that all students need a fair shot at earning a decent mark in a difficult class. The University should expand the freshman forgiveness program so everyone has a chance to maintain good academic standing throughout their college careers.

Students could develop physical and mental health problems throughout college, and extending the forgiveness policy to upperclassmen could help them focus on themselves for a semester. Although most professors are sympathetic to the reasons a student may need to miss class, grades still suffer when a student does not attend. Other than withdrawing from a course altogether, the University does not offer many protections for students who struggle with class in a semester. Expanding the forgiveness policy to all undergraduates would give students a chance to recuperate after a difficult semester.

Personal issues, like a family emergency or falling out with friends at school, could also prevent students from succeeding in the classroom. Students who are distracted with personal problems throughout college could let their grades fall. Those students should not be punished for facing these issues after their freshman year because family emergencies and relationship problems can happen to anyone.

Allowing all students a second chance at a class is not a new idea. Ohio State University expanded a similar policy to GW’s in 2015 to include all undergraduate students, and a significant number of students have taken advantage of the program. Georgia Tech University also extended its program to include all undergraduates this academic year. Students at Brown University have the opportunity to change their course grade from a letter to a pass/fail during the first four weeks of the semester. These programs give students a chance to maintain good academic standing throughout their college careers, not only during their freshman year.

Only two of the University’s 12 peers – the University of Southern California and Tulane University – allow freshmen to retake a class from their first year. Boston, Wake Forest and Northeastern universities, and the universities of Pittsburgh and Rochester allow all undergraduate students to retake courses without a mark on their GPAs. Some schools within Syracuse University allow students to retake courses for higher credit without impacting their GPA, and New York University allows students to retroactively change their final grade to a pass/fail, instead of a letter grade. Georgetown and Tufts universities and the University of Miami have no forgiveness programs.

Expanding grade forgiveness to all undergraduates would help students who struggle at any point during their college career. Students who want to improve grades, regardless of when they earned the grade or what grade they received, should have the opportunity to do so. Students are not perfect, and officials can show that they understand the struggles of students by expanding freshman forgiveness to involve all students.

Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, a junior majoring in political science and psychology, is the opinions editor.

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