Arts & Culture / Mosaic / November 14, 2018

Withdrawal wariness: when taking the W isn’t a Win

Professor Chuck Schulz as he sits at his desk in the registrar office. (Rafael Cho/TKS)

If a class on an upcoming course schedule doesn’t suit a student, it’s better to find out sooner rather than later. Knox has an add/drop deadline that allows students to exit their course without any typical withdrawal repercussions. Still, the add/drop deadline is one week after classes begin, and the deadline to withdraw occurs in week eight.

Junior Anastasia Ellison believes that one week isn’t enough time for a student to determine whether or not they can handle a class.

“I feel like it should be two weeks, just so you can get a better idea of the course. In my opinion most classes will be easier during the first week,” Ellison said.

Class withdrawal is a fairly easy process: students need their form signed by their teacher, advisor and themselves before handing it in to the Registrar. Associate Dean Timothy Foster deals with student-academic interactions on campus. Many students consult him if they are considering a class withdrawal; especially if the withdrawal deadline has passed.

“If you withdraw from a class, there’s a W that appears on a transcript. That W does not affect your grade point average. It’s a way to keep your grade point average you lose a credit, but in a lot of ways that’s better than having an F on your transcript, in which case you still don’t get credit and it affects your grade point average,” he said.

In many instances, unpredictable events such as an illness or family death may dictate a student’s performance in a class.

“Some students that want to go to grad school, or think that their grade point average is an important part of their college experience and doing what they want to do in the future, there are those kinds of withdrawals,” Foster said. “It’s mostly about illness, a death in the family, they get behind, and they just can’t get caught up.”

While withdrawals are generally advised against unless completely necessary, there is a common disparity between U.S. students and international students when it comes to dropping a class. For international students taking on the typical three credit course load offered by the school, withdrawing from a class can interfere with their visa requirements for full-time student enrollment. To be a full-time student, Knox requires at least 2.5 credits to be taken each term; if an international student drops a course for one credit, they might only earn two credits, placing them below the threshold for their student visa qualifications.

“Lots of international students cannot withdraw from a class. It’s something that’s a little bit unfair I would say. One of the things that we [try to] do for international students in that kind of situation is say ‘Would you like to take this course Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory, instead of for a grade?’ That way, at least a student can get a U in a course, but it doesn’t affect their grade point average,” Foster said.

Dropping a class does impact finances, however. As students pay their term tuition fees in advance, they don’t receive a credit they’ve paid for as a part of full-time student costs. Sophomore Lola Stam was surprised to not receive a refund after she withdrew from a class last term.

“I took an art class over last Spring Term. I did not really like the professor, he was really mean to the students, so I withdrew under personal circumstances and I never got a refund for that class,” Stam said.

Withdrawals provide a better alternative to failing a class in a number of instances, however sufficiency in both the amount of classes taken each term as well as the grades earned are crucial aspects in maintaining Satisfactory Academic Progress standards, which are required for earning federal financial aid. For this reason, withdrawing from too many courses may interfere with financial aid eligibility.

Professor of Physics and Interim Registrar Chuck Schulz works regularly with the academic standing committee in an attempt to keep students on track toward a timely graduation within a five-year period at most. The committee implements, per federal regulations, progress measures such as academic probation and mandatory leave to ensure students are on track at federal and institutional levels.

“There’s been a process that I’ve been involved with of making Knox’s criteria for being on academic probation line up with the financial aid office criteria for financial aid probation. If you fail to earn enough credits per term, you can lose [federal] financial aid eligibility,” Schulz said.

Schulz reports that 152 withdrawals occurred this term. While he doesn’t track numbers yearly across all terms, he believes there’s a higher rate of withdrawals in fall terms with the arrival of new students. He also states that classes in STEM fields typically have higher rates of withdrawal than other classes, although there are exceptions. If a class has an unusually high rate of withdrawal, it is up to Dean Provost Kai Campbell to investigate.

“The Dean is in charge of the Academic Program, Dean Provost Campbell. He is certainly in the registrar’s office when there are issues like that, especially in a particular faculty member’s classes. It’s up to him to decide what’s appropriate: is it a result of just a particular group of students in the classes? Is it a pattern? He’ll work with a faculty member.” Schulz said.

Allie Glinski

Tags:  add/drop Chuck Shulz tim foster withdraw

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