Penn State announced the enactment of a new “grade forgiveness” policy, allowing students the chance to potentially expunge grades of a D or lower from their respective grade point averages.
Through the policy, students attempting to expunge a grade from their GPA must retake the respective course and receive a grade higher than a D for grade forgiveness to count. Students are only permitted to re-take up to 12 credits for the purpose of grade forgiveness, which adds up to roughly three or four courses.
Although the original D or F letter grade obtained would not count toward the student’s GPA anymore, it would still appear on their transcript, showing both grades received in the course.
Many seem to be under the impression that the implementation of grade forgiveness could pose a crutch for "lazy" students who didn't try hard enough the first time they took a course. It's important to remember, though, that there are many reasons a student could receive a poor grade in a course — struggles related to mental and physical health, family matters, financial issues and more.
Further, some say that this policy would lessen the significance of a Penn State degree, and that many — who might struggle and fail to earn a degree from Penn State otherwise — could potentially still earn a degree if they have the ability to retake certain classes.
If a student is willing to retake a course and put in the work to receive a higher letter grade, why should they be denied that opportunity? If a student can prove they learned the material and pass the class, why does it matter if it took a second try?
Starting college can be a difficult and rough transition for many students, which can sometimes lead to students receiving lower grades than anticipated or desired. While some have argued the policy could lessen the value of earning a Penn State degree, the university’s implementation of a grade forgiveness policy proves the rigor of Penn State academics.
It is Penn State acknowledging that its academics are challenging, and choosing to understand that students — who earned their acceptances to Penn State — may fail in their attempts to learn.
However, in re-taking a course with the goal of achieving a specific letter grade, grade forgiveness also provides students the ability to learn from their mistakes through re-taking taking a course, with the hope of growing from their prior missteps.
Also, given that grade forgiveness can only be used on a maximum of 12 credits, a student could realistically only improve upon roughly one semester's worth of classes — still many credits, but not enough to save an entire degree.
After the announcement of this policy, some Penn State alumni voiced strong reactions, given that grade forgiveness was not an option while they were students. While they have every right to be frustrated over the fact that they could not have benefitted from grade forgiveness, there is no reason they should want to keep this opportunity from current Penn State students.
Penn State is certainly not the first university to implement a grade forgiveness policy. Many Big Ten schools — such as Ohio State University, University of Michigan, Rutgers University and Indiana University Bloomington — have already adopted policies of their own.
Other schools' policies vary with regards to qualifications for forgiveness, but for the most part give students a second chance to improve their GPAs.
Grade forgiveness provides students with a safety net to try and fail, and then hopefully try again and succeed — a challenge everyone faces at some point through education. How a student rises to the occasion in a situation like that can be just as important — if not more important — than the final letter grade a student receives.