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GRCC is implementing new grading options and policies exclusively for the Winter 2020 semester

Empty study rooms in the Cook Academic Hall of Grand Rapids Community College as students and professors are now doing all classwork from home while social distancing measures remain in effect as Michigan continues to fight COVID-19 (Hayley Babbitt/The Collegiate).

Following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order instructing people to “Stay Home, Stay Safe” while Michigan continues to aggressively fight against COVID-19, Grand Rapids Community College announced that the remainder of the Winter 2020 semester will be solely online. 

Brian Knetl, Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs at GRCC, is encouraging students to “stick with it and complete” their classes. However, given the “unusual circumstances this semester,” his office has released a few new options with regards to grading. These will be exclusive for the Winter 2020 semester. The main priority for the provost is to see students finish out the semester successfully.

Students are strongly encouraged to work with their academic advisor and financial aid specialist before making any decisions. 

“Make sure you talk with an advisor, your faculty member, your program director before you elect any of these options,” Knetl said. 

Students who wish to keep the grade they earned may do so. Taking credit/no credit and/or withdrawing from a class only apply to those who want to make that change. 

Below is an outline of the new grading options offered to GRCC students. 

Credit/No Credit
Students can petition their grade be changed from letter grade to CR/N at the end of the semester.

“Faculty are going to grade the classes just as they normally would,” Knetl explained. “Students will have an opportunity to see what their grade is and then decide if they want to keep that grade… or you can petition to have the grade changed to a credit/no credit.” 

The advantage of this option is that it will not impact a student’s GPA. However, it may hinder one’s ability to transfer those credits to another institution. Students who have employers paying their tuition should also consult with them before making any changes. 

While acknowledging that this will be a benefit for some students, it may have implications for future academic planning and financial aid. Knetl said, “you really, really need to consult with a faculty member.” 

Oftentimes, four-year institutions will not accept credits for classes that students received CR/N on their transcript. However, given the extenuating circumstances, the provost is “hopeful” that other colleges and universities will be more flexible. Knetl stressed that he “does not know for sure,” but has been in contact with the institutions they deal with most regularly and made them aware of this new option for GRCC students. 

“I have contacted our four-year partners that we deal with the most just to say, ‘Hey, we’re heading in this direction, I want you to have conversations about how you will accept these grades,’” Knetl said. Later adding that “community college leaders are talking about maybe looking at credit/no credit grades differently this semester for transfers.” 

Students who know what university they will be attending next should reach out to that school and speak with their advisors as well. 

GRCC administrators plan to keep students “well informed” as they continue to receive new information about this choice, Knetl said. 

Students can withdraw from a class and retake it either Summer 2020, Fall 2020, or Winter 2021. The deadline to make this decision is April 10

While encouraging students to complete their classes, Knetl said this option may be for those who have “insurmountable obstacles that they’re facing.” 

“We want to hold students harmless and give them the option to retake the class in summer, fall or next winter, without any course fees or tuition,” Knetl said.

Students can log into the GRCC Online Student Center and withdraw from a class by April 10 if they wish to do so. Again, it is “strongly encouraged” that students speak with their academic and financial advisors to understand the implications of this decision. 

Academic Standing
Students’ academic standing, including academic probation, will not be “adversely affected” by the grades they receive for the Winter 2020 semester.

The provost explained that if a student who is currently on academic probation does well this semester and is able to get out of academic probation, the college “will honor that.” However, academic standing will not be “negatively affected” by this semester. 

“All three of these are our best opportunities, our best options, for holding students as harmless as possible during this Winter 2020 semester,” Knetl said of the new options students now have.

Emphasizing that GRCC staff and faculty still desire to assist their students, Knetl said people should reach out to staff if they need help.

“Don’t be afraid. Now is the time where students really need to be honest and open with their faculty about some of the things that they’re facing,” Knetl advised. “Our faculty have done and will continue to do amazing things for our students.”

The provost is impressed by the way the staff and faculty at the college have stepped up to assist students as they transition to online learning. 

“The creativity, the intelligence, the ingenuity of the GRCC faculty has been amazing,” Knetl said, “and they have been working so hard to help students complete the semester.” 

Knetl added that these chaotic times have been made “much easier” with the support of the Raider community.