Our view: Give an ‘F’ to student success initiative

Three hundred and fifty freshmen earned a grade point average less than 0.5 in the fall. But courtesy of a pilot academic dismissal policy that’s more lenient, 157 of those students returned to the university this semester.

Previously, all students with GPAs less than 0.5 were dismissed from the university – no questions asked. In Fall 2007, Kent State dismissed 572 undergraduate students because of this academic policy. The university only dismissed 232 undergraduates this fall, a sharp decrease likely attributed to the generous dismissal policy for freshmen.

But the good news for essentially failing students doesn’t end there. Those 157 freshmen are allowed to retake all their first semester classes, disposing of their initial poor grades. Individual colleges are also offering supplemental classes aimed at helping boost those students’ performances.

In theory, improving student success should always receive applause. After all, college can be a big adjustment, and not everyone adapts at the same pace. This initiative, however, seems to blur the line between charitable and self-serving.

Kent State has been trying to increase the quality of its students for several years. According to high school GPAs and standardized tests, the current freshman class is one of the brightest in years. Why cater to low-achieving students and, in effect, stagnate Kent State’s efforts to attract and retain better students? That seems counterproductive.

We’re not referring to borderline students struggling to manage a full course load. We fully support helping those students get back on track. But straight Ds equates to a 1.0 GPA. Imagine what grades create a GPA lower than 0.5.

The pilot dismissal policy seems more like a business-generated attempt to keep students in the classroom – and thus, paying tuition – than a good-faith effort of improving student success.

Coincidentally, the new Responsibility Center Management budget model favors colleges with greater enrollment. As colleges begin to balance their own budgets, every dean will be paying close attention to enrollment because tuition money will flow directly to the colleges, rather than being filtered through the administration.

Given the impending scenario, it seems natural for the university to want to keep every student possible. But the question becomes: At what price?

Sure, improving freshman retention yields many benefits, including some for the administration and faculty. If the university meets retention goals, the administrators and faculty receive bonuses. Sacrificing the quality of students to do so, however, won’t help build the well-renowned university administrators want Kent State to become.

We value student success initiatives – but not blatant hand-holding of low-achieving students for ulterior motives. Don’t set lower standards for Kent State students. We deserve more credit.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater’s editorial board.