Grading system will not affect aid, faculty say

The plus/minus grading system will not affect student access to financial aid because grades on average are not expected to drop below minimum standards for receiving aid, said the chairman of the Faculty Senate Academic Excellence Committee Thursday. Chairman David Grant told Faculty Senate members that the federal minimum GPA requirement of 2.0 for aid recipients will remain consistent and grades on average are expected not to change.

The research was in response to a Nov. 1 forum where students voiced concerns that the implementation of a plus/minus system would lower grades on average, which would impact student financial aid packages.

“Most universities that have adopted this system find that the average GPA of the institution doesn’t change much,” Grant said.

However, Grant said the committee will monitor grades and compare averages to previous years after the system is implemented, which he hopes will happen by fall 2007.

Another issue raised at the Faculty Senate meeting concerned academic credit for class-related community service projects, or service learning.

“Service learning is not about academic credit for service learning, it’s about the act of doing service for teaching purposes,” said Cathy Avila-Linn, director of service learning.

Avila-Linn presented the example of a river restoration class in which students learn about the topic by restoring rivers.

She said service learning would be incorporated into classes as a lab, with a lab fee to defray transportation costs. “I do think service learning fits in every department,” said Avila-Linn.

Currently, the service learning program is funded by Student Affairs and a Vision in Action grant, but Student Development Services is in the process of applying for an Americorps grant from the federal government, Avila-Linn said.

Faculty Senate Chairman Andy Fort said he supported the project.

“This is something I think has interesting aspects to it,” Fort said.

Fort also spoke about proposed changes to the freshman common reading. Freshmen are required to read a compilation of articles and attend a discussion on them before entering TCU, but Fort suggested requiring incoming freshmen to read a book instead.

Fort said he will meet with students, faculty and staff March 28 to discuss the changes, and asked faculty members to volunteer to help run next summer’s common reading.

“We are going to need at least 60 faculty members, and 15 more if we include transfers,” Fort said.

Fort said greater retention occurs when students engage with professors early in their experience.