Swarthmore policy on Credit No Credit

Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) is Swarthmore's version of pass/fail. 

See the 2017-2018 catalog policy: 8.2.3 Credit/No Credit

New Policy starting Fall 2018

Memo from the Provost
Frequently Asked Questions

Memo from the Provost

To: Students in the classes of 2019, 2020, and 2021

From: Tom Stephenson, Provost

March 19, 2018

I am writing today to let you know about changes in the CR/NC policy that the Faculty adopted in February after long debate of a report from the Curriculum Committee.  These changes offer you a new option and other modifications about how the grades you earn in CR/NC courses appear on your transcript.

The new CR/NC policy takes effect in the fall of 2018 for all class years.

The important features of the new policy are the following:

  • The long-standing CR/NC policy that applies to the fall semester of the first year is unchanged, with the exception that the threshold for receiving a grade of CR on the transcript will be D- (and not D, as is currently the case).  This is consistent with one of our overriding principles in adopting the new policy: all passing grades should receive credit towards graduation.
  • After the fall semester of the first year, students may elect 4 CR/NC designations.  These designations must be made no later than the 9th week of the relevant semester and cannot be reused in subsequent semesters. This represents no change in the current policy.
  • In any course optionally elected CR/NC, students will have the option of removing the CR designation in order to uncover the underlying shadow letter grade no later than the second week of the following semester. (For graduating seniors, in the case of spring semester courses, the decision to uncover a CR designation must be made no later than Tuesday prior to commencement.) This course will count against the four optional CR/NC elections. (Note that fall semester, first year CR grades are never uncovered to reveal the shadow letter grade.)  
  • The option to uncover the shadow letter grade is a new element of the CR/NC policy, and is designed to allow students who have completed good work in a course optionally designated CR/NC to receive that recognition.  The Faculty hope that this will encourage more curricular exploration, which we consider to be the true intent of the CR/NC system.
  • After the fall semester of the first year, a student electing the CR/NC option and earning a C- or better will receive a CR on the transcript. A student earning D+, D, or D- will receive the letter grade on the transcript and earn degree credit. In any case (including receiving NC), this course will count against the four optional CR/NC elections.   
  • The recording of D grades is also a new feature of the policy.  It is consistent with the principle that all passing grades should receive credit towards graduation and with our belief that the grade of CR should not be used to shield work that is unsatisfactory (i.e., earning a grade lower than C-).

Please do not hesitate to be in touch with the Registrar or me if we can answer any questions.

Thank you.     

Frequently Asked Questions

Can CR's earned in Spring 2018 be uncovered later?

  • No. Spring 2018 CR's fall under the old policy which does not allow uncovering CR grades.

When does the new policy start?

  • The new policy goes into effect with CR's earned in Fall 2018.

What does "uncovered" mean?

  • Uncovered means changed on the transcript from CR to the earned letter grade in the course.
  • The fact that the course was originally taken CR/NC will not be reflected on the transcript, only the final letter grade.
  • Uncovered grades that started as CR count toward the four options, even though the letter grade was uncovered.

Are there retroactive pass fails?

  • No. The idea of retroactive pass/fail was discussed and was not approved as part of the policy.
  • Instead, starting with Fall 2018 grades, students will be able to uncover CR grades within the deadline to reveal the letter grade on the transcript.

Can the first semester CR grades be uncovered?

  • No. The first-year fall CR/NC semester is mandatory for all first-year students and the CR grades are never uncovered.

For the optional CR/NC courses, does the number of four elections reset in Fall 2018?

  • No. Students enrolled under both systems have only four total CR/NC elections after the first semester, regardless of how many optional CR/NCs have been used prior to Fall 2018.

For uncovered letter grades, will be there be any indication on the transcript that the course was originally taken CR/NC?

  • No. There will be no transcript notation for uncovered letter grades indicating that they were originally earned as CR/NC.
  • The registrar's office will keep track, and students should keep track separately of how many total CR/NC elections have been used.
  • The limit is four elections whether the letter grade is uncovered or not.

Can students who earned CR under the old CR/NC option have the shadow grade uncovered?

  • No. Uncovering shadow letter grades is only available under the new policy starting in Fall 2018.

Is D- (D minus) a passing grade in first semester CR/NC?

  • Starting in Fall 2018, yes.
  • Starting in Fall 2018, for first semester first-years in the CR/NC semester, D- (D minus) or D or D+ becomes CR on the transcript.
  • Then, after the first “CR/NC semester,” in other words for all optional CR/NC courses, D-, D and D+ all become the transcript grade and are passing, that is, they earn credit toward the degree.

Does a D-, D, or D+ count toward graduation?

  • Yes. D- (D minus) is the lowest passing letter grade for credit toward the degree. (This has always been true for letter-graded courses.)
  • Under the new policy, any D grade earns credit toward the degree.
  • However, depending on departmental policy, D transcript grades may not be enough to continue to the next course in a series.
  • Also note there is an internal (i.e. never externally released) College graduation requirement GPA of 2.0, and D grades could lower a student’s GPA below the graduation requirement even though they count toward the degree.

Can students take a graduation requirement such as a Distribution or Writing Course CR/NC?

  • Yes.

Can students take a course in their major or minor CR/NC?

  • Normally no -- check with the major or minor first.