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Swarthmore policy on Credit No Credit

Background:

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

See the catalog policy: 8.2.3 Credit/No Credit

CR NC Policy


The Full CR NC Policy
Firm Deadline -- No Extensions
Frequently Asked Questions
Credit No Credit Registration How to
March 2018 Memo from the Provost
Spring 2020 CR NC modfied policy
The CR NC Declaration e-form is on mySwarthmore -- see acceptance text
The "Uncover CR Letter Grade" e-form is on mySwarthmore -- see acceptance text

The Full policy

The Credit No Credit policy was revised for the 2018-2019 academic year. The policy has the following important components.

The first semester of the first year: The only grades recorded on a Swarthmore student's official transcript for courses taken during the first semester of the first year are CR (credit) or NC (no credit). For first-year students in their first semester, CR will be recorded for work that would earn a grade of D- (D minus) or higher. Credit No Credit for the first semester of the first year is mandatory. By policy, first semester, first-year Swarthmore student CR grades are never uncovered to reveal the shadow letter grades on the official transcript.

Four more Credit No Credit courses: After the first semester, students may exercise the option to take up to four more courses Credit No Credit by informing the Registrar's Office within the first 9 weeks of the term in which the course is taken, or the 5th week of the course if it meets for only half the semester, using the form provided for this purpose. After the Fall semester of the first year, a student electing the Credit No Credit option and earning a C- (C minus) or better will receive a CR on the transcript.

The handling of D grades and NC grades: After the first semester of the first year, a student taking a course optionally elected as Credit No Credit and earning any D level grade (D+, D, or D-) will receive that letter grade on the transcript and earn degree credit, and the course will count against the four optional Credit No Credit elections. A course optionally taken Credit No Credit and earning NC (No credit) will receive NC on the transcript, not receive degree credit, and the course will count against the four optional Credit No Credit elections.

Uncovering the letter grade: In any course optionally elected Credit No Credit and graded CR on the transcript, students (except spring semester graduating seniors) will have until the end of the second week of the following semester the option of removing the CR notation and permanently uncovering the underlying shadow letter grade in order that it appear as the grade on the transcript. Students who want this must use the Registrar’s form provided for this purpose. Courses where the CR is uncovered continue to count against the four optional Credit No Credit elections. In the case of spring semester graduating seniors, the deadline to uncover the underlying shadow letter grade is the Tuesday prior to commencement.

Repeated courses normally may not be taken Credit No Credit. Courses only offered as Credit No Credit do not count in the four optional elections; these courses normally do not have shadow letter grades, and if they do, those shadow grades are not eligible for uncovering.

Instructors provide the registrar letter grades for all first-year students in the first semester and for all optionally Credit No Credit courses, except for the few courses that are only graded CR NC. The final transcript notation is determined by the rules of the policy articulated herein. The letter grades earned in CR NC courses are available to students in mySwarthmore. For first-year students in the first semester, instructors are also asked to provide the student with a written evaluation of the student's work.

If available, letter grades for Credit No Credit courses may be provided to other institutions only if requested by the student and absolutely required by the other institution. For students who have transferred their undergraduate degree candidacy to another school, if requested by the student and if available, letter grades earned in Credit No Credit courses will be recorded on the Swarthmore transcript.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the CR/NC declaration deadline?

  • For Fall 2020, the deadline is 11:59 PM on Friday November 6, 2020.  For other semesters, see the Academic Calendar.
  • According to college policy the deadline is Friday at 11:59 PM on the 9th week of classes for full semester classes, and for half-semester courses, the deadline is the Friday of the fifth week of classes. The deadline is part of the faculty regulations policy in catalog 8.2.3.
  • Complete the form early! Don't miss the deadline.
  • Use the mySwarthmore e-form and VPN as necessary.
  • There are no extensions -- sorry.

Can CR/NC be declared after the deadline?

  • Sorry to disappoint, but no. The faculty regulation deadline is firm.
  • In order to be fair to all students, there are no extensions to the deadline.

Why can't students declare CR/NC after seeing the grade?

  • The idea of retroactive pass/fail after seeing the grade was debated and rejected by the Curriculum Committee as contrary to the goals of CR/NC.
  • The goals of the CR/NC policy are several: First, the faculty intend CR/NC to encourage curricular exploration by making it possible to take some courses outside of letter grading. On the other hand, the policy allows students who have completed good work in a course optionally designated CR/NC to receive the recognition of the good grade earned.  The possibility of uncovering the letter grade in an optional CR/NC course is also intended to promote academic engagement throughout the course even when the course is taken CR/NC.
  • The policy is not designed to promote GPA adjustment or low grade covering. In fact, the policy's requirement that D-range grades will show on the transcript works against strategically earning a low grade in an optionally elected CR/NC course.

What does "uncovered" mean?

  • Uncovered means permanently 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 continue to count toward the four options, even though the letter grade was uncovered.

Can the first semester CR grades be uncovered?

  • No. The first semester, first year fall CR/NC semester is mandatory for all Swarthmore students who entered Swarthmore as new, first-year students; the first semester 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.

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

  • Since Fall 2018, yes.
  • 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.

Can pre-med requirements be taken CR/NC?

When did the new policy start?

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

Can CR's earned prior to Fall 2018 be uncovered later?

  • No. CR's earned prior to Fall 2018 fall under the old policy which does not allow uncovering CR grades.

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.

March 2018 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.     

Spring 2020 CR NC modified policy

Mandatory Credit/No Credit Policy for Spring 2020 at Swarthmore College
Questions and Answers About the Spring 2020 Grading Policy
Spring 2020 CR NC Grading FAQ

Other clarifications of the Spring 2020 policy:

The College's minimum passing grade is D- (D minus). For the Spring 2020 semester, D- (D minus) level work was the minimum standard for work earning the CR notation. See the full policy, above, for the normal way D-level work is handled.

The college used H-style grades for honors theses culminating in the Spring 2020 semester.

Acceptance of CR NC Declaration e-form

The form itself is available on mySwarthmore on certain dates, normally from the beginning of classes to the end of the ninth week of classes in a semester, according to the policy. The text of the acceptance section of the form is given here for your information.

Credit/No Credit Grading - Acceptance Section.

Please follow the steps below to complete your application for Credit/No Credit (CR/NR)

  • Submitting this form confirms your application for Credit/No Credit (CR/NC)
  • Indicates that you are taking this course for the first time
  • You have completely read and understand this form
  • You will receive an email receipt upon submission. Please save this email as proof. If you do not receive an email receipt, please contact the Registrar's Office.

The faculty regulation on Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) grading provides that the only grades recorded for first year students in their first semester shall be CR/NC. During the balance of the undergraduate years students may exercise the CR/NC option as many as four additional times. For any course, this CR/NC option is available only if formally requested within the first 9 weeks of the semester, not later. Submit this form online by 11:59 pm, on the deadline date. A grade of CR won't change the divisional status (NSEP, W etc.) of the class. A grade of CR may change major/minor applicability, check with the major/minor department chair. An evaluation of the course may be offered by the instructor and may be either a letter-grade equivalent or a comment.

  • Repeated courses may not be taken with CR/NC.
  • Optional CR/NC courses must earn a C- (C minus) or better in the course to get the CR notation.
  • After the 1st semester, grades earned at any D level (D+, D, D-) will receive that letter grade on the transcript.
  • Most majors prohibit CR from counting toward the major, so you should not take courses in your major as CR/NC. Please check with your major department.
  • This form must be completed even though you may have indicated this elsewhere. CR/NC are not reversed after the decision.
  • With the exception of spring graduating seniors, students will have until the end of the 2nd week of the following semester to remove the CR notation and uncover the underlying shadow letter grade. Spring seniors will have until the Tuesday before commencement.

* Please check to indicate that you have read and understand the above instructions.

Acceptance of Uncover CR Letter Grade form

The form itself is available on mySwarthmore on certain dates, normally after grades have been posted, and until the end of the second week of classes of a semester, according to the policy. The text of the acceptance section of the form is given here for your information.

Uncover CR Letter Grade - Acceptance Section

Please follow the steps below to complete your application for Uncovering Letter Grade (for Credit)

  • You must fill out one form for each course you wish to uncover.
  • This form must be completed even though you many have thought you already indicated your intentions elsewhere.
  • You will receive an email receipt upon submission. Please save this email as proof. If you do not receive an email receipt, please contact the Registrar's Office.
  1. Confirms your application.
  2. Means you understand the importance of saving the receipt as your only recourse for proving Credit/No Credit reversal.
  3. You have completely read and understand this form.
  4. Once uncovered, you cannot recover back to CR.

The faculty regulation on uncovering the letter grade in any course optionally elected Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) graded CR on the transcript, students (except spring semester graduating seniors) will have until the end of the second week of the following semester the option of removing the CR notation and permanently uncovering the underlying shadow letter grade in order that it appear as the grade on the transcript. Students who want this must use the Registrar's form provided for this purpose. Courses where the CR is uncovered continue to count against the four optional Credit No Credit elections. In the case of spring semester graduating seniors, the deadline to uncover the underlying shadow letter grade is the Tuesday prior to commencement.

Repeated courses normally may not be taken Credit No Credit. Courses only offered as Credit No Credit do not count in the four optional elections; these courses normally do not have shadow letter grades, and if they do, those shadow grades are not eligible for uncovering.

* Please check to indicate that you have read and understand the above instructions.