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Swarthmore policy on Credit No Credit

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 Policy
Firm Deadline -- No Extensions
Frequently Asked Questions
Credit No Credit Registration How to
March 2018 Memo from the Provost
The "Uncover CR Letter Grade" e-form is on mySwarthmore

The 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 students' 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 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 are asked to provide the student and the faculty adviser with an evaluation of the student's CR work including a letter grade equivalent. The written evaluations are not a part of the student's official grade record. Students should save their copies of these evaluations for their records.

If available, letter-grade equivalents for first-semester first-year students may be provided to other institutions only if requested by the student and absolutely required by the other institution.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the CR/NC declaration deadline?

  • For Fall 2019, the deadline is 11:59 PM on Friday November 8, 2019.  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.

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.

When did the new policy start?

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

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-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.

Can pre-med requirements be taken CR/NC?

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.