The current credit/no-credit (CR/NCR) policy at U of T requires that students choose the CR/NCR designation by a deadline that is set before the final exam period. For instance, this past semester, the CR/NCR deadline was December 7, which fell in the final week of classes but before final assessments.
This policy, however, is severely flawed and doesn’t allow students to make the best-informed decision for their academic success. To better serve student interests, U of T should alter the deadline for choosing the CR/NCR status for a course to after all final marks are out.
What is the CR/NCR policy?
The CR/NCR policy is a process that allows students to hide the final course grades of up to two full credits on their transcript. Once a course is set to be CR/NCR, the student’s final grade for the course will not appear on the student’s transcript or be included in the calculation of their GPA. Instead, only a “credit” or “no-credit” indication will appear on transcripts.
However, a student’s decision whether or not to CR/NCR a course may have an impact on their academic career, especially for those applying to grad schools, to professional schools, or for scholarships. Although even a slight difference in GPA can detrimentally impact students’ applications, CR/NCR should not be used lightly. Hence, students must choose strategically on which courses to use CR/NCR.
Why is the CR/NCR policy at U of T problematic?
How can students decide whether to CR/NCR a course when they haven’t even had their final exams or assignments yet and don’t know what their final marks will be? Forcing students to make the decision that early brings immense anxiety and stress to students. Although a certain portion of grades may have already been released before the CR/NCR deadline, a lot of uncertainties remain, since final assessments, which always weigh significantly more, are usually not due by the CR/NCR deadline.
More importantly, though one can prepare thoroughly for finals, it is hard to predict the difficulty of the final and many unpredictable factors can influence students’ performance. Students need more time to decide on CR/NCR.
Moreover, pushing students to make CR/NCR decisions too early can disincentivize students from working hard during finals. Since no final grade will be displayed after designating a course CR/NCR, the only concern left is with passing the course. Students who choose to CR/NCR a course may have had the potential to perform better in the course, but instead, may then just do the bare minimum to pass the course after making it CR/NCR. This does not encourage students to reach their full potential, nor does it promote academic excellence.
This policy also negatively impacts students who might have performed well on the finals. Due to the tight deadline, students, out of concern for their final grades, may have made their courses CR/NCR earlier; yet, later, they may have ended up doing well on exams where they got excellent final grades and no longer need CR/NCR. This does not reward students for their hard work.
Those flaws in the CR/NCR policy are concerning to the university as well. The anxieties around GPA and the use of CR/NCR among students could further worsen the mental health of students at U of T.
What changes should be made to the CR/NCR policy?
The fact that students can only CR/NCR a maximum of 2.0 full course equivalents demonstrates that CR/NCR is not a regular practice and should only be done when students can make informed decisions about their progress in a course. It is irresponsible of U of T to make the deadline for CR/NCR before students know their grade in a class.
The university should reflect on the inconvenience that they brought to students from their ill-designed CR/NCR policy and modify it promptly to better serve students. The current timing design of the policy does not give students enough time to make informed decisions for their academic career and, as such, warrants a prompt change.
The deadline for using CR/NCR for a course should be extended to after students have gotten their final marks. With the change, students should also be given a chance to adjust the CR/NCR status of a certain number of credits from past courses. The CR/NCR policy ought to be made in students’ interests and be used to better serve students.
Valerie Yao is a second-year student majoring in ethics society and law and double minoring in political science and cinema studies from University College.