Plus/Minus Grades To Take Effect: Impact on Students

In 2013, a new policy was brought to Henry Ford’s Scholastics Policies Committee to add GPA point values to plus and minus grades. This policy was accepted, and will be effective starting fall 2016. Currently, if a student receives a B, B+, or B-, the plus or minus would not factor. All three would be a 3.0. With this new policy, a B- will be 2.67, a B will be a 3.0, and a B+ will be a 3.33. All grades will reflect this change, with the exception of the A+, which will keep its original value of 4.0.

One of the main concerns of this new policy is that the minus grade could lower the overall GPA of some students. Also, since the C- will now have a lower point value, it can affect a student’s Financial Aid and make it harder to get off of academic probation. In order for a student to receive Financial Aid, the minimum GPA is 2.0 or higher. Since a C- will now be considered a 1.66, students who receive C- may end up on academic probation. According to the HFC website, a student will remain on probation until their, “cumulative GPA is above the minimum of 2.0.” However, plus grades would bring the GPA up far enough to allow some students to get off of academic probation.

Because most colleges and universities do not share the same grading systems as HFC, this change may make transferring to other institutions easier, as well as give students a more accurate idea of where they stand academically. According to the Chair of the Scholastics Policies Committee, Pamela Sayre, “When Henry Ford students transfer anywhere else, their GPAs have to be recalculated so that the pluses and minuses [have] different numeric values from the straight grade that they are receiving now.” This includes universities such as University of Michigan - Dearborn, Eastern Michigan University, and Wayne State.

While professors are currently able to give pluses and minuses, they do not affect the overall value of the grade as far as GPA calculations are concerned. “Under the new policy,” states Dr. William Norris, a long time adjunct in HFC’s Sociology Department and current Secretary of the Faculty Senate, “Teachers will continue to have the freedom to [grade] however they decide. Teachers don’t have to give pluses and minuses. There will be quite a few faculty members who will make the decision to just use the [straight grades].”

A possible benefit to the new grading system is that students who excel in their classes will have more competitive GPAs for transferring and for receiving scholarships. “Having different numeric values for the plus, straight grade, and the minus, gives a more accurate calculation of the GPA. This is very important because we found, through research and hearing back from our students, that a number of our students were actually being harmed by the way the grade system was here at the college ... In some cases, a student could lose almost an entire grade point on their GPA if the pluses were not counted,” states Sayre.

This new change will take effect in the fall of 2016. According to Sayre, it is not possible to go back and recalculate the old GPAs. Therefore, students under the old grading system may have two GPAs on file, which will be accessible to transfer universities. This will not affect a student’s ability to transfer.

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