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Admissions and Registration Committee

During the 2006-07 academic year, , the Admissions and Registration Committee discussions focused on three major topics: (1) course availability and the Q-drop process, (2) comparative analysis of Coordinated Admission Program (CAP) and non-CAP transfer students, and (3) review of trends in admissions data.

Summary of our discussions and recommendations:
The Q-drop Process. This major discussion topic was also considered in light of pending Faculty Council Legislation D 3835-3837 [Educational Policy Committee Proposal to Improve Course Availability for Undergraduates, April 2005].
  • Impact of Q-drops on Course Availability: With the implementation of flat-rate tuition, students can enroll in more courses without additional cost. A main concern is that students might be tempted to overload, "shop around," and then drop courses prior to the 20th class day. As a result, students who need certain courses can't register for them, and course availability would be reduced for others. It was suggested that such a scenario might be avoided by a "priority registration" system. Registrar Shelby Stanfield presented reports from the documents "Selected Statistics on Course Load 2005-2006" and "Comparison of Q-drop periods, Long and Summer Sessions" prepared by the Office of the Registrar. The data showed that, for each of fall 2005 and spring 2006, only a small fraction (approximately 1%) of the undergraduate population at UT had initially registered for 17 or more hours, then subsequently Q-dropped to below 17 hours. The data also showed that the total number of Q-drops in a semester (between 4,000 and 5,000) is only a small fraction of the total undergraduate course load in a semester (approximately 35,000 students taking approximately four courses each). Moreover, this total number of Q-drops has not changed significantly in recent years.

  • Significance of Drop Dates: The potential effects of flat-rate tuition on the number of Q-drops could also be avoided by more appropriate add/drop dates. Currently, students can drop courses online (w/o dean's approval) until the 12th class day but can add courses online only until the fourth class day. We discussed whether the online drop date should be earlier than the online add date and also the possibility of moving the 20th class day drop with no academic penalty date a bit later, so that students would have more time to assess course load and complete the first round of examinations.

  • Q-drops because of substantiated, non-academic reasons: Currently, a student with significant, documented, non-academic reasons can successfully Q-drop a class by working through the dean’s office. In effect, this drop can occur at any time during the semester and requires no feedback or input from the course instructor. We feel this system is working very well and suggest no changes. The Educational Policy Committee (pending legislation D 3835-3837) suggested the creation of a new symbol N, to be used when a student drops a course for documented non-academic reasons. We discussed two reasons not to create the new symbol. Use of N for non-academic drops might lead to a higher number of Q-drops by mid-semester and increase the pressure in dean’s offices to handle substantial non-academic explanations. In addition, assignment of a different symbol for non-academic reasons makes public, on the transcript, additional information about the student’s situation that could interfere with the student’s privacy and, if misinterpreted, foster discrimination.

  • Variability of Faculty Assignment of Q or F on Q-drop form before the 40th class day: The committee was concerned with the variation among faculty in how the Q-drop between the 20th and 40th class day is handled. The Q-drop form (based on policy statements in the General Catalog) requires assignment of Q or F based on several criteria, including whether student’s work at the time is C or higher. Some members of the committee felt that there was a tradition or "unwritten policy" on Q-drops that discouraged the assignment of a grade of F. An example was cited in which a Q-drop form was returned to a faculty member for "reconsideration" because a grade of F had been assigned. Others felt that the final authority for a Q-drop should rest with the dean of the college in which the course was offered, and not with the dean of the college in which the student is a member. The consensus was (a) the assignment of F is entirely at the discretion of the instructor, (b) faculty members need to be better informed about Q-drop options at different times of the semester, and (c) instructors should announce to students at the beginning of the semester whether they will enforce the assignment of F at mid-semester.
  • Limitation of Number of Q-drops: We reviewed current policies that limit the number of Q-drops a student can have and also the relevant sections of pending Faculty Council legislation D 3835-3837. Various questions on the performance of students with Q-drops were raised. "How successful are students who retake a course after a Q-drop? How likely is a student to have multiple Q-drops given that they have one? Stanfield presented data on frequency of Q-drops indicating that most students have fewer than two Qs on their record, and indeed the majority have none. We did not have data on the subsequent success of students who had Q-dropped the course, although individual colleges may have information on that.

    The two approaches to limiting the number of Q-drops are limiting the total number of Q-drops an individual student can have during his/her undergraduate career (as proposed in pending legislation) or setting limits on the number of times a student can enroll in a particular course (as currently in place, for example, in the College of Engineering, College of Natural Sciences, and certain other departments). Our committee found merit in both types of practices and felt that the latter is more easily implemented by individual colleges so perhaps more manageable. We agreed that the best way to encourage students to behave responsibly about adds and drops is to set consequences for misuse and overuse of Q-drops. We suggest further investigation on the impact of these limits on student practices.
Overall Recommendations on Q-drop policies:
1. Data from the registrar suggest that the introduction of flat-rate tuition does not seem to have had a major impact on the number of Q-drops. Therefore, it is not necessary to change drop deadlines to improve course availability.

2. Instructors and students must be better informed on Q-drop policies and procedures in their respective colleges and schools, including limitations and consequences for students. As in current policy, college dean’s offices should handle all non-academic drops, working with the student. Instructors should not be asked to assign Qs after the second drop deadline (40th class day).

3. Instructors should announce a statement of their individual Q-drop policy (basis for assignment of F versus Q after the 20th class day and before the 40th class day). Specifically, instructors must notify students on the first class day if they plan to strictly adhere to assignment of F grade if student’s work is not C or better. Students will be able to make better decisions if they are informed early.

4. Faculty Council legislation D 3835-3837 was being reviewed by the new provost as of March 2007. Relevant input of our committee on this pending legislation is:
Section 1: We agree that students should be able to Q-drop for substantiated, documented non-academic reasons and that current practices are adequate. We suggest there may be some negative consequences of adopting a new symbol N.
Section 2: We agree that shortening the add/drop period will have minimal impact on course availability.
Section 3: We agree with the former provost’s support of this recommendation. We suggest other information about the Q-drop process should be added to every syllabus.
Sections 4 and 5: We agree that the best way to encourage students to behave responsibly about adds and drops is to set up consequences for misuse and overuse of Q-drops. We were not in consensus about whether limiting the total number of drops for an individual student is better than limiting the number of times a student can register in a particular course.

Ruth Buskirk, chair