U of M considers shorter incomplete coursework period

Published 9:13 am Monday, February 20, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS  — University of Minnesota administrators and faculty are considering shortening the deadline for incomplete coursework to six months in order to boost graduation and retention rates.

The current policy gives students one year to finish work required to change incompletes, which are assigned instead of a failing grade when students can’t finish coursework due to extraordinary circumstances.

Michael Anderson, director of the university’s College of Continuing Education, said he’s noticed students have a harder time finishing incompletes after six months because they’re removed from the coursework or forget about makeup assignments.

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Stacey Tidball, director of continuity and compliance for the university’s academic support resources department, said the one-year policy may discourage students from finishing the work on time to complete their degree in four years.

Tidball is currently running feedback sessions on the policy.

She said the university’s administration found from examining comparable policies at Big Ten schools that colleges and universities have wide-ranging deadlines.

A few other schools, such as Indiana University and Purdue University, give students a full year, while the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin require the work to be finished by the fourth week of the next term.

Anderson said shortening the timeframe could encourage students to finish coursework quicker, but that it’s important the policy remains flexible.

“You don’t want to give an incomplete to someone and then give a timeline where you can’t complete it,” he said.

Administrators and faculty also are discussing strengthening part of the policy requiring a written agreement between faculty and students that specifies the makeup work and deadline. The committee should determine whether an email counts as a written agreement, Anderson said.