Proposed Changes to Non-Standard Grades (esp NC and Incompletes)

Dear Faculty Colleagues, 

We want to inform you and solicit feedback about proposed changes to policies about non-standard grades at Lane, especially the NC grade and the Incomplete. These changes were brought to Faculty Council on April 27 by Dawn Whiting, LCC’s Registrar, and Faculty Council will be discussing the proposals again at our May 11 meeting. Please feel free to share your views by commenting publicly on this post or by emailing Aryn Bartley at or Jessica Alvarado at by Thursday, May 10, at 5 pm. 

NC: Dawn Whiting, our registrar, has proposed to eliminate the NC grade at Lane. She notes that, while faculty often believe that the NC grade does not have a negative impact on students, it does in fact impact both attempted credits and, subsequently, financial aid. The NC grade, therefore, doesn’t impact GPA, but it does impact a student’s academic progress. Last term, Lane had 557 NCs; the term before that, we had 644. We are the only community college in Oregon that still has this grading option. 

Incomplete: Lane currently has almost 40,000 outstanding Incompletes. Dawn proposes the following changes to the way Incompletes are handled. 1) When an Incomplete is entered into Banner, the faculty member will mark both the deadline for completion and the grade the student will receive if they do not complete expected work. 2) Incompletes will have a recommended completion deadline of one term with an option for a faculty member to extend that deadline up to a year. 3) Banner will be programmed to automatically transfer a grade from an Incomplete to what the grade would have been originally after the agreed-upon deadline has been reached. 4) Both faculty members and students will need to complete and file contracts for Incompletes, including details about expected work and a deadline. 5) The request for an Incomplete should be initiated by the student.

Specific proposed language follows: 

I indicates Incomplete: When a student has satisfactorily completed 75 percent or more of the course work as defined by the instructor and noted in the syllabus, but is unable to finish the remaining required scheduled work due to circumstances beyond the student’s control. An Incomplete grade is not used to avoid a failing grade or if scheduled work is not time convenient for the student. A grade of Incomplete must be made up within one term from the last day of the original term it was taken, but may be extended up to one year at the discretion of the instructor.  A request for Incomplete must be a student initiated request but the approval is at the discretion of the instructor.  Granting an incomplete requires a contract between the student and instructor detailing the work to be finished.  A contract must be filed for each approved incomplete.  The contract must contain a deadline by which outstanding work is to be completed.

It cannot be required that a student retake or audit a course during the term of the incomplete.  When a student enters into an incomplete contract, it is the responsibility of the student to understand the terms of the contract.  At the end of the contract date, the incomplete will convert to a standard grade as determined by the terms of the contract. 

The procedure for submitting an incomplete is as follows:

Student initiates request for incomplete with the instructor.  The instructor and student fill out the incomplete form and both sign, agreeing to the terms of the incomplete contract.  A clear deadline must be written on the contract as well as the grade that will be earned if the student does not complete the required work as noted on the contract. The incomplete form is turned into the department administrator.  When the incomplete is entered into Banner, the incomplete contract is sent to and imaged into application extender in SHACRSE [a form in Banner that reports on a student’s grades and courses – ed. note Aryn Bartley].  Enrollment Services will verify that a contract has been submitted for each incomplete issued. For Incompletes that are missing the corresponding contract Enrollment Services will contact the instructor to request the form.  Upon expiration of the contract, Banner will update the student record to reflect the default grade from the contract, if a grade change form is not submitted by the faculty. 

Dawn sent an informative Q/A document regarding these changes, which is attached to the email we just sent out to the faculty. 

At last Friday’s meeting, Faculty Council members were receptive to the proposed changes, but we wanted to communicate those changes to the faculty at large to receive your feedback before we meet next Friday. Again, please feel free to share your thoughts by commenting on this post or by emailing Aryn Bartley at or Jessica Alvarado at 

All the best, 

Aryn Bartley and Jessica Alvarado 

Faculty Council co-chairs

15 thoughts on “Proposed Changes to Non-Standard Grades (esp NC and Incompletes)

  1. Alexandra Geddes

    Both of those sound like great ideas. I especially appreciate the automation of the incompletes. It’s really hard to remember to go back in and change them.

  2. Peggy Oberstaller

    I especially appreciate the proposed changes to the Incomplete grade. I think 1 year is too long in most cases and students have no incentive to complete the lacking work quickly. I have given very few incomplete grades, none of which were completed and changed to a grade. Switching to the earned grade after 1 term may be incentive to complete the work while it is still fresh in mind.

    I am also in favor of the other proposed changes. I do have one question – every term I have at least one student who comes to every class during the first week, and then I never see them again. They do not respond to emails and do not drop or change their grading option on their own. They do not qualify under the administrative drop policy to be dropped, and by the end of week 2 I notice they have not come back to class or contacted me.

    Is there or should there be an option to drop a student who does not attend after week one, and does not respond to instructor emails? I know they are working the system and don’t like enabling them by leaving them in the class.

    I have looked at other colleges and found several instructors who specify in their syllabus that a student could be dropped by the instructor at any time if they didn’t meet specific benchmarks – missing a certain number of classes without documentation (say 8), not turning in any assigned work or responding to instructor requests for information, etc.

    I cannot be the only faculty member who has had this happen……… Do I have the ability to set my own guidelines for dropping a student as long as they are stated specifically in my syllabus? Is this something that should be discussed and decided on by all faculty?

    1. Brenda

      This is the issue I run into every term with NC. My class is usually once a week so they come to the first week and then never hear or see them again. So I give them an NC because obviously these students are probably not paying attention to school related matters. I can’t no show drop them because they were there for the first week. I support having a policy that we can drop the students if they don’t meet certain criteria) instead of giving them an F. The NC at least saves their cumulative GPA (which financial aid looks at). It is preferred I think to have consistency between faculty. I was told by a former student at Lane that their BI 231 at Lane said they would be dropped if they didn’t attend 2/3 of the class. I am not sure if that was true or not but I have never heard of instructors being allowed to drop students after week 1.
      I am in full support of the Incomplete change.

  3. Jeffrey Borrowdale

    Those 557 NCs last year will just turn into 557 F’s if the NC grade is removed (since 75% of course work must be done to receive an Incomplete, that wouldn’t be a possible substitute). Typically, a student signs up for a class but then runs into serious personal problems that interfere with her withdrawing from the class. In other cases, the student is over his head, plans on withdrawing, but misses the deadline.

    Giving out more F’s will have a demoralizing effect on perhaps already marginal students. If Lane was leading the state in enrollment, maybe it would be OK to just copy everybody else, but we’re not. Any move now that might encourage marginal students to drop out is a bad idea. We’ve been using this grade option since I started here. What’s the case for dropping it now?

    If the NC is removed, this change should be paired with allowing faculty to administratively drop students later in the term for non-participation to avoid giving them F’s. Students should have to earn their F’s by poor performance, not missing an withdrawal deadline.

  4. Christina Howard

    I think the fact that Lane is the only college to offer NC is something to pay attention to.
    I am interested in what other CC do to message out to students about the importance of managing their academic schedule and giving faculty opportunities to develop academic policies to allow for administrative drop.

    I’m not convinced that a higher enrollment compared to other states would allow more confidence in changing the grading system. The variables that contribute to low enrollment are complex.

    I support the changes and collaboration with faculty/registrar to provide students with front-end information about what they can expect (e.g. administrative drop) if classroom engagement policies are not met.

  5. Tammy Salman

    I agree with Christina’s eloquently phrased comments and also support the recommendation to remove the NC grade and make the Incomplete status more clear for students and faculty. Having a systems solution to help track incompletes is also a great idea, since it would be difficult to track this otherwise (which is probably why we have so many incompletes right now). With regard to the NC grade, if we are harming our students by having this option, we should immediately cease offering it. We should not put unnecessary barriers up for our students.

  6. Anne McGrail

    The 75% number for incompletes seems arbitrary to me. Since the instructor recognizes with the student the unavoidability of the issues involved in keeping students from completing, then it should be a recommended 75% with some kind of wiggle room for extraordinary circumstances. i have often had a student who is in Week 4 or 5 who hits a big snag and then comes back Week 10–not getting to 75% but able to complete. This is especially true in online or hybrid environments where work can be taken up asynchronously to completion.

  7. John Groves

    I believe the NC grade is useful and should be maintained. In ALS, where I teach, students sometimes disappear but remain registered in the class. Often such student complete less than 25% of the work required for the course. For various reasons, they don’t withdraw formally, so the NC designation ends up being a more accurate reflection of the student’s performance than a grade of F. An F grade, particularly in a six credit class, can damage a student’s GPA to such an extent that a student might be unable to transfer to a four-year college in the future.

  8. Kate Sullivan

    I wonder if faculty council can ask for data/research about the impact of non-standard grades (an “NC” would be considered a nonstandard grade) both in terms of how the state reimburses us for FTE and how the federal government regards the use of these grades (I suspect that financial aid may be an issue in these discussions).

    As I’m sure most of you know, students on the GI bill have to earn a grade of A-F, so assigning an NC to someone in the military jeopardizes their eligibility for funding.

    And if a student doesn’t want to jeopardize their GPA, they can shift their grade to P/NP, yes?

    I’m aware of some research that notes a negative correlation between use of a non-standard grade like an NC and student persistence and success rates; I wonder how much this research is a driving force in the conversation.

  9. David

    As others have mentioned, we need some way to keep track of students who fail to learn course material versus students that fail to continue attending.

    If our computer system can keep track of administrative drops, then, yes, removing the NC while authorizing faculty to drop students would work. A syllabus could clearly define vanishing. As examples, “You will be dropped after missing 6 consecutive classes” or “You will be dropped if you do not attend the final exam.”

    We should also financially encourage students who abandon a class to actually drop the class. The college could either offer a small refund for dropping a class late, or levy a small fine for remaining enrolled after vanishing as defined in the syllabus. In other words, we want students to un-enroll when they abandon a class, but they do not because after the refund deadline they have no financial incentive to click a few times in MyLane–the appropriate response is to make it matter financially.

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