I’ve had the unpleasant task of turning down appeals this week from students who have been told they can no longer pursue their major of choice in the college or in many cases a business degree at UCF. Seventy-five students in all have been impacted by our Lack of Progress Policy. Seventy-five out of almost five thousand upper division students is a very small number unless of course one of those seventy-five students is you.
The Lack of Progress policy was passed by the faculty before I came to UCF, but I support it. In short, the policy says that students must maintain a 2.0 minimum GPA to stay in the college and a 2.0 minimum GPA in their major to stay in that major. If they fall below one or both of these marks, they have one semester to get their GPA above the 2.0 threshold or they must come up with a new major and/or college.
Because application of the policy is new, the vast majority of the seventy-five students impacted have been struggling for many semesters. They have retaken courses multiple times and still haven’t brought their GPAs safely above the threshold level. Our experience tells us that students who can’t succeed in two attempts (absent illness or an unusual crisis) very rarely turn things around. Yet, some fall victim to the fallacy of sunk costs, are too embarrassed to admit they need a new direction or are convinced that by doing the same things over again they will get a different and better result.
Early in my career, I would yield to these students’ admirable displays of persistence and give them additional chances, but I have learned to view these very difficult decisions as acts of kindness. As I wrote to one student this week, there comes a time in everyone’s life where they must honestly assess their strengths, weaknesses and passions, reevaluate, and pursue a different path from the one initially selected. For students who fail to make sufficient progress toward their degree, the best thing they can do is look to new options. UCF is full of them. I know many successful people who have changed majors and careers in pursuit of the best fit. The sooner people do this, the quicker they can begin a more satisfying journey.
Promoting the welfare of our students and enriching their lives sometimes requires that we help them through difficult transitions. It is my expectation that each of the seventy-five impacted students were treated with respect and kindness during this process. And it is my hope that when they find the intersection of their talents and passions that they will remember us for helping them realize the need to start a new path to success.
Paul Jarley, Ph.D., is the dean of the UCF College of Business Administration. He blogs every week. This post appeared on January 14, 2013. Follow him on Twitter @pauljarley.