Academic Renewal to clean bad grades

By Joel Umanzor, Staff writer

A little-known procedure in the Counseling Office can help remove D and F grades from the transcripts of students wishing to strengthen their overall GPA.
Academic Renewal is the process in which Contra Costa Community College District students can get rid of substandard grades with a one-time only petition.
A quick trip to a counselor can get a student evaluated to see if Academic Renewal is the right method for eliminating a course that has been taken previously, may not be needed or is affecting the GPA of a student.
“Many colleges have different policies regarding Academic Renewal,” counselor Robert Webster said. “Our district has a policy of this being a one-time only request with some qualifications necessary by counselor evaluation.”
He said not a lot of students understand the process, or even know it exists, but it could really impact the appearance of a student’s transcripts, especially those students who have taken classes that would not benefit their major.
Counselor Cynthia Haro said, “I like to explain Academic Renewal in this sense. Let’s say there is a student right out of high school who has a few bad semesters in a major such as medical assisting, but then realizes medical assisting is not what they want to do and would rather transfer and get a degree in social sciences or something else.
“In that case, if they have had previous multiple substandard grades of D or F and fit this situation, then that’s where we say, ‘Let’s talk about Academic Renewal.’”
The Academic Renewal procedure has qualifications that students must meet before it can be applied to the transcript of a student.
A student must have completed 20 units of “satisfactory work” in the district, or at any other accredited institution, since the previous substandard grade was received and have received no substandard grades since.
This allows students to use work from another college to showcase their satisfactory academic results.
Counseling department Chairperson Sarah Boland Drain said, “The fact that a student can use a transcript from another accredited college or university to demonstrate 20 units of academic success makes the process more accessible for students who move through multiple campuses.”
Being that Contra Costa College has many students who are attending for shorter periods, this process can especially enhance the transfer process for those looking to satisfy minimum GPA requirements.
Haro said that for CSU transfer the requirement for GPA is 2.0, and attempting a course again can put a hold on a student’s desire to continue their education at a four-year university.
“Instead of me telling the student to retake a medical assisting course, I would tell the student, ‘Let’s look at Academic Renewal.’ It helps because those are courses that you are not going to be retaking, although they do affect your overall GPA on your transcript,” Haro said.
Haro said the process of Academic Renewal cannot be applied to a W on a transcript, only substandard grades weighing down a GPA.
It does not take the grade off of a transcript, but marks the grade as academically renewed and does not incorporate the grade results into the overall GPA.
Webster said, “The actual course units are included in the transcript because we must include all of a student’s academic history on a transcript. However, the grade to be renewed is highlighted and it has no effect on the GPA number on a student’s transcripts.”
The petition form for Academic Renewal states that the processing time for these requests is two weeks. The process is quick if all forms and transcripts are accounted for.
Webster said, “We give ourselves a window in those two weeks to be able to have it done, but it is usually a pretty straight-forward process.
“I had a student come in today who had a previous substandard grade, and we were able to help her with dropping the course.
“Initially, the student was in the nursing program, which is a competitive program that focuses on a GPA requirement. It took her grade past the threshold to be eligible for that program.”
A maximum of 24 units are allowed by the district to be renewed, but according to the petition, “Each college will make its own adjustments.” This allows for a bit of interpretation that can cause issues because it is a one-time only policy.
Webster said he is on a committee that is looking into reviewing the Academic Renewal policy for the district to make it more uniform across all three campuses in the near future.