Grainger College of Engineering graduation policy met with criticism from students


Thomas Cai

Bardeen Quad, home to Grainger administration and a majority of Engineering buildings.

By Aidan Sadovi, Assistant News Editor

Noelle Crawford, junior in Engineering, had everything lined up for her graduation. 

After the fall 2022 semester, Crawford had finished her degree requirements over a year early and was planning to accept a job offer that would start in January — but plans changed.

“Throughout the course of last semester, I ended up deciding that that probably wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I asked to be taken off the degree list,” Crawford said. 

Crawford, who continued at the University for the spring semester, said she received assurance from both the college and the Department of Electrical Engineering that she was removed from the list of students set to graduate and that she could stay at the school and continue studying. However, she was told she would have to be manually re-added to the degree list in December of 2023 in order to hold a May 2024 graduation date. 

The electrical engineering student made plans to stay on campus for the coming year, signing a lease and obtaining a research opportunity. She also postponed and ultimately “completely reneged” on her job offer.

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Then, Crawford received an email from a dean that would throw a wrench into her plan. 

The email, sent April 24 — a couple of weeks before the end of the year — would say that because Crawford had completed her requirements and was enrolled for the following semester, there would need to be a “chat” with college administration. The email continued to say that if Crawford didn’t respond by that Friday, her fall registration would be canceled. 

Although Crawford agreed to the meeting, she found that her account was still restricted from registration.

In her conversation with the dean, Crawford learned that the complication arose from a College of Engineering policy that requires students to graduate once they have completed their degree requirements. 

The policy “is focused on allowing students who have yet to complete their graduation requirements access to seats in high-demand courses that are needed to complete their degrees,” said college spokesperson Libby Kasich in an email. “This is in recognition that academic trajectories vary by student. Not all students enter the University with the benefit of college credit already obtained and may have less scheduling flexibility than those who do.”

Kasich said this has been a policy for many years and the school is trying to implement it in a “more purposeful and consistent manner than (they) have in prior years.” 

The College of Engineering, which is arguably one of the University’s most prestigious and well-known programs, has the lowest admission rate of any college at the University. For example, the computer science program — which is regularly lauded in university promotional material for its alumni at firms like Paypal and Youtube, which, in turn, has bolstered the reputation of the University — has an admittance rate of just 6.7%. 

In the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, students are given a maximum of 10 semesters of eligibility for enrollment for completing their degree, while in the Gies College of Business, students are given nine. 

Despite protests from Crawford, the College of Engineering did not budge. 

“(The dean) was, like, ‘There’s absolutely no world in which you’re going to be able to finish out another two semesters as a student,’” Crawford added. 

Crawford said she was told she would not be the only student affected by this policy this semester, with “multiple students” facing similar issues. 

Crawford said her department was supportive of her. 

“My department was pretty on my side about this … and then what I ended up doing was just, like, discussing with a lot of professors, both in my department and in the CS department, on what to do, and the consensus seemed to be just to get people to send emails,” Crawford said.

After trying to figure out ways to circumvent the policy — including possibly transferring majors  — she voiced her frustration on Reddit, encouraging others to write emails to the college’s administration opposing the policy. 

In the comments of the now-popular post, Reddit users expressed discontent and trepidation towards the policy — which many bemoaned as poorly-communicated and unfair. 

“This is terrible,” read one comment “Forcing graduation when a student isn’t ready can be highly detrimental. Not every student wants the diploma and (to) leave ASAP. Some genuinely like to learn and continue enhancing their skills and knowledge.”

Others, through the use of internet archive tool Wayback Machine, pointed out that mention of the policy only appeared at the bottom of the College of Engineering’s degree requirement website about a month after the start of the second semester. Although the archive is unable to pinpoint when the policy appeared on the page between February and April, the archive indicates that as of Feb. 6, it was not present. 

Kasich said that while it is not the intention to “force” students to graduate, the college is “working toward an equitable practice for undergraduate students to make an effort to complete their degree in a timely manner.” 

“I have a lot of friends who would plan to finish the degree requirements early in order to give themselves a buffer but then stay in school while they work on grad school applications and job hunting,” Crawford said. 

Crawford was eventually told she could stay enrolled at the University for another year.

“So in my second meeting … we were supposed to discuss what I was going to do instead of staying in school,” Crawford explained. “I was immediately told ‘Okay, we’ve realized this is maybe not a good idea, so we’re gonna let you stay.’ They made it sound like it (would apply to) everyone.” 

After her second meeting, Crawford said she received another email from a dean insinuating that her case was an exception. 

According to Kasich, “Each semester, we inevitably have students who have completed their degree requirements and do not desire to graduate for a variety of reasons.” 

These decisions are made “in consultation with the Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs.”

“These situations are handled on a case-by-case basis and some exceptions are, indeed, made,” Kasich explained.

Though Kasich did not discuss whether the policy is being re-assessed, she said Grainger “solicit(s) and appreciate(s) student feedback and concerns” and that the administration considers student opinions as they “regularly evaluate academic policies.” 

In the same email, Kasich laid out a timeline for communicating with students whose situations are affected by the policy. 

“Each semester we contact all students enrolled in a schedule that, if successfully completed, will result in them completing their degree requirements,” Kasich explained. “These students are asked to confirm their graduation intentions by placing themselves on the pending degree list. Otherwise, they are asked to discuss with college advisors if they have any unusual or extraordinary situation.”

According to Kasich, this email was sent to those projected to graduate in spring of 2023 near the beginning of the semester, adding that students still not on the pending degree list midway through the semester were contacted again. 

“These students are asked to place themselves on the pending degree list or discuss their situation with college advisors if they have any unusual or extraordinary situation,” Kasich said. “This spring semester 2023, these follow-up emails went out on April 11.”

Crawford said her friend received similar information about the policy in an email from a dean.

“This semester, the notifications started going out in January,” Crawford said, reading from the email. “That’s an interesting thing because I’ve been in the case where I’ve completed all my degree requirements for two semesters now and never received an email.” 

Crawford, who has communicated with other affected students about the policy, said others also hadn’t received the initial email. She also said she received the “follow-up email” on April 24 rather than the 11.

According to Crawford, upper level electrical engineering classes have numerous prerequisite requirements, placing students in a difficult position.

“It creates a situation where you almost have to fulfill your degree requirements, like excluding Gen Eds, in order to even begin taking upper level technical classes,” Crawford explained.

Crawford said that “forcing” students to graduate early means that “significantly less qualified students” are graduating from the University.

“This policy punishes students who are interested in learning, so it is probably not great for the University in general,” Crawford said. 


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