UMN committee looks to change incomplete course policy

A University of Minnesota senate committee passes resolution to change the timeframe for finishing incomplete courses.

Michelle Griffith

The University of Minnesota’s Senate Educational Policy Committee (SCEP) passed a resolution earlier this month that would shorten the time a student can finish an incomplete course. 

The proposed change would give students one semester to complete the coursework instead of one year, which is current administrative policy. Faculty have the option to give students an incomplete, which is an extended time to complete coursework, because of external circumstances. 

The resolution will be reviewed by the University Senate this upcoming fall and if approved, could be enacted next spring impacting the University’s Twin Cities, Crookston, Morris and Rochester campuses. 

“We wanted to protect students because faculty do leave [their positions] and things get lost in the process,” said Jennifer Goodnough, SCEP chair and professor at the Morris campus.

The committee shortened the time because of conflicts arising from the extended time to complete coursework, delays in students’ degree progress, financial aid changes and faculty turnover.

“In cases where an instructor has left, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to resolve an incomplete,” said Stacey Tidball, director of the University’s Continuity and Compliance at Academic Support Resources.

Under the policy change, faculty members could give students more than one term to complete their work if they decide it’s necessary. 

“The messaging that comes from this change is that you really don’t want [incompletes] stretching out for long periods of time,” Goodnough said. 

SCEP compared the University’s policy to other universities and found the University’s timeframe to finish an incomplete class was longer than most, Tidball said.  

The committee also evaluated when a faculty member should assign a grade instead of an incomplete. Tidball said in some cases, it’s better for students to take the potentially low grade instead of an incomplete.

Karolina Doran, an apparel design junior, has three incomplete courses. She said the shortened timeframe could add additional stress. 

“I think this is a really bad idea,” Doran said. “[Finishing an incomplete course] puts a lot of added stress on top of all the classes you’re already taking.”