Grades earned abroad no longer applicable to GPA after policy change

Franny Hocking, Associate News Editor

Grades earned while studying abroad will no longer contribute to the overall grade point average starting fall 2015. The grades will still be present on the official transcript. 

This change will only apply to programs through the Office of Study Abroad. GPAs will still count in the A.B. Freeman School of Business study abroad programs. Additionally, if the course is a Tulane course taught by a Tulane faculty member, then that grade will count toward the student’s cumulative GPA.

Scott Pentzer, the associate dean for global education, said the study abroad office is instituting this change because there are often cultural differences or language barriers that make it difficult for students to earn the grades they would typically earn at Tulane.

“Naturally academic cultures vary a lot around the world,” Pentzer said. “There are cultural differences, but there are [also] grading differences. This naturally creates anxiety for Tulane students when they study abroad. What we are really out to do here is ease that anxiety a little bit.”

Sophomore Mikaela Schwab plans to study abroad in Vienna, Austria in fall 2015. She said she believes the change is good. 

“I think it is a great idea because it eases some of the stress of going abroad, and it may encourage more students to take advantage of the opportunity,” Schwab said. 

Pentzer said the new policy aims to reduce student anxiety caused by academic work abroad. 

“We always ask students to get out of their comfort zone when they study abroad,” Pentzer said. “We ask them to get a little out of their academic comfort zones and see how other countries do things.”

Senior Public Health Major Elizabeth Morell studied abroad in Salvador, Brazil. She agrees that students could benefit from eliminating study abroad courses from GPA factors. 

“Because of how the program was organized, my grades were not where I thought they should be, so having them count for my GPA was a disappointment,” Morell said. “I have had friends go abroad and take really challenging classes, as did I, and it would be nice to not have to stress about the school work to be able to enjoy the program and the time abroad at the same time.”

Sophomore Walker Daniel will study abroad her entire junior year as part of the Altman Scholars Program. 

“On the one hand, it will allow me to enjoy my experience abroad, and not always have to worry about grades,” Daniel said. “On the other hand, if I’m going to school, I want it to count.” 

Senior public health major Elizabeth Morell said she wished this policy was implemented before she studied in Brazil last spring.  

“I like that they are not making grades count towards GPA for the majority of the students because being abroad is about learning so much outside of the classroom, and a GPA can’t capture the experiences of life abroad and how much learning actually comes from living in a foreign country,” Morell said.