Study Abroad policy reduces academic motivation

The Office of Study Abroad’s new grade point average policy encourages student slacking and devalues the classroom aspect of the study abroad experience. 

Starting in fall 2015, courses students take while studying abroad will no longer count toward their grade point averages. This switch only affects those programs approved by the Office of Study Abroad. This policy does not apply to students studying abroad through the A.B. Freeman School of Business. 

If Tulane allows students to study through an endorsed program, it should have confidence in the quality and rigor of the courses provided. This change sends a mixed message to students. The policy sends the message that study abroad programs currently offered are inadequate when compared to the course equivalent at Tulane. The lack of accountability also invites students to neglect their studies while studying abroad, encouraging them to spend their academic time frivolously.

Those students who work diligently while abroad no longer have any motivation or reward for their efforts. Consequently, Tulane incentivizes student slacking. While students should be able to enjoy their time abroad, they still have chosen to travel while participating in educational programs. Tulane should continue to require students to honor that commitment regardless of difficulty or course equivalence.

To ensure transparency and a consistent level of academic expectation across the board, Tulane should apply its current policies on campus to the abroad programs it sponsors. Students registered for classes that fulfill requirements for the core curriculum and their minor or major should have to include these grades in their GPA. For electives, students should have the option to choose whether to include their earned grades in their GPAs or take the class with the pass or fail option.

While Scott Pentzer, associate dean for global education, stresses that there are differing academic cultures and grading differences around the world, the study abroad office should account for these differences and bridge the knowledge gap if it endorses participation in these programs. 

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