Adelphi continues to set the pace for student success. Our new policy decision removes the minimum GPA requirement for retaining academic scholarships—a step in support of equity and the mental health of students who rely on this important financial support.

Keeping students on track for academic success and graduation is all-important at Adelphi.

For that reason, the University made an important change in policy: Students who have received academic scholarships no longer need to maintain a minimum GPA to retain their award. Instead, students must display satisfactory academic progress, which includes a passing GPA of at least 2.0. The new policy eliminates a great deal of the fear students have around losing these critically needed funds. The sigh of relief from students and families has been profound.

“We did this to improve student success, retention and mental health,” said Kristen Capezza, MBA ’12, vice president of enrollment management and University communications. “The high GPA requirement was a stressor and a barrier that we wanted to eliminate so students could focus entirely on their studies and academic growth.”

The impact will be significant. On average, more than 70 percent of Adelphi undergrads receive some level of merit award each year, Capezza said.

The policy change came about in response to the pressures students faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and the shifts to varied modes of learning. The University has not canceled or reduced any merit scholarships during the pandemic, in recognition of inequitable learning environments. Aware that GPAs aren’t the best measure of student success, Adelphi decided to make permanent changes to its policy.

“The pandemic was the tipping point for us,” Capezza says. “It gave us time to really reflect on our policies and talk about what would have the most meaningful impact on students.”

GPAs are overrated

“GPAs are an important tool, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle,” said Matthew Wright, PhD, associate professor and chair of the Department of Physics. “You’ve got to look at different metrics to determine how students are really doing.”

The metrics that matter, Dr. Wright said, are academic growth and intellectual maturity. “It’s not necessarily how well you did on one exam, but if you’re improving on all of your exams,” he said. “Are you reaching out when things don’t make sense, looking for help? Are you pushing yourself? Those are the things that we should be rewarding. Those are the habits that will serve you in your career.”

The way a student attains that growth and maturity is to take challenging classes, Dr. Wright said. And that’s where the focus on a high GPA can be detrimental.

“I’ve seen students avoid a challenging class and take an easier class where they think they’ll get an A,” Dr. Wright says. “The focus on GPA can punish students who take a harder program.”

One bad test away from financial disaster

The focus on GPA can also cause lasting financial harm to students. One bad grade can wreck a student’s GPA, cost them their scholarship, and force them to either quit school or take out more student loans to make up for the lost scholarship funds.

Taking the focus off GPAs is a matter of getting priorities right and ensuring financial equity, Dr. Wright said.

“Once students are out in the world working in their careers, they will never be asked what their college GPA was,” Dr. Wright said. “But if they have to take out additional loans because they lost a scholarship over one bad grade, that extra debt will follow them every day of their career.”

Removing the strict GPA requirements means students will now be able to focus on learning and growing instead of playing the numbers game of keeping a high GPA.“This puts the emphasis on their academic experiences, which is what’s most important,” Capezza said.

The response from students and families has been overwhelmingly positive.

“They’re thanking us for removing this barrier and the added pressure, and for allowing students to focus on learning and getting as much knowledge as they can from their program,” Capezza said.

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