Academic Progress and Academic Standing
STUDENT HANDBOOK: Academics and Field Work Term
To proceed successfully through a Bennington education, students must meet the academic requirements outlined in this handbook. Concurrently, students must progress adequately each term, move through the curriculum with broad goals for achieving a liberal arts education and, within that context, with the more focused goals of developing both an area of primary interest/inquiry and the ability to do advanced work in that area.
Academic advising is central to this process and active participation in advising makes it possible for students to make appropriate choices in their program of study.
Note: Bennington’s evaluation of academic progress mirrors federal regulations regarding financial aid warning and probation.
Academic progress at Bennington is both quantitative and qualitative. Bennington’s evaluation of academic progress is completed by the Office of the Provost at the end of each term in four ways:
- By determining the number of credits a student has earned in a given term, as well as cumulatively over the course of their studies. Please see the quantitative standard below.
- By reviewing a student’s cumulative number of Pass, Marginal Pass, and Fail evaluations, and grades, if applicable. Please see the qualitative standard below.
- By requiring satisfactory completion of Field Work Terms, generally required annually from each student enrolled for the full academic year.
- By requiring timely submission and Plan Committee approval of a student’s academic Plan.
After each academic term, Academic Services staff conduct an Academic Review. This process of reviewing students’ records is the basis for determining each student’s academic standing. Students who do not meet satisfactory progress standards are notified (along with their families, when permitted by law. See Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Annual Notice). Students who are at risk of academic progress difficulties remain in Good Standing but receive a designation of “Notice.” Students facing more severe challenges to their academic progress may be placed on Academic Warning or may be dismissed. Students may appeal academic dismissals as described below. Explanations for each designation of academic standing follow the sections on quantitative and qualitative standards.
Success in meeting the quantitative standard is evaluated by measuring cumulative pace, which is the term used to describe the ratio of a student’s cumulative credits earned to cumulative credits attempted; it measures how quickly a student is progressing toward graduation within the expected amount of time. Students must earn 128 credits to meet the credit requirement for graduation.
Bennington students must complete their undergraduate degree in 10 terms (160 attempted credits) or fewer.* In order to assure that this will be the case, a certain cumulative pace must be maintained from term to term. Each term, a full-time student is expected to take and complete 16 credits. When calculating cumulative pace, therefore, the number of credits attempted per term is always set at 16 for full-time students, even if a student has registered for more or fewer credits in a given term. The only exception to this is made for students who have been granted, by the Office of the Provost, an accommodation in the form of a reduced course load (see Accommodations and Support.) Students granted an accommodation in the form of a reduced course load are still expected to complete their undergraduate degree in 10 terms (160 attempted credits) or fewer, unless this is adjusted in the form of an additional accommodation.
Students who complete less than 75 to 80 percent (depending on term standing) of the total expected credits will not maintain the necessary cumulative pace to graduate within the maximum amount of time allowed and will lose good academic standing. The only exception to this is made for students who withdraw during the term for documented medical reasons (see medical withdrawal section for more information). The chart below details the minimum number of credits needed at the end of each full-time term at the College in order to maintain the necessary cumulative pace.
In addition, at the conclusion of any term, any student earning a pace of 50 percent or below for the term (e.g., earning 8 or fewer credits in a single term) may be placed on academic warning or be dismissed from the College.
After careful consideration with the faculty advisor, a full-time student may elect to take a reduced course load of 12-15 credits for an occasional term, with the understanding that credits will be made up in future terms. Of course, a student’s cumulative pace toward graduation is affected when fewer credits are taken in any given term.
Students may apply for part-time status by contacting the Office of Academic Services. This status means that a student is registered for fewer than 12 credits in a term. For these students, the number of credits attempted for the purposes of calculating cumulative pace is the number of credits for which a student has registered at the end of the term’s add/drop period.
Transfer credits earned before attendance at Bennington or elsewhere while in attendance at Bennington count as both credits attempted and credits earned in the pace calculation.
*This limit does not mean that a student cannot take a leave or withdraw for a period of time; it simply means that a student cannot attend for more than 10 full-time terms.
The college assesses qualitative progress by reviewing students’ grades in their individual courses in any given term.
- A Pass (P) reflects satisfactory work and is equivalent to a range of performance from C to A+.
- A Marginal Pass (MP) does not reflect satisfactory progress, but the student will receive credit for the course. An MP is the equivalent of a D- to C- grade.
- A Fail (F) means that the student will not receive credit for the course.
Students’ performance over the course of their time at the College will be taken into consideration when assessing whether or not they meet the qualitative standard. Students will generally lose good academic standing (see below) or be dismissed from the College if they fail 6 or more credits in a given term (for full-time students) or half a program (for part-time students). A failure in a 4-credit course combined with a marginal pass in one or more other courses in a given term, will also generally result in the loss of good standing or dismissal from the College, as will a term where the student fully passes 6 or fewer credits (e.g., 10 credits of MPs and 6 credits of Ps)
Any student who has academic difficulties in any course should discuss the problem with the instructor as soon as possible. Students may also utilize the wide variety of support on campus, including their academic advisor, counselors in Academic Services, and peer tutors, to develop the skills and work habits that influence academic success.
In addition, students are required to submit Plan essays on time and have an approved academic Plan in place by the end of their fourth term; therefore, timely submission and approval of a student’s academic Plan is considered when evaluating qualitative progress. A student will generally lose good standing if a Plan is not approved, a Plan is deferred twice, a Plan is not in place at the end of a student’s fourth term, or a Plan is not progressing well. A student who fails to submit a required Plan essay in any given term will also generally lose good standing (see below).
Students are expected to have a cumulative average of C or above (or the equivalent) by the end of their second year. However, a student may have passed several courses in a particular area of study but still not be deemed able to pursue advanced work in that area; these decisions are made through the Plan process and with individual faculty members. In such cases, the student will be advised to propose another area of study and/or will be advised that one or more extra terms are necessary for graduation; in some cases, the student may be dismissed from the College.
The Office of the Provost determines each student’s academic standing after considering academic progress as described above.
Good Standing. All students enter Bennington in good standing and remain in good standing as long as they continue to make satisfactory academic progress
Notice. Students in good standing may receive a notation of “notice” if their coursework or FWT assessment does not fully meet the college’s qualitative and quantitative expectations. Students with a “notice” designation are still considered to be in good academic standing; the designation is meant to alert them and their advisor that they need to pay particularly careful attention to their academic progress in order to avoid a loss of good academic standing in a future term.
Academic Warning. Academic Warning is a loss of good academic standing as a result of failing to meet satisfactory academic progress as outlined in the quantitative and qualitative sections above. In order to return to good standing, students placed on Academic Warning are expected to earn a full course load of credits (16 credits, unless approved for a reduced course load accommodation), with no marginal passes or failures; students electing to take grades must earn grades of C or better. In addition, students are expected to satisfy any Plan action and FWT requirement for the term. Students on Academic Warning must also maintain the necessary cumulative pace to be returned to good standing at the end of the term. Students who do not return to good standing following a term of academic warning will be dismissed. Dismissal decisions are made by the Associate Dean of the College or designee in consultation with the faculty as needed. Students who have been dismissed are formally separated from the college; they are no longer permitted access to campus spaces and activities, and must have permission, in advance, from the Director of Campus Safety to visit campus.
Normally, only one term of Warning is permitted. Please note that students who are on Academic Warning are not eligible for non-term campus employment or non-term residency.
Academic Probation. A student who has been dismissed following a term of Academic Warning can appeal for a term of Academic Probation (see Appeals section below). Students on Probation are required to work with a member of the Academic Services staff and their faculty advisor to complete a Satisfactory Academic Progress Plan (SAP Plan) for regaining and maintaining satisfactory academic progress. SAP Plans must be drafted before students return for their term of Probation and given provisional approval by a member of the Academic Services staff. The SAP Plan must be reviewed and approved by a member of the Academic Services staff and faculty advisor at the beginning of the term of Probation and must be signed by the student. Students who fail to complete an SAP Plan for Probation, whose SAP Plan is not approved, or students who do not successfully complete the requirements set forth in the SAP Plan, will be dismissed from the College. Please note that students who are on Academic Probation are not eligible for non-term campus employment or non-term residency. See the Financial Aid Handbook for information about SAP Plan and financial aid eligibility.
Students on Academic Probation must meet the same expectation as described above in order to return to good standing. They must earn a full course load of credits (16 credits, unless approved for a reduced course load accommodation), with no marginal passes or failures; students electing to take grades must earn grades of C or better. In addition, students are expected to satisfy any Plan action and FWT requirement for the term. Students on Academic Probation must also maintain the necessary cumulative pace to be returned to good standing at the end of the term. Students who do not return to good standing following a term of Academic Probation will again be dismissed from the college.
Good Standing–Satisfactory Academic Progress Plan (SAP Plan). Students who successfully complete a term of Academic Warning or Academic Probation but are unable to regain the required minimum cumulative pace after just one term will continue on a SAP Plan until they regain a satisfactory pace. Students who only minimally meet the expectations to return to good standing from Academic Warning may be placed on a SAP Plan for the term following Warning. Students following a SAP Plan must meet the terms of their SAP Plan; those who do not will be dismissed from the College.
Appeals Following Academic Dismissal. Students who have been dismissed may submit an appeal to return for a term of Academic Warning (if dismissed following a term of good standing) or Probation (if dismissed following a term of warning or probation), which shall be determined by the Appeals Committee at its discretion. The Associate Dean of the College will advise the student in writing of the Committee’s decision, which is final. Normally, appeals are submitted within one year of the date of dismissal. Circumstances that may provide the basis for such a request include serious injury or health condition, or the injury, illness, or death of a parent or sibling, or other extenuating circumstances. The appeal to return on Warning or Probation must explain why the student did not achieve satisfactory academic progress and describe what has changed in the student’s situation to allow the student to achieve satisfactory academic progress during a term of Warning or Probation. Successful appeals will illustrate or provide concrete evidence that one’s situation has changed. Such evidence could include transcripts reflecting courses completed elsewhere or recommendations from employers, health care providers, or other members of one’s community, supporting the applicant’s assertion that they are prepared to meet the demands of full-time academic work. The College may require additional materials following the review of an appeal. If an appeal is not taken or is not granted, the student is dismissed. Students are normally limited to one such appeal during their time at the College. Students who are dismissed following a term of Probation, however, may submit a second appeal if they experienced extenuating circumstances during the term of Probation that are different from those cited in their first appeal. Stipulations noted in the Academic Probation section above also apply to second terms of Probation.