Academic Progress and Academic Standing

STUDENT HANDBOOK: Academics and Field Work Term

To proceed successfully through Bennington, a student 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 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.

Academic Progress

Academic progress at Bennington is both quantitative and qualitative. Bennington’s evaluation of academic progress is in accordance with federal regulations and is completed by the Office of the Provost and Dean at the end of each term in four ways:

  1. By determining the number of credits a student has earned in a term, in an academic year, and cumulatively. Please see the quantitative standard below.

  2. By reviewing a student’s cumulative number of Pass, Marginal Pass, and Fail evaluations, and grades, if applicable. Please see the qualitative standard below.

  3. By requiring satisfactory completion of Field Work Terms, generally required annually from each student enrolled for the full academic year.

  4. By requiring timely submission and acceptance of a student’s academic Plan.

After each academic term, student records are reviewed for academic progress as noted above. 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. A student may appeal academic dismissals as described below. Explanations for each designation of academic standing follow the sections on quantitative and qualitative standards.

Quantitative Standard

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 and Dean, 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.

According to federal regulations, 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 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. 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.

Please note: In accordance with federal regulations, any withdrawal from the College, regardless of the reason, after the term has started will result in 0 credits earned out of 16 attempted and Cumulative Pace calculations will have to be adjusted accordingly.

*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.

Qualitative Standard

  • 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 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 containing 6 or fewer credits of full passes (e.g., 10 credits of MPs and 6 credits of Ps). Students’ performance over the course of their time at the College will always be taken into consideration when assessing whether or not they meet the qualitative standard.

Any student who has academic difficulties in any course should discuss the problem with the instructor as soon as possible. Students should also bring the problem to the attention of their faculty advisor. The student also may discuss these difficulties with a member of the Office of the Provost and Dean.

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).

In accordance with federal regulations, 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.

Academic Standing

The Office of the Provost and Dean determines each student’s academic standing after considering academic progress as described above. Any student whose work is not satisfactory or who has not submitted a Plan on time and obtained timely approval of a Plan, or who has not successfully completed the FWT requirement, may be placed on academic warning or be dismissed from the College. 

Dismissal decisions are made by the Dean of Studies or designee in consultation with the faculty as needed. Students who have been dismissed are formally separated from the college and are no longer permitted access to campus spaces and activities.  Students who have been dismissed must have permission, in advance, from the Director of Campus Safety to visit campus.

Good standing. All students enter Bennington in good standing and remain in good standing as long as they continue to make satisfactory academic progress. If a student loses good academic standing they may regain their standing by meeting the expectations outlined in the sections below.

Notice. Students in good standing may receive a notation of “notice” in order to alert them and their advisor that they need to pay particularly careful attention to their academic progress. Students with a “notice” designation are still considered to be in good academic standing.

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 pass 16 credits with no marginal passes, C-s, Ds, or Fs. In addition, students are expected to satisfy any Plan action for the term, including submitting their Plan on time and having it approved during the term, as well as satisfy FWT requirements 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. 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). In accordance with federal regulations, students on probation are required to work with a member of the Office of the Provost and Dean 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 Office of the Provost and Dean. The SAP Plan must be reviewed (and may be revised) by a member of the Office of the Provost and Dean and faculty advisor at the beginning of the term of probation and must be signed by the student after such review/revision. 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 warning are not eligible for non-term campus employment or non-term residency. 

Good Standing–Satisfactory Academic Progress Plan (SAP Plan). In accordance with federal regulations, 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 Dean of Studies 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.