Almost nine thousand students withdraw from fall courses

Illustration by Monique Rojas | The Signal

The statistics show that students are notably overwhelmed. The circumstances have caused many students to withdraw from one, if not all, of their courses.

Compared to last year’s fall semester, an increased number of students have withdrawn from their courses during the pandemic. 

According to an open records request done by The Signal, a total number of 8,823 Georgia State students have dropped one course or multiple courses between Aug. 24 and Oct. 13 of this year.

These numbers include students of all levels; associate, bachelors, graduate and Georgia State Law students. But the numbers exclude the students who were dropped from courses due to nonpayment. 

Dropping a course in the first week of classes does not negatively affect a student. Instead, students can simply drop it from their schedule without receiving a “W” on their transcript. But students who choose to withdraw are willing to risk the outcome that results from a grade of a “W.”

Around the same time last year, a total number of 7,948 students dropped a course or multiple courses between Aug. 26 and Oct. 15 of the fall 2019 semester.

In comparison, 875 more students (and counting) withdrew from a course this semester. 

According to the Georgia State News Hub, around 54,000 students are enrolled across Georgia State’s campuses. Almost 20% of students throughout the university have withdrawn from their courses.

University Registrar Tarrah Mirus said that a blend of withdrawals is occurring. Some students are withdrawing from one class, while others are dropping their course schedule altogether. 

“At this time, there is a reasonable mix of students who are withdrawing from a single course or two versus their full schedule,” she said. “This is normal for any given semester. We are monitoring both individual withdrawal and full withdraw processes at this time.”

Samaria Clair, a sophomore and former staff reporter at The Signal, fully withdrew from her course schedule. She recounted that the withdrawal process was easy but discouraging. 

“Physically, it was easy because I just woke up and withdrew from the class by just clicking drop, [but] emotionally and mentally [it was not easy],” she said. “Although I only took one class this semester, it was still frustrating [to withdraw]. Not only because of the class itself but dealing with personal issues as well.”

Knowing that she needed a light course load, Clair decided to take only one class this semester. However, the pressure and the pandemic led her to withdraw.

“It’s hard for a student to balance out school and personal issues, especially around this time during the pandemic,” Clair said. “I received a full refund since I withdrew before the end of the withdrawal period.” 

According to the student financial services website, students who withdraw from their courses by the deadline are eligible for refunds.

“Not attending classes for which you have registered does not entitle you to a refund,” the website states. “You must drop your courses before the withdrawal period begins for a full refund.  Refunds for withdrawals are only issued if you withdraw from ALL courses during the withdrawal period each semester.  Refund percentages are calculated based on the date you withdraw from ALL courses.”

The original academic calendar states that this year’s withdrawal period was to begin on Sept. 2 and end on Oct. 13. However, Georgia State extended the withdrawal period to Oct. 30, at the advantage of students and faculty.

“The extended deadline was given to help those students who have been working hard, but maybe feeling unsure of how they are doing to get a stronger feeling of where they stand after midpoint,” Mirus said. “Whether through conversations with faculty and students or just in reviewing recent data points, we recognize that this is a difficult time for students and faculty alike.”

The fall 2019 withdraw period was Sep. 4 to Oct. 15. This year, the university extended it by two weeks. 

“We felt this was the best choice available to help alleviate stress and strain on students as well as faculty members,” Mirus said.

A day before the initial withdrawal deadline, The Registrar sent a campus broadcast to students informing them of the change.

“The standard withdrawal deadline for the University has been extended from Tuesday, Oct. 13 to Friday, Oct. 30,” the email stated. “This extension will allow faculty ample time to manage midterm grading and will allow students more time to receive feedback on their academic performance this semester.“

Georgia State allows students a limit of six withdrawals before it begins to count against them and affect their grade point average. 

However, there are various types of withdrawals that do not affect a student’s GPA, including withdrawals for nonpayment, military withdrawals and emergency withdrawals.

Though some students are withdrawing due to family issues or COVID-19-related incidents, the registrar reserves emergency withdrawals for outside of the withdrawal period. 

“Emergency withdrawals are not necessary during the regular withdrawal period for any given semester,” Mirus said. “We would only begin to receive this type of request after the standard withdrawal period has ended, which is now extended to Oct. 30.”

Georgia State junior German Hernandez believes that the increased number of withdrawals mirrors the decreased amount of provision that the country and university had for COVID-19.

“I think the mass withdrawal from courses reflects four things,” Hernandez said. “[It reflects] how the nation handled the COVID situation, the varying styles of home life, the overall effort of a student and how professors are handling it as well.”

He said that many students are withdrawing due to either lack of motivation or a troubling home life. He believes that any relational or at-home dynamic is amplified during the pandemic. Hernandez also believes that the faculty is a component of students withdrawing from their courses.

Some professors have difficulty adapting to virtual learning, causing students to become disengaged and unmotivated. Hernandez said that everything is connected by the overarching issue: COVID-19.