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updated: 7/26/2011 10:26 AM

Chicago State let failing students stay

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Associated Press

Chicago State University allowed failing students to continue registering for classes to boost enrollment numbers while it was at risk of losing accreditation because of poor enrollment and retention, according to a published report Tuesday.

The public university on the city's South Side has a policy that students with a grade-point average below 1.8 should be dismissed, but the Chicago Tribune reported that even students with GPAs as low as 0.0 were allowed to stay.

University president Wayne Watson said the practice started before he took over in 2009, but the school will now enforce its policy.

"There is no way to say that Chicago State didn't make a mistake," Watson told the Tribune in a story published Tuesday. "We believe it is wrong, we stopped it, we put in measures to assure that it never happens again going forward."

The newspaper cited records obtained from the university, which enrolls about 7,200 students.

Over the years, the school has faced widespread financial mismanagement, rough audits and a failure to graduate students.

Watson said the university's reported 61 percent retention rate -- up from an average of 55 percent during the last five years -- on an incoming group of 2009 freshmen was higher than it should have been.

"The numbers are off by a couple of percentage points, yes," Watson said. "Our intent was never to mislead you, to mislead the public, and when we found out . we discontinued it immediately."

Of the 589 freshmen who started in fall 2009, 140 finished the first year with a GPA below 1.8 and 22 had a GPA of 0.0. From that incoming cohort, 64 students finished the spring 2011 semester with a GPA below 1.8, according to the Tribune.

The university recently dismissed 47 students from that group to enforce its policy, but it's unknown how many remain.

Chicago State says students with a 1.99 GPA or lower are placed on academic probation after one semester. If after the next semester they're below 1.8 with less than 30 credit hours, they're dismissed "for poor scholarship."

Still, officials at the university said they're cautious about making conclusions about all the students with low GPAs. For one, students can appeal their dismissals and show if they faced any hardships like a family emergency.