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Top 10 most failed or dropped courses at Iowa State

The graphic displays the courses with the highest percentage of students who dropped, failed or withdrew from the course during the fall 2023 semester, according to data from the office of enrollment research and analytics. (Emma Wilson)

Data from the Iowa State University Office of Enrollment Research and Analytics reveals the top ten courses failed or withdrawn (The DFW Rate) of the 2023 fall semester.

“The DFW Rate is the percentage of students getting a D+, D, D-, F, or withdrawing from a course,” Jonathan Compton, Iowa State’s data analyst, said. 

The class on the list with the largest enrollment is C E 274 Engineering Statics, which started with 725 students and had approximately 377 finish and pass with a C- or higher. 

The class with the next highest enrollment was COM S 311 Introduction to the Design and Analysis of Algorithms, which started the semester with 258 students and had approximately 153 of those students finish and pass with a C- or higher. 

All other courses on the list had enrollment between 50 and 142. 

Chemistry had the most classes on the list, bringing three CHEM classes to the top 10 list, including CHEM 324 (Introductory Quantum Mechanics), CHEM 332 (Organic Chemistry II) and CHEM 231 (Elementary Organic Chemistry).

“I won’t lie, this class [CHEM 231] intimidates me, but along with the unnerving emotion, there’s a spark to success and learn,” Lauren Glover, a sophomore in dietetics and current CHEM 231 student, said. “My only hope is that the spark continues to burn bright through the rigorous course load.” 

With a total of 96 students, SPAN 97 (Accelerated Spanish Review) was the highest failed or withdrawn course by percentage. Altogether, approximately 41 students passed the course in the fall. 

SPAN 97 is a no-credit course that fulfills the foreign language requirement at Iowa State. The profile of a student who takes the course is someone who has taken two years of high school Spanish. The student then finds out they should have taken three to fulfill the foreign language requirement for their major at Iowa State. A student with two years of Spanish in high school cannot take SPAN 101 (Elementary Spanish l).

“It’s my opinion that many students take the class because as long as they pass the class with a D- or better, the language requirement is fulfilled, and their GPA is unaffected,” Julie Wilhelm, SPAN 97 professor, said. “For many students, there is not much incentive to do better than the minimum necessary. I also think the title, ‘Accelerated Spanish Review,’ leads students to think that the class is easy because of the word review and my assessment of the high rates of D, D- or F is because the grade is not figured into the GPA.”

Following SPAN 97 was C E 274 (Engineering Statics) with about a 48% fail or withdrawal rate, and COM S 311 (Introduction to the Design and Analysis of Algorithms) with about a 41% rate. 

Instructors encouraged students to reach out to their instructors if they are struggling in a course.

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Comments (11)

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  • K

    Katie K. | Feb 8, 2024 at 8:16 am

    Not sure if including all three of these stats in one graphic is helpful to understanding if there is a problem with these courses or not. Especially when withdrawal stats could be related to complete withdrawal from university for medical or family reasons unrelated to the course at all.

    Reply
  • A

    Ann | Jan 29, 2024 at 9:31 pm

    Attn: Graphics Person: CE 274 is Engineering Statics, not Statistics (it’s correct in the article)

    Reply
  • K

    Kirk Twelmeyer | Jan 26, 2024 at 6:17 am

    This shows the top 10 professors that need to be fired.

    Reply
  • D

    David J Sheets | Jan 25, 2024 at 6:50 pm

    I have been an engineer for 20 years. I have been a leader on DoD projects, designed equipment for NASA, and contended with rather thorny signal processing and communication problems. I am presently a Principal Engineer. And I am proud to say when I got my D- in Com Sci 311 I was proud I passed. I think Com Sci 311 exists to torture non-com sci majors. I wear my otherwise ignoble grade as a badge of honor.

    Reply
  • S

    Sirius Xaedax-Stanley | Jan 25, 2024 at 2:02 pm

    I’d love to see a top 5 for each major.

    Reply
  • T

    Tom Jurik | Jan 25, 2024 at 8:32 am

    SO, what are the top ten courses? Big headline, but the article does not list the top 10. (mentions only 8, in no reasonable order)

    Reply
    • L

      LK | Jan 25, 2024 at 9:33 am

      It says the top 10 on the graphic at the beginning of the story.

      Reply
    • A

      anonymous | Jan 25, 2024 at 9:37 am

      theres a graphic

      Reply
    • D

      Dan Coffey | Jan 25, 2024 at 9:40 am

      Tom, they’re listed in the graphic.

      Reply
    • T

      Tom | Jan 25, 2024 at 9:43 am

      Shut up

      Reply
    • J

      Josh | Jan 25, 2024 at 10:51 am

      Tom, there’s a graphic in the article that gives the list.

      Reply