Dive Brief: 

  • The University of Virginia recently joined a handful of schools relaxing their grading policies this fall by allowing its undergraduate students to take classes for credit or no credit instead of receiving letter grades. 

  • Bowling Green State University, in Ohio, similarly announced last week it is allowing students to switch to a pass/fail grading system. Ohio State University is offering the option for general education courses and within select majors. 

  • Some institutions reverted to letter grades this fall after loosening their grading policies in the spring, but students at several schools are urging administrators to switch to a pass/fail system. 

Dive Insight: 

UVA changed its grading policies after the administration talked with students and employees, Provost Liz Magill wrote in a campuswide message last week. 

“They reported high levels of stress, anxiety, and personal and family challenges among large numbers of students, and all encouraged both the deans and me to consider flexible grading options this semester,” Magill said. 

The UVA Student Council applauded the move, writing in a statement that it will help students “navigate this incredibly challenging semester.”

Although council executives and more than 1,700 students and 66 organizations signed a petition calling for the administration to make credit or no credit grades the default, students will have to opt into the system. The document also noted the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University implemented pass/fail policies for the fall term.

Bowling Green State told students they could switch to a pass/fail grading system for some or all of their classes. It urged them to meet with their advisers before doing so, especially if they plan on applying to law or medical schools. 

Ohio State adopted a similar policy for its general education courses. Certain colleges within the university — including arts and sciences, education and human ecology, and public affairs — are allowing students to count pass/fail courses toward major requirements. 

This fall hasn’t seen as much grading flexibility as the spring, which saw a flurry of temporary policies allowing students to switch to pass/fail to help them adapt to learning during the pandemic.

Students nationwide are asking their colleges to loosen grading requirements for the fall. Many argue the challenges they encountered last spring, including a lack of technology or reliable Wi-Fi access, have persisted.

“This is not a normal semester,” reads legislation passed by Harvard University’s Undergraduate Council calling for more flexible grading. “[It] is morally irresponsible to maintain a normal grading policy.”

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