Thursday, September 28

Students will have the chance to opt out of letter grades this semester

By: Maria Monteros

Students will now have the opportunity to use an alternative grading scale that wouldn’t affect their GPA in place of letter grades for each course of their choice.

The office of academic records sent an email Thursday to all undergraduate students about their option to file a form if they prefer to be graded satisfactory (S) or unsatisfactory (U) for any or all courses 15 days after receiving their final grade. Students can also opt to keep their letter grades, the email stated.

The Ad hoc committee–a group of 10 faculty, administrators and Trevecca employees– voted unanimously this week to offer the option to alleviate the stress of the sudden shift to online classes and COVID-19 pandemic, said Lena Welch, dean of the school of arts and sciences and chair of the Ad hoc committee.

“We were beginning to hear about situations where students were struggling with the technology and with health concerns and with concerns about family and unemployment,” she said. “This is just a very stressful time for students.”

Two weeks earlier, the committee initially voted unanimously against the S/U option because of the potential side effects such as losing scholarships, inconsistencies in grading and complications in graduate school applications, Welch said.

After Trevecca’s accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS), “encouraged” universities to give either a Pass/Fail or S/U option to students in addition to letter grades, the committee reevaluated their initial decision, Welch said.

“I’m sure there are some institutions that have not gone along with that recommendation,” she said. “In general, Trevecca follows the SACS accrediting body.”

Students that receive a grade above a C- will can chose to receive an  S on their transcripts, and anything below will receive a U, said Welch. To get an S, students still need to follow the attendance policy, she said.

Receiving a U on the credit hours will not be counted towards graduation requirements, and the class needs to be retaken.

Welch said some programs such as the teacher’s education program and the nursing program require a GPA and will not give students pursuing these degrees the S/U option.

Some graduate programs in the US don’t accept courses without a letter grade, which might force Trevecca students to retake some classes if they choose to receive an S or U.

“I worry more about the graduate who, in five or 10 years, decides to go into a master’s program,” she said. “By that point, institutions may not be as understanding.”

Advisors cannot prevent students from choosing the S/U option, Katrina Chapman, registrar at the office of academic records, wrote in the campus-wide email. The advisor’s “role is to advise a student,” she wrote.

“A student electing to take an S/U grade does so at his/her own discretion, and the University cannot be held responsible for any future opportunity ramifications,” according to the email.

Kylie Pruitt, director of student financial services, said having an S/U on a transcript won’t affect most federal and institutional scholarships if students already meet the required GPA. If students need to raise their GPA to qualify for a scholarship, an S/U may impede their chances, she said.

“Normally, there would be some pretty great impacts,” she said about choosing an S/U grade. “However, with the COVID crisis going on right now, most federal and state government eased some of those restrictions.”

The Tennessee HOPE scholarship, for instance, has allowed universities to send a student’s GPA from the fall semester instead of the spring, Pruitt said.

Trevecca’s institutional scholarships require students to maintain a 3.0 GPA to renew. However, Pruitt said students may submit an appeal if they don’t meet the qualification.

“Each student’s situation is going to be unique and different,” she said. “What we are encouraging students to do, if they are considering taking an S or a U grade, is to reach out to their financial aid advisor.”

Allowing students to switch to an S/U grading option by the end of the semester gives students the chance to decide what benefits them the most, Welch said. Before students make their choice, she recommends they speak to their advisors.

“You’ll hear me over and over say that we’re giving students the choice,” she said. “It’s not going to be something advisors suggest or anybody’s going to sign off on. It’s just the student’s choice.”

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