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MSU Providing the Option for Pass/Fail Grading in the Spring 2020 Semester

After carefully considering all the options, and the ramifications of each, MSU is prepared to provide our students with pass/fail options for grades this semester, given the unique and unprecedented situation in which we find ourselves.  

First and foremost, we expect students to master course content to the greatest degree possible in every semester, but particularly this semester. Every course is a key element of their education, and failing to master the learning outcomes set forward in a course may negatively impact students in future courses. Sequential courses like Calculus I and Calculus II demand that students master entry-level course skills before advancing successfully to upper-level course requirements. 

Each curriculum is carefully constructed to progressively expand our students’ skills and knowledge, and ceasing to study mid-semester in a course that is used by future courses will severely disadvantage students as they progress through their education.  Thus, we have continually sought to ensure instructors are meeting course objectives, albeit in a radically different approach, with the move to online education that became necessary because of the threat of COVID-19.

That said, we also recognize that the current health crisis and our transition to the online environment has disrupted lives and the learning process for both students and faculty.  In some cases these disruptions have impaired students’ ability to learn, and they should not be penalized for factors beyond their control.  In light of these realities, MSU is providing the following options for our students:

  • Faculty will enter letter grades, A-F, as normal.
  • Undergraduate students will be allowed to choose, by individual course, to take the letter grade that has been assigned, or to translate that grade to one of the following: an “S” for satisfactory (for grades A, B, or C), “P” for passing (for a grade of D), or “U” for unsatisfactory (for an F letter grade).
  • Students should note that many courses require a C or better in prerequisite courses, meaning that an S would be required. While the grade P represents passing, it does not represent an appropriate grade for course progression in many instances; therefore, S should always be chosen if a letter grade of C or higher has been earned.
  • S, P, or U will be on the transcript, but will not be calculated in the grade point average on the transcript.
  • For graduate students, S will represent a grade of A or B, P will represent at grade of C, and U will represent a D or F letter grade.  S, P, and U will not calculate into the grade point average.

Deadlines and Procedures:

  • The deadline for faculty to post final grades is 10:00 a.m. CDT on May 4.  
  • Students will have until 10:00 a.m. CDT on May 7 to decide whether to keep their assigned grade in a course or to translate the assigned grade to S/P/U. Because transcripts are needed for employment, graduate schools, professional schools, and a variety of other situations, MSU must balance the need to finalize transcripts with the flexibility for students to make decisions about the S/P/U grading choices.
  • Students may review and make changes to their grade options in the MyState portal as often as needed up until 10:00 a.m. CDT on May 7.  This will allow students time to consider the ramifications of their decisions and make changes between the normal letter grades and the S/P/U options. 

Students should consider the following as they weigh their options: 

  • Some undergraduate programs require a C or better in specific courses to be able to take the follow-on courses.  Thus, a grade of S will allow students to move forward. 
  • In other instances, simply passing a course is all that is required; thus, P will indicate that the student has passed that course with a D for undergraduate students, or a C for graduate students.
  • Students must carefully consider ramifications of choosing S/P/U grading.  For example, many professional degree programs may expect to see letter grades rather than S/P/U grades.
  • The default setting for students will be a normal grading mode (A-F).  Thus, if a student does not change their grade designations, the letter grades (A-F) assigned by the instructor will remain on the transcript.
  • Instructors will enter their grades using the normal grading system (A-F). These grades will be stored in the system permanently.  There will be an appeal process to request any changes between these grade modes following the May 7 deadline. 
  • The original assigned grades (A-F) will be made visible to students as soon as they are entered by the faculty in order to provide as much time as possible to consider the choice best for each student.
  • In most instances, choosing S/P/U grades will not impact students’ financial aid or scholarships.  However, financial aid Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards are unique to each student. Please go to the Financial Aid Office website at https://www.sfa.msstate.edu/  to learn more information on the implications of selecting the pass/fail option.  
  • All students are strongly encouraged to consult with their advisor before they make decisions about the grading scheme they choose for each course.

This grading option is available for spring 2020 only; MSU will revert to our normal grading mode for summer 2020.


Pass/Fail Grade Option Frequently Asked Questions

Questions

How can a student change their grade to pass/fail in Banner? Can students correct errors in the grade option they have chosen? For example, if they should have retained a letter grade or if the chose the wrong S, P or U designation? Academic Forgiveness. What happens if a student has invoked academic forgiveness in spring 2020 on a course previously taken? Is the grading option all or nothing selection, either all letter grades or all Pass/Fail? How will the Pass/Fail option impact academic standing: academic probation, academic suspension, and academic dismissal? What is the deadline for students to complete their grade selection option? How will the Pass/Fail grade option impact prerequisites? For example, some courses require a letter grade of “C” or “B” either as a prerequisite or to meet a degree requirement. Will advisors/professors be able to see the letter grade in the Banner system if a student selects Pass/Fail? Should instructors adhere to the Final Exam schedule when setting final exams? Will choosing Pass/Fail affect a student’s academic standing or scholarships? How will Pass/Fail grades be handled for an undergraduate student taking graduate-level courses (e.g., Honors Program, Accelerated degree programs)? Will students be able to calculate their GPA depending on which grade options they choose for their spring semester courses? Will choosing Pass/Fail affect Steven D. Lee Honors, Cum Laude, President’s or Dean’s Honor recognitions? Would it be possible to prevent a student from changing the letter A grade to an S grade? How does pass/fail impact our students who are in pre-health academic programs?

How can a student change their grade to pass/fail in Banner?

This short video will walk you through the steps of implementing the S/P/U grading options. 

https://msstate.instructuremedia.com/embed/18759eef-bdda-4aab-8b5c-d254c336d190

Can students correct errors in the grade option they have chosen? For example, if they should have retained a letter grade or if the chose the wrong S, P or U designation?

Yes, students make changes to their grade mode up to 10:00 am CDT on May 7, 2020. Changes after that date will be possible by the student filing a petition to change the grade.

Academic Forgiveness. What happens if a student has invoked academic forgiveness in spring 2020 on a course previously taken?

If a student invoked academic forgiveness on a course being taken during the spring 2020 semester they have two options; 1) accept the letter grade earned that will replace the previous grade in the course and for GPA calculation, or 2) use the Pass/Fail grading option which will not impact their GPA and will also return their academic forgiveness to their inventory to be used at a later date as the student wishes.  The student can choose the same course or a different course in the future to invoke academic forgiveness.

Is the grading option all or nothing selection, either all letter grades or all Pass/Fail?

No, the student is free to select the grading option on a course-by-course basis. Thus, a student could have a letter grade and Pass/Fail grade notation for their spring 2020 class schedule on their transcripts.

How will the Pass/Fail option impact academic standing: academic probation, academic suspension, and academic dismissal?

Academic standing will not be impacted by selecting the pass/fail option, as pass/fail will not affect the GPA.  The academic standing/GPA will be impacted if a student selects one or more courses for a letter grade. For example, a student on probation or suspension who earns D or F letter grades in the spring and selects the P and U grade option should maintain the current academic standing moving into the next semester since their GPA would remain unchanged. Veteran benefits could potentially be impacted; students who are veterans should consult with the Center for America’s Veterans.

What is the deadline for students to complete their grade selection option?

The deadline for selecting the grading options for the spring 2020 semester is 10:00 am CDT on May 7, 2020.

How will the Pass/Fail grade option impact prerequisites? For example, some courses require a letter grade of “C” or “B” either as a prerequisite or to meet a degree requirement.

The grade of S will satisfy the prerequisite for a course that requires a letter grade of C for undergraduates and B for graduates.  The grade of P will satisfy the prerequisite for a course that requires a letter grade of D for undergraduates.

If the student chooses the Pass/Fail option and did not meet the letter grade required, the semester GPA will not be impacted, but they will be required to retake the course to satisfy prerequisite or degree requirements. For example, MA 1313 requires a C or S grade to take the next math course. A grade of P or D does not meet the prerequisite. This will apply to both undergraduate and graduate program requirements.

Will advisors/professors be able to see the letter grade in the Banner system if a student selects Pass/Fail?

No, advisors and instructors will not be able to see the letter grade in Banner if the student elects to use Pass/Fail.

Should instructors adhere to the Final Exam schedule when setting final exams?

It is strongly recommended that instructors adhere to the 2020 spring semester final schedule if the class maintained the regular class time for synchronous online delivery of their course. Any request for adjustments to the schedule must be approved by the Provost’s Office.

Will choosing Pass/Fail affect a student’s academic standing or scholarships?

Scholarship eligibility is based on an overall GPA.  If a student chooses to utilize Pass/Fail for all their spring classes, the semester GPA will not be impacted and thus will not affect their overall GPA.  Therefore, there would be no impact on their scholarship eligibility.  However, a combination of letter grades and Pass/Fail grading options will affect their semester GPA/overall GPA and thus could affect their scholarship eligibility. 

How will Pass/Fail grades be handled for an undergraduate student taking graduate-level courses (e.g., Honors Program, Accelerated degree programs)?

An undergraduate student (Honors or Accelerated programs) taking a graduate-level course will receive grades as assigned at the graduate level. If they choose not to use the letter grade assigned, they can opt to use the graduate level Pass/Fail grading option that would protect their GPA. Depending on the undergraduate program, the student may need a D or better grade to satisfy the credit hour requirements for the degree.

Will students be able to calculate their GPA depending on which grade options they choose for their spring semester courses?

ITS will have a GPA calculator in place for the students to use once all of their grades have been submitted. A GPA calculator can also be found at the Learning Center website.

Will choosing Pass/Fail affect Steven D. Lee Honors, Cum Laude, President’s or Dean’s Honor recognitions?

Choosing Pass/Fail should not affect a student’s ability to receive academic honors and distinctions, as the pass/fail grades will not affect the semester GPA.  

Would it be possible to prevent a student from changing the letter A grade to an S grade?

ITS can program the system to not allow an A grade to be changed to an S grade.

How does pass/fail impact our students who are in pre-health academic programs?

Please contact Dr. M.C. Reese in the Health Professions Advising Center for specific information. She can be reached at mcreese@prehealth.msstate.edu.