VCU introduces permanent pass/fail option for classes

VCU has made the option for students to choose a pass/fail grade, instead of a letter grade, for certain courses permanent for the fall 2020 semester. Photo by Jon Mirador

Katharine DeRosa, Staff Writer

Undergraduate students have the opportunity to forgo letter grades for choice classes, with some restrictions, thanks to VCU’s newly implemented and now permanent pass/fail option.

During the spring semester, students were able to choose pass/fail evaluations instead of letter grades due to the transition to online classes during COVID-19 shutdowns. VCU administration made the change permanent on Aug. 13.

The pass/fail option can’t be used for more than 12 credit hours throughout a student’s undergraduate career. Students can choose the pass/fail option until the last day to withdraw, which was extended until the last day of classes. All decisions made by students are final, according to VCU’s bulletin

Jamie Stillman, VCU director of strategic communications for the Office of the Provost, said she is “not at all” concerned about students using this opportunity to not take their classes seriously.

“Utilizing a pass/fail grade as an option allows for flexibility and reduced student stress while encouraging students to do well and complete the semester,” Stillman said in an email.

Junior pre-clinical lab science major, Brianna Pierre, said she supported the change during spring semester since many students were lacking on-campus academic resources. Pierre said it made sense to make the option permanent, since many classes are online this semester.

“I think making it permanent is kinda saying ‘you know, we all mess up,’” Pierre said.

For those applying to graduate programs, some worry about the letter “P” on their transcript, but Pierre said during these times, students might have less to worry about. She said she plans to use the pass/fail option if she ever gets worried about her GPA. 

“I feel if people use them appropriately, especially during these times, it wouldn’t be detrimental to someone’s chances,” Pierre said. 

Aisling Leogue, a senior elementary education major, said that while she doesn’t plan on using the pass/fail option, she’s happy that younger students have the opportunity to take some pressure off online classes.

“It’s not always possible to get a good grade when you’re not meeting in person,” Leogue said.

Students cannot use the pass/fail option for prerequisites that require a letter grade of B or better or classes that count toward the student’s major requirements. A passing grade does not influence a student’s grade point average. Letter grades will carry the same weight; an A is 4.0, a B is 3.0, etc. 

The pass/fail grading option has three options:

  • “P,” or passing, equates to grades A through C and allows the student to advance to a higher course and is not included in GPA
  • “PS,” or pass-satisfactory, equates to a D and is not included in GPA
  • “F,” or fail, is not considered passing and is counted in GPA

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