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Penn State Officially Implements Fall 2020 Alternative Grading

Penn State administrators have officially moved to implement an opt-in alternative grading system for the fall 2020 semester, the university announced Wednesday.

Under the re-implemented system, students can choose to keep earned grades for their courses or replace any with one of three alternative grades that won’t impact GPA calculation. They include:

  • SAT (Satisfactory) — This grade is available if you earn a C or better in a course. SAT grades meet all C or better conditions, including entrance to major requirements and prerequisites.
  • V (Pass) — This grade is available if you earn a D or better in a course and is considered to be a passing grade. You’ll still earn credits for courses with V grades. They can be used to meet requirements for which D is an acceptable grade.
  • Z (No Grade) — This grade is available if you earn an F in a course. Zs can be used to replace Fs and will be treated similarly to a Late Drop (LD) grade.

Administrators felt reintroducing the alternative grading system, which was used last, would help students who may be struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic and factors outside their control.

“We know this pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for many in our community and we are committed to helping our students and faculty succeed,” Penn State Provost Nick Jones said last week.

Any undergraduate or World Campus student can opt into using alternative grades in LionPATH starting December 23. Selections must be made by midnight on January 21, 2021.

Alternative grading is not available for students enrolled in post-baccalaureate degree programs.

Penn State said it “strongly encourages” students to strive for the best grades possible and use alternative grades cautiously.

“Learning is measured in additional ways beyond GPA, and students considering any alternative grades should meet with their academic advisor to consider the potential implications of using alternative grades on future academic and professional pursuits – including future applications to graduate, law or medical school, applications to professional licensing organizations, and employment opportunities,” Penn State said in a release.

The university also recommended students reach out to their academic advisers before opting into one or more alternative grades.

Two weeks ago, Penn State’s Faculty Senate approved a motion to recommend the policy, but it was up to the university’s Administrative Council on Undergraduate Education to make it a reality.

The ACUE is expected to iron out more nitty-gritty details about this fall’s alternative grading system, including Dean’s List requirements and entrance-to-major qualifications, later in the semester. Penn State said students can expect an update by December 3.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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