Universities turn to pass-fail options in response to COVID-19

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Locally, universities are giving students the option to either stick with their regular letter grade, which will affect their overall GPA, or choose a type of pass or fail option. The change won't affect their GPA total.

It's an effort to ease the workload and anxiety during a national emergency that swiftly changed everyone's lives.

COVID-19 struck, and schools around the country were forced to suddenly close. In an effort to relieve stress, many campuses created a pass or fail option for students.

"A lot of professors, at least my professors have taken away major assignments that we previously had because they wanted to help reduce the workload," University of Houston senior Kaylie Wilson said.

Wilson is expected to graduate in the fall. She says she feels the school responded as best they could.

Here's what the University of Houston is doing.

  • After professors post grades, students may choose a letter grade or a satisfactory or no credit report option.
  • The satisfactory option is for a grade of D or higher. The student will pass with no GPA impact.
  • No credit reported is for a grade of D minus or lower.

"If you choose the fail option, which means you are below a D minus, then it doesn't go on your record, and you don't get credit for the class. So technically speaking, you would have to retake the class and pay for it again," Wilson said.

Texas Southern University said after receiving feedback from the school's community, it wanted to do what was fair and best for the students.

Students may either choose to receive a letter grades or select the pass-fail option. Again, that won't impact their GPA, but a fail means the student will not receive credit for the class.

Rice Students also have two options.

They can choose a "pass or fail" grading system this semester, or if they prefer sticking with their A through F letter grade, they can do that.

Wilson say she fears what this could mean in the future for her and her classmates.

"One girl said that she was supposed to interview for a graduate position. I know that she didn't want to wait for it, so she accepted a position up in Austin. So she is not doing it up here at U of H anymore, so I have heard of a lot of seniors upset," Wilson said.

She's not alone. As colleges move to a pass-fail grade to help students, it could end up costing some students later.

Graduate and professional schools all rely on letter grades, and for those juniors hoping to land a competitive internship, most Dean's Lists will also be suspended.

This is guidance from most universities like University of Houston:

Students are encouraged to contact their academic adviser to discuss questions regarding the impact of their grade option choice on academic matters.

The Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid should be consulted to discuss the impact of their grade option choice on financial aid matters.

Most graduate programs are exempt from the pass-fail option like law school, nursing and pharmacy programs.

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