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CHAMPAIGN — As students finished their last day of in-person classes for the semester and headed into Thanksgiving break, the University of Illinois academic senate voted 88-33 to allow them to receive credit or no credit instead of regular grades this semester.

In doing so, they rejected a proposal backed by several committees that would have automatically given students who failed courses a “No Record COVID” designation and students with D grades the option for that designation.

Students had started a petition to have a credit/no credit option, which they had in the spring, and at Friday’s virtual meeting, several student and faculty senators spoke in support of that option.

After more than three hours, various amendments and amendments to amendments, the credit/no credit option passed.

“We have already begun working on implementation,” UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler said.

Students will also be given until Dec. 18, the last day of finals, to drop courses or select the credit/no credit option.

“We are struggling. I am struggling,” student Senator Ari Kelo said. “Implementing credit/no credit can relieve our stress.”

Kevin Pitts, vice provost for undergraduate education, noted that the “No Record COVID” option would have given students with D’s more flexibility than the credit/no credit option, which automatically gives them no credit.

“It absolutely is aimed at helping the students who are struggling the most,” Pitts said of the rejected proposal.

Faculty Senator Eric Meyer warned of unintended consequences of the credit/no credit option, as he said happened to some of his students in the spring who took that option and ended up getting D’s.

“I had to go back and then suggest to our advisers that you get in touch with these kids, and tell them if they don’t withdraw their credit/no credit, they’re not going to graduate,” Meyer said. “This then takes a lot of time for the advisers to go back and do this.”

Registrar Meghan Hazen said while the credit/no credit option can be implemented, it could lead to delays.

“I do still have concerns about timing and being able to process these quickly enough to avoid delaying other end-of-term processes,” she said, such as when students will get their final transcripts after graduating, determining academic standing and disbursing financial aid.

They were able to manage that in spring because there was a summer break before the fall semester, unlike with the upcoming spring semester, Hazen said.

“Credit/no credit is a very manual process,” she said. “Be patient and be aware that we may have some bumps in the road. ... It’s going to be challenging, but I think it’s a challenge we can meet.”

She also said that students may not fully understand the implications of taking the credit/no credit option.

“When students are applying to law school, frequently, as part of the application process, their GPAs may be recalculated with a credit counting as a C and a no credit counting as a failing grade,” Hazen said. “We know that medical schools typically will not accept courses that are graded in a credit/no credit or pass/fail mode.”

Pitts also said he was worried about how the option could affect students’ financial aid.

“We have 8,000 students on our campus who are receiving federal Pell grants,” he said. “And I would argue that almost none of those students understand how the Department of Education calculates satisfactory academic progress that is required for them to remain eligible for their financial aid.”

Student Senator Dana Yun said she understood this concern, but “these students are adults. They can make decisions.”

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