URBANA — The University of Illinois academic Senate plans to vote Monday on a proposal for a “Pass COVID/No Pass COVID” grade option for students this semester.

The option would allow students to choose the option after grades are submitted, and if they elect to use it, the class wouldn’t affect their GPA.

The “No Pass COVID” option would only apply for F’s, while students who get a D could use the “Pass COVID” option and earn credit.

Under the “credit/no credit” option used last year, those who got a D were included in the “no credit” designation.

The proposal would also extend the deadline for dropping courses until the last day of classes.

“The modifications have been written with the belief they may help ease the stress and anxiety of our higher achieving students, plus help those students who have confronted exceptionally challenging educational and personal issues,” states the proposal, which was passed this week by the Education Policy Committee.

Unlike last semester, when a grading proposal endorsed by the committee was rejected and the “credit/no credit” option was approved later on, after a student petition, the “Pass COVID/No Pass COVID” proposal will be voted on at the academic senate’s first meeting of the semester.

This was intentional, “knowing that any modifications to academic policies should be implemented quickly in order to facilitate advising needs,” the proposal states.

The Education Policy Committee found that “nearly every college experienced a rise in the overall grade point averages of their students when comparing Spring 2019 to Spring 2020, and Fall 2019 to Fall 2020.”

Last spring, when a “credit/no credit” option was used, 71 percent of grades earned were A’s; in the fall, 70 percent of grades were A’s.

“Numerous stories of understanding and compassion exist in every college, and in the spirit of this compassion, we have even seen signs of instructors awarding higher-than-usual grades to mitigate the legitimate challenges of remote learning in a pandemic,” the committee’s proposal stated.

Last spring, 25 percent of students used the “credit/no credit” option for at least one of their courses, and 18 percent did so in the fall, according to data provided to the committee.


Ben Zigterman is a reporter covering business at The News-Gazette. His email is bzigterman@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@bzigterman).