The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

Jasmine Cummins

The James C. and Rachel M. Votruba Student Union.

NKU allows students to opt-in pass/fail grading for semester

The option will be available to undergraduate and graduate students for Spring 2020

March 31, 2020

All undergraduate and graduate students will have the option to request a change from a letter grade to pass/fail for full-semester, second 7-week or third five-week classes, according to an email from Provost Sue Ott Rowlands.

An email will be sent from the Registrar’s office on April 13 that gives students the option to change a letter grade to pass/fail, according to Rowlands. The option will remain available until Friday, May 1 at 4:30 p.m.

The pass/fail option will only apply to Spring 2020 semester undergraduate and graduate courses. It also overrides any other pass/fail policies.

The email gives details on pre-requisites, limits, criteria for passing and more as follows:

  • Pre-requisites: A “P” grade earned in spring 2020 will satisfy course pre-requisites that would otherwise require a letter grade.
  • Pass/Fail Limits: The catalog limits a student to 12 pass/fail credit hours that will count toward graduation. Courses taken for P/F during spring 2020 will not count toward that limit.
  • Academic Standing: Students on academic warning or probation will be held harmless for this academic term and will have another term to improve their academic standing.
  • Criteria for a Pass (P): A grade of D or better (undergraduate courses) or C or better (graduate courses) will be required for a grade of “P.”
  • GPA Calculation: A “P” grade does not figure into GPA, but an “F” grade will lower a student’s GPA. All courses for which students receive passing (P) grades will count toward degree requirements. This overrides some departmental or college policies unless the department or college has evidence that their accrediting agency will not allow P/F grades.
  • No limit on P/F courses: There is no limit on the number of courses students can convert to pass/fail grading for this semester.”

Rowlands ask that students speak with their advisor before requesting a pass/fail option, such as when a “Pass” grade may not qualify for certain graduate or professional programs or where academic progression or graduation may require a certain GPA.

The email also states that school-based scholars students must be assigned a letter grade and are not eligible for pass/fail.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which is the main accrediting body for NKU, has made an exception for universities to use pass/fail grades and has extended temporary flexibility for distance learning solutions.

Additionally, colleges and programs at NKU are consulting with individual accrediting agencies to determine their acceptance of pass/fail grades, and their deans, or chairs/directors, will notify students if pass/fail is not an option.

Rowlands also asked students to consider these pass/fail questions as follows:

“While speaking with your advisor and the professor of each course is the best option before making a decision whether to choose Pass/Fail instead of a grade, the following are some helpful guidelines.

Choosing P/F might be a useful option if:

  • I was already struggling in a face-to-face class to earn a C- or D and I may be failing now that the class is online.
  • I feel that I am not connecting at all to the online format, even after giving myself a few weeks to adjust.
  • The course is not a prerequisite for other courses nor does it build upon later courses in my major.
  • The course (or a letter grade in the course) isn’t a requirement for future professional or graduate programs that I’m considering.

Choosing P/F might not be the right option if:

  • I am doing well in the course and will most likely earn an A or B anyway
  • By choosing a P grade, I will probably disengage from the class and not learn what I need, thus jeopardizing my future success in more advanced classes.
  • I need a grade to help my GPA get above a certain level and avoid academic probation, suspension, delay in graduation, or other consequences.
  • A letter grade is required in this course for a future professional or graduate program that I’m considering.”

Any questions about the pass/fail policy, or other issues, can be sent to


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