Penn State plans to resume on-campus work and learning in fall semester

Update (6/14/2020): Back to State’ plans call for flexible, adaptable schedule with classes, activities converting to remote delivery on Nov. 20. Learn more at gradschool.psu.edu/covid19.

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In response to the pandemic coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, optional alternative grading will be available for the Spring 2020 (SP20) semester to all graduate students enrolled in the Graduate School at all locations across Penn State, including World Campus. The intent of this temporary alternative grading plan is to address the possibility that some graduate students, through no fault of their own and given their individual circumstances, might not achieve the grades they otherwise may have earned if not for the many challenges related to the spread of COVID-19.  In the case of resident students, this also includes issues encountered due to the shift from on-campus to remote delivery of classes for the remainder of the semester.  In recognition of this possibility, the plan is designed to mitigate impacts to the GPA and academic transcript of affected students.

Optional Alternative Grading System for all Graduate Students for Spring 2020 (SP20) Courses:

For all SP20 courses, faculty members will assign quality grades (A, B, C, etc.) as usual.

Once faculty have submitted grades on May 19, 2020, graduate students will have the option to choose to change a quality grade to the alternative grading system on a course-by-course basis, from May 20-29, 2020.  If a graduate student chooses to change a course to alternative grading for SP20, the following changes will occur:

  • Grades of “A”, “B”, or “C” will be converted to “P”.
  • Grades of “D” will be converted to “V”.
  • Grades of “F” will be converted to “Z”.

Courses for which students choose P will NOT be used in calculating the student’s GPA and WILL appear as earned credits on the graduate transcript.  

Students will NOT earn credit on the graduate transcript for courses (including 400-level courses) assigned V or Z (attempted credits will still appear on the transcript), and the grades for these courses will NOT be included in the GPA. In the near future, LionPATH will have a new, specific GPA calculator so that students can determine the impact of choosing alternative grades on their GPAs.

Students will have from May 20-29, 2020, to decide on a course-by-course basis whether they want to keep a letter grade or choose the alternative grade.

Important considerations for graduate students contemplating the alternative grading option:

  • Students should consult with their adviser to be sure that choosing the alternative grading option does not have unintended consequences.
  • Graduate Programs are urged to be flexible regarding students choosing the alternative grading option to help students be successful and develop their plans for future semesters. This includes students who are currently on academic improvement plans.
  • Students in accredited graduate programs, including those leading to an external certificate, licensure, or other credential, should consult with their adviser to determine if choosing the alternative grading option is allowable by accreditation standards, and/or will impact other credentials.
  • Given the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, programs are encouraged to be flexible in considering formal program requirements* for minimum quality grades in specific courses and to provide allowances for such requirements to the fullest extent possible. Students in such courses will be able to select an alternative grade. However, the quality grade earned in the course will be used to determine whether a student has met the formal program requirement, with any allowances granted by the program.  Any temporary allowances to such program requirements must be determined and communicated to all students in the respective program no later than the last day of classes.

* Formal program requirements are those indicated in the Graduate Bulletin and/or the applicable Graduate Program Handbook as of the start of the Spring 2020 semester.

More information about this process and key deadlines will be forthcoming.


Frequently Asked Questions - Alternative Grading System

No. Students may individually choose to change to P/V/Z grading on a course-by-course basis.

Students enrolled in graduate courses for which there is a formal program requirement* for a minimum quality grade (for example, “B” or higher) may choose optional alternative grading. The system that will be in place for selecting optional alternative grading will not prevent any student from doing so. However, the quality grade earned in the course will be used to determine whether a student has met the formal program requirement, with any allowances granted by the program. 

If necessary, graduate programs with a formal minimum quality grade requirement will have the ability to verify the quality grade for students in such courses after the period allowing for optional grading to be selected has ended. 

NOTE TO GRADUATE PROGRAMS: 

Given the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, programs are encouraged to be flexible in considering formal program requirements* for minimum quality grades in specific courses and to provide allowances for such requirements to the fullest extent possible. For example, if a grade of B or higher is currently required, an allowance could be made that a C is acceptable under these circumstances. Any temporary allowances to such program requirements must be determined and communicated to all students in the respective program no later than the last day of classes. 

Graduate programs and colleges may use the LionPATH query: PE_RP_TERM_UNITS_TAKEN to view grade changes for student in Spring 2020 courses, including the original letter grade prior to the change to an alternative grade. 

* Formal program requirements are those indicated in the Graduate Bulletin and/or the applicable Graduate Program Handbook as of the start of the Spring 2020 semester. 

These decisions are made by the individual accrediting organizations, including those leading to licensure or other credentials. Students in such programs should consult with their advisers before making the decision to choose P/V/Z grading.

Students who receive tuition reimbursement benefits should check with their employer for reimbursement policies for non-quality grades before choosing an alternative grade.

The new grading structure will impact federal and state reviews of a student’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) in the same manner as typically done for the SAP process, i.e., by evaluating credits completed vs. not completed.

Alternative grades of “P” (“A”, “B”, “C”) will be calculated as credits attempted and credits completed. These grades will have a positive impact on a student’s Satisfactory Academic Progress review for their percentage rate of course completion.

Alternative grades of “V” (“D”) and “Z” (“F”) will be calculated as credits attempted and credits NOT completed. These grades will have a negative impact on a student’s Satisfactory Academic Progress review for their percentage rate of course completion.

The academic benefit of the alternate grading options is that none of these grades (“P”, “V”, “Z”) will impact a student’s current GPA.

In all cases, the decision whether to select alternative grading should be based on academic considerations. If you have SAP questions, you should consult with your campus Office of Student Aid representative.

Choosing P/V/Z will not impact your GPA. However, graduate courses with P/V/Z grading on the graduate career will display on the transcript as attempted credit, and will appear on the graduate transcript as follows:

  • “P” grades (“A”, “B”, “C”) WILL count toward credits earned, but will NOT count toward the GPA.
  • “V” grades (“D”) will NOT count toward credits earned, and will NOT count toward the GPA. These grades will have a negative impact on a student’s Satisfactory Academic Progress review for their percentage rate of course completion, just as a D grade would.
  • “Z grades (“F”) will NOT count toward credits earned, and will NOT count toward the GPA. These grades will have a negative impact on a student’s Satisfactory Academic Progress review for their percentage rate of course completion, just as an F grade would.

Unlike courses graded “D” or “F”, graduate courses graded “V” or “Z” do not impact your GPA. However, there is no change in how failing grades impact financial aid.  Courses with “V” or “Z” grades will still be deemed as not completed toward Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP.)  See the question, “How will the SP20 optional alternate grading structure for graduate students affect financial aid” above for more details.

400-level undergraduate courses with SAT/V/Z alternative grading on the graduate transcript will display as attempted credit and will also impact the graduate transcript as follows:

  • “SAT” (“A”, “B”, “C”) grades WILL count toward credits earned, but will NOT count toward the GPA.
  • “V” grades (“D”) appearing on the graduate transcript, whether assigned to undergraduate or graduate courses, will NOT count toward credits earned, and will NOT count toward the GPA. These grades will have a negative impact on a student’s Satisfactory Academic Progress review for their percentage rate of course completion just as a D grade would.
  • “Z” grades (“F”) will NOT count toward credits earned and will NOT count toward the GPA. These grades will have a negative impact on a student’s Satisfactory Academic Progress review for their percentage rate of course completion just as an F grade would.

Students enrolled in IUG programs will have the option of replacing the letter grade they receive in undergraduate (100- through 400-level) courses with an alternative grade (SAT, V, or Z), as recently announced by the Provost, and the option of replacing the letter grade they receive in graduate (500-, 600-, and 800-level) courses with an alternative grade (P/V/Z) as described for graduate courses.  Undergraduate courses with the alternative SAT grade will be permitted to be shared to the graduate transcript.

IMPORTANT: “V” and “Z” grades on courses that appear on the graduate transcript, whether assigned to undergraduate or graduate courses, will NOT count toward credits earned, and will NOT count toward the GPA.  As a result, “V” and “Z” graded undergraduate courses will not be permitted to be shared or moved from the undergraduate transcript to the graduate transcript, just as “D” and “F” graded undergraduate courses would not be permitted to be shared or moved to the graduate transcript.

All alternative grades on the graduate transcript will be handled as described in the Graduate Student Optional Alternative Grading guidance from the Graduate School as described above, and all alternative grades on the undergraduate transcript will be handled as described on the Undergraduate Student Alternative Grading page.

Both Penn State Law and Dickinson Law have implemented mandatory “CREDIT/NO CREDIT” grading for SP20; “CREDIT” grades will be assigned for letter grades of D or better.  Because “CREDIT/NO CREDIT” grading for law courses in SP20 is mandatory, law courses are not eligible for optional alternative grading. 

Law courses with a “CREDIT” grade originating from a letter grade of C or better may be shared with/moved to the graduate transcript.  

Law courses with a “CREDIT” grade originating from a letter grade of D will NOT be permitted to be shared or moved to the graduate transcript.  

Law courses with a “CREDIT” grade originating from a letter grade of D and appearing strictly on the graduate transcript (not used for the Law degree) will NOT count toward credits earned and will NOT count toward the GPA on the graduate transcript. ?The Graduate School is working with the Law School to identify these courses as needed. 

Law courses with a “NO CREDIT” grade originating from a letter grade of F will NOT be permitted to be shared or moved from the law transcript to the graduate transcript, just as an F graded law course would not be permitted to be shared or moved to the graduate transcript.  

Law courses with a “NO CREDIT” grade originating from a letter grade of F and appearing strictly on the graduate transcript (not used for the Law degree) will NOT count toward credits earned and will NOT count toward the GPA on the graduate transcript. 

Law courses on the graduate transcript with a "CREDIT” grade that originated from a letter grade of D, and “NO CREDIT” grades originating from a letter grade of F will have a negative impact on a student’s financial aid Satisfactory Academic Progress review, just as a D or F grade would. 

Both Penn State Law and Dickinson Law have implemented mandatory “CREDIT/NO CREDIT” grading for SP20; “CREDIT” grades will be assigned for letter grades of D or better. Because “CREDIT/NO CREDIT” grading for law courses in SP20 is mandatory, law courses are not eligible for optional alternative grading. 

Law courses with a “CREDIT” grade originating from a letter grade of C or better will count toward credits earned but will NOT count toward the GPA on the graduate transcript.  

Law courses with a “CREDIT” grade originating from a letter grade of D will NOT count toward credits earned and will NOT count toward the GPA on the graduate transcript. ?The Graduate School is working with the Law School to identify these courses as needed.  

Law courses with a “NO CREDIT” grade originating from a letter grade of F and appearing on the graduate transcript will NOT count toward credits earned and will NOT count toward the GPA.  

Law courses on the graduate transcript with a "CREDIT” grade that originated from a letter grade of D, and “NO CREDIT” grades originating from a letter grade of F will have a negative impact on a student’s financial aid Satisfactory Academic Progress review, just as a D or F grade would. 

The Graduate School is not aware of any grading restrictions on students supported by federal research grants, training grants or fellowships; students should consult their funding agency to confirm this information.

Students supported by restricted funds from industry or other sponsors should consult with their adviser/research supervisor to determine if P/V/Z grading is allowable under the respective grant or contract.

Sponsored students should consult with the guidelines of their sponsorship agreement to determine if there will be any impact.

Choosing P/V/Z grades will not impact an international student’s current US immigration visa status.

Both US federal financial aid regulations and US immigration laws require full-time status to retain eligibility; all attempted courses must stay on the transcript so students in these categories are not negatively impacted.  To be fair to all students, a consistent approach is required.

If you change your mind about choosing alternative grading for SP20 at some point in the future, you may petition for a grade change (see G-10: GRADE MEDIATION AND ADJUDICATION).

Normal grade change rules apply.  Note that changing from alternate grades back to quality letter grades will directly impact the GPA.

Yes.  Students will receive a quality letter grade when the course is graded, and students will be able to petition for a grade change to the alternate grades.  As a reminder regarding courses in which a DF grade is assigned, under the Graduate Council policy GCAC-401 Grading System, students have 12 weeks after the course end date to complete the work and receive an acceptable quality grade.

Details about how and when to request a change to an alternate grade will be updated here once the final details are in place.

No. This alternative grading allowance is specifically to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and applies only to courses that had not ended before March 6, 2020.

No. “XF” is a disciplinary sanction, not an academic assessment of the quality of your course work. “XF” grades cannot be changed under this allowance.

  • Graduate Students who received an academic sanction in a Spring 2020 course are not eligible for Optional Alternative Grading (OAG):
    • Graduate students who received an academic sanction in a Spring 2020 course and have not appealed the charge or sanction may now appeal the charge or sanction if they wish to do so; normal procedures as described in G-9 Academic Integrity apply. 
    • Students whose academic sanction was finalized by May 31 have until June 30 to appeal the sanction.  
    • Students whose sanction is finalized after May 31 have the normal timeline for appealing the decision as described in G-9.
    • All other provisions of G-9 remain in place.
    • Graduate students who received an academic sanction in a Spring 2020 course and appealed the sanction but the sanction remains are not eligible for Optional Alternative Grading (OAG). 

No. Degree seeking students who are in Active status in LionPATH and have not applied to graduate in Spring 2020 will be qualified to purchase football tickets regardless of grades.