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College students, legislators push for university system to approve ‘pass-fail’ grading option due to pandemic

Students say the quality of online, remote learning has been inconsistent, so they want the option of throwing out letter grades for this term.

ATLANTA — There seems to be no end to the wide-ranging impacts of the pandemic, including on higher education.

College students who normally get grades of “A” and “B” are worried they’re about to get “Cs” and “Ds” for this spring term, not because they deserve lower grades, but because they had problems with at home learning.

Advocates asking for a change in the grading policies renewed their call Wednesday, for the University System of Georgia to allow for a “pass-fail” option, for this term, only, instead of letter grades. They hope that will help students protect their overall grade point averages.

But the state is still saying, No.

RELATED: Unimpressed by online classes, college students seek refunds

Credit: WXIA

Backers of “pass-fail” say they want the same option that colleges and universities across the country are offering during this spring, pandemic term.

“There are a lot of students that feel like they can’t do online learning,” and believe their grades are suffering, as a result," said Bhavin Patel, a University of West Georgia student.

The university system says it has done everything humanly possible to help students succeed remotely, this term. A spokesman said students have been encouraged to let their advisors or someone else at the university know of any problems they’ve had with remote learning. He said the universities have helped students who’ve had to deal, for example, with poor internet access, laptop issues and other obstacles.

Students continue to push for a one-time pass-fail option.

“We don’t think it’s too late,” said Max Harris, a student at the University of Georgia.

Harris and other students joined legislators, led by Rep. David Wilkerson, (D), Powder Springs, at an on-line news conference Wednesday, making one more appeal to the University System of Georgia to let them choose the pass-fail option after they get their letter grades for this term.

RELATED: How 'Class of COVID-19' is coping with loss of traditional college graduation ceremony

Credit: WXIA

“Students would be able to look at their end-of-term grades and see whether or not they need to make adjustments to help their scholarships, to maintain their career options, etc,” Harris said.

But the state insists that allowing the pass fail-option, this term, would hurt the students’ academic records, and their futures.

USG Spokesman Aaron Diamant emailed this statement to 11Alive News on Wednesday:

“The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia has no higher priority than ensuring the health, safety, and success of our students, faculty and staff.

“The Board decided to keep standard letter grading systemwide only after careful consideration of the potential long-term impacts to our students from a shift to pass/fail grading. Those factors included eligibility for financial aid and scholarships, admission to graduate school, and professional licensure.

“These are truly unprecedented times, and we understand some of our students may be experiencing significant hardships. However, we are working hard to connect those students with critical resources. Despite the temporary shift to online only instruction, our institutions’ academic support networks remain intact and strong. We encourage our students to reach out to advisors, tutors, and faculty. The USG has also offered a significant number of resources to expand access to physical and mental health services, technology, and internet connectivity.

“The Board is confident the university system and our institutions will do everything in their power to help every student succeed. We trust our faculty to teach and grade students effectively, while also being compassionate and understanding of the life challenges we all find ourselves navigating now and in the months ahead.”

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