Northwestern University is giving undergraduate students a chance to boost their grade point averages by removing classes where they do poorly from calculation of their GPA.
In a letter to the students, University Provost Kathleen Hagerty says the “temporary grading option” is a result of “how you and your families are struggling,” due to the “pandemic and deep social injustices” affecting students “on a daily basis.”
The voluntary option covers classes taken in the Fall 2020, Winter 2021 and Spring 2021 quarters. At the end of the school year, students will be able to look back, and “change up to one-third of the classes you completed this academic year” to either “credit” or “no credit,” with no grade listed.
The end result of this option is to let students eliminate bad grades from their grade point averages, “retaining those grades that highlight the best of your academic year,” Hagerty says.
“Credit/no credit” is similar to “pass/fail” (called “pass/no pass” at NU) with one significant difference. A decision to go “pass/fail” is made during the quarter when a class is taken. “Credit/no credit” is requested after a student’s entire year’s worth of grades are in.
“Credit/no credit” is actually a compromise over what was done during the Spring, 2019 quarter. Following the switch to coronavirus-forced remote learning, all university classes became mandatory “pass/no pass.”
Hagerty says “our Northwestern community was divided in the spring over mandated P/NP grading, with some feeling it deprived them of the opportunity to show improvement or distinguish themselves.”
Even though “pass/no pass” is no longer mandatory, students still have the option of taking individual classes that way during a quarter.
Hagerty says the university’s goal is to give students “flexibility … considering the uncertainty of the coming months.”
Most of Northwestern’s classes are being taught remotely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The university hopes to expand the number of in-person courses in the next quarter, if health conditions allow. However, the majority of classes will remain online.