Fotis Sotiropoulos is the Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Though Stony Brook University students have returned to some in-person learning, most students are still taking many, if not all of their fall courses online. With the added stress of an ongoing pandemic, many have asked me, “Why doesn’t Stony Brook simply extend the P/NC (pass/no-credit) policy that was available in Spring 2020?”
It might seem like a simple question with an obvious answer, but our academic deans, faculty, financial aid specialists and academic advisors have identified a host of potential consequences that require careful consideration. With that understanding in mind, we are extending the deadline of when students can decide to exercise the single G/P/NC (grade/pass/no credit) option, which is currently available to them as part of our standard grade policy, to Nov. 6. Such extension gives our students a bit of time to decide how to best exercise this option as well as allow the University to fully consider the implications and ramifications of extending such flexibility to more than one class. It will also give us the time needed to discuss what is in the best interests of our students in the short and long term during their academic careers at SBU.
Here are some of the issues we are weighing as we ponder whether it is in the best interest of our students to revert back to a grading policy similar to what we made available to them in Spring 2020:
- Financial Aid and Scholarships: Any student considering pass/no-credit grading options should check with the Office of Financial Aid to determine what impact a P/NC grade may have on their situation, because pass grades may have implications for a student’s state and federal financial aid package. For example:
○ A pass grade counts for credit-hour requirements in federal aid, but not toward a student’s GPA, and a student’s GPA is a factor in financial aid eligibility.
○ No-credit grades will count as “attempted,” but not “completed,” and may also impact a student’s financial aid eligibility.
- Minimum 2.00 GPA for Graduation: Pass and no-credit grades are not included in the GPA calculation. For example, a student who chooses to take all classes P/NC will have a semester GPA of 0.00, which will impact their ability to graduate.
- Dean’s List or Degrees with Distinction: Letter-grade requirements for academic honors will not change, and students may lose eligibility.
- Admission to Medical/Graduate/Professional Schools: Pass grades may harm students’ applications for continuing their education. Those planning to go to medical school, for example, may need letter grades and calculated GPAs for pre-requisite courses. Though many of these schools’ admissions requirements offered some flexibility in Spring 2020 by allowing P grades to count toward admission requirements, these policies are neither consistent nor have they all been extended. Similarly, prospective employers, academic award organizations and post-graduate programs may not extend flexibility.
- Major courses: If the decision to extend the P/NC policy were to be approved, the University would still need to decide whether the policy would also count for major and general education requirements.
- Accreditation and clinical programs: Certain programs cannot allow pass/no-credit options without potentially risking their certification or accreditation.
- Transferring institutions: If students intend to transfer to a different institution in the future, P grades may not be accepted.
Most of these considerations are not one-size-fits all. It may be possible for some students to continue taking courses P/NC without negative impact. For others, it may not be so straightforward. We are discussing and gathering input across the academic community, including with student leaders and will make a final decision by Nov. 6. We are taking this additional time to consider the long-term impacts of extending this policy and the repercussions on students’ futures. Ultimately, we want to land on an appropriate balance between being supportive of our students now and protecting them from negative consequences later in their academic experience.
As we work through this important decision, I hope you will consider these points:
- Many faculty have made, and continue to make, grading adjustments to account for the challenges COVID-19 poses. Communicate with your instructors to learn about what changes they are making.
- Your long-term success ultimately depends on how much you learn and not on what letter appears on your transcripts.
Throughout this challenging year, Stony Brook students have demonstrated incredible resilience. You have repeatedly proven yourselves to be dedicated to your studies and your futures. You have learned to adapt and adjust and have never lost sight of your goals. We support our students, and stand with them in their dedicated pursuit of a Stony Brook degree.