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Education

San Antonio Universities Relax Grading Systems For Spring Semester

Updated April 2 with information from UTSA. Originally published March 30.

Four San Antonio universities have joined the list of colleges across the country giving students the option to change the way they’re graded this semester.

The University of Texas at San Antonio, St. Mary’s University, Texas A&M University-San Antonio and Trinity University are letting their students opt out of receiving a letter grade because of the disruptions caused by the coronavirus.

Trinity students have until Friday, April 3 to request a pass/fail grade. Texas A&M-San Antonio students can convert their courses to credit/no credit between April 15 and May 5. Undergraduate students at St. Mary’s will have two business days after final grades are posted to request they be converted to pass/no pass.

UTSA is leaving the decision to allow credit/no credit up to individual instructors. Students will be notified next week if their courses are eligible. According to information posted to the university's website, the tentative deadline to request a pass/fail grade will be May 8, the last day of classes.

Officials at all four universities stressed that students should speak with an advisor before deciding to pursue the more relaxed grading system. Some professional licenses and graduate schools require letter grades in key courses, and it also has the potential to impact their academic standing or progress towards graduation. 

“This abrupt shift to online is not easy. It’s hard. It can be jarring, but we can do it,” said St. Mary’s Provost Aaron Tyler in a video message to students Monday. “This new grading policy… encourages you to give your very best in the classroom, working hard to (get) that good grade you hope to earn, while also knowing that this more flexible option of a pass/no pass is available should you find it helpful.”

In a letter sent to Trinity students on Friday, Associate Vice-President for Academic Affairs Michael Soto said pass/fail requests for electives would be approved quickly, but required courses will need the approval of either the instructor or the department chair.

Texas A&M - San Antonio Provost Mike O’Brien said Monday the goal of the new grading policy is to reduce student stress brought on by the virus and the rapid shift to online courses.

 “It’s just another way to say, ‘All right, you can worry about A, B, and C. We don’t want you worrying about D.’ This is what we’re going to do to relieve some of your anxiety about grading,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said his university is looking forward to the day it can return to traditional in-person classes.

“That’s what students want. They want the personal contact, and as soon as I consider it safe to go back in a classroom, then we will.”

This story may be updated.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille.