One year into COVID-19, University of Maryland offers pass/fail option for nearly half of students’ classes

The University of Maryland is letting students choose whether they want a letter grade, or use a "Pass/Fail" grading system for up to 7 course credits for the spring semester.

To "pass" a class, students must have a C- or better.

The University of Maryland announced that it will allow undergraduate students the option of being graded on a pass/fail basis instead of receiving a letter grade.  As the U.S. approaches nearly one year of remote classes, students are still able to choose the pass/fail option for up to 7 credits this spring semester.

According to The Diamondback student newspaper, the decision to offer a pass/fail option for students was originally a policy available during the spring 2020 semester when classes began to transfer to online platforms but ended at the start of the fall 2020 semester.

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For months, undergraduate students have debated whether the pass/fail option should be re-implemented.  Some University of Maryland students used surveys in December to show the administration that many students support the policy, according to The Diamondback.

Since then, UMD has once again begun to offer the option to choose between a pass or fail grade for up to 7 credits, which nearly half a typical semester course load. Students will have access to the university’s web portal to decide if they will opt-in to pass/fail. In order for students to be able to pick the pass option, one must first earn a C- or better which differs from the original policy that allowed students to choose the pass option when obtaining any grade above an F.

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According to The Diamondback, close to 80 percent of undergraduate students opted to use the pass/fail option during the spring 2020 semester and saw a 0.09 percent increase in grade point averages.

University of Maryland pre-dental student Robert Ugalino told Campus Reform that he personally has not opted to use the pass/fail option because he thinks it would reflect poorly on his end, but said that he has thought about it.

“There are points and times where I was considering switching from letter grades to P/F for specific classes last semester. I think some classes have a hard time transitioning to online and could warrant the change to P/F,” Ugalino said. “Other classes are a lot easier online and would just boost your GPA so might else well take the A. If I wasn’t prudential, I don’t think it would affect my degree that much considering a lot of Ivy institutions have done the same.”

In some cases, he says that the policy makes sense.

“I think it all depends on the professor, some outwardly make the class harder bc it is online and more or less open notes for most exams. That’s when I would do p/f,” Ugalino added.

Campus Reform reached out to the University of Maryland and was directed to a memo announcing the new policy. The memo describes what Provost Mary Ann Rankin sent to the UMD student body detailing the latest pass/fail policy.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Jess__Custodio