MSU provides option for pass/fail grading in Spring 2020 semester

After carefully considering all the options, and the ramifications of each, MSU is prepared to provide our students with pass/fail options for grades this semester, given the unique and unprecedented situation in which we find ourselves.  

First and foremost, we expect students to master course content to the greatest degree possible in every semester, but particularly this semester. Every course is a key element of their education, and failing to master the learning outcomes set forward in a course may negatively impact students in future courses. Sequential courses like Calculus I and Calculus II demand that students master entry-level course skills before advancing successfully to upper-level course requirements. 

Each curriculum is carefully constructed to progressively expand our students’ skills and knowledge, and ceasing to study mid-semester in a course that is used by future courses will severely disadvantage students as they progress through their education.  Thus, we have continually sought to ensure instructors are meeting course objectives, albeit in a radically different approach, with the move to online education that became necessary because of the threat of COVID-19.

That said, we also recognize that the current health crisis and our transition to the online environment has disrupted lives and the learning process for both students and faculty.  In some cases these disruptions have impaired students’ ability to learn, and they should not be penalized for factors beyond their control.  In light of these realities, MSU is providing the following options for our students:

  • Faculty will enter letter grades, A-F, as normal.
  • Undergraduate students will be allowed to choose, by individual course, to take the letter grade that has been assigned, or to translate that grade to one of the following: an “S” for satisfactory (for grades A, B, or C), “P” for passing (for a grade of D), or “U” for unsatisfactory (for an F letter grade).
  • Students should note that many courses require a C or better in prerequisite courses, meaning that an S would be required. While the grade P represents passing, it does not represent an appropriate grade for course progression in many instances; therefore, S should always be chosen if a letter grade of C or higher has been earned.
  • S, P, or U will be on the transcript, but will not be calculated in the grade point average on the transcript.
  • For graduate students, S will represent a grade of A or B, P will represent at grade of C, and U will represent a D or F letter grade.  S, P, and U will not calculate into the grade point average.

Deadlines and Procedures:

  • The deadline for faculty to post final grades is 10:00 a.m. CDT on May 4.  
  • Students will have until 10:00 a.m. CDT on May 7 to decide whether to keep their assigned grade in a course or to translate the assigned grade to S/P/U. Because transcripts are needed for employment, graduate schools, professional schools, and a variety of other situations, MSU must balance the need to finalize transcripts with the flexibility for students to make decisions about the S/P/U grading choices.
  • Students may review and make changes to their grade options in the MyState portal as often as needed up until 10:00 a.m. CDT on May 7.  This will allow students time to consider the ramifications of their decisions and make changes between the normal letter grades and the S/P/U options. 

Students should consider the following as they weigh their options: 

  • Some undergraduate programs require a C or better in specific courses to be able to take the follow-on courses.  Thus, a grade of S will allow students to move forward. 
  • In other instances, simply passing a course is all that is required; thus, P will indicate that the student has passed that course with a D for undergraduate students, or a C for graduate students.
  • Students must carefully consider ramifications of choosing S/P/U grading.  For example, many professional degree programs may expect to see letter grades rather than S/P/U grades.
  • The default setting for students will be a normal grading mode (A-F).  Thus, if a student does not change their grade designations, the letter grades (A-F) assigned by the instructor will remain on the transcript.
  • Instructors will enter their grades using the normal grading system (A-F). These grades will be stored in the system permanently.  There will be an appeal process to request any changes between these grade modes following the May 7 deadline. 
  • The original assigned grades (A-F) will be made visible to students as soon as they are entered by the faculty in order to provide as much time as possible to consider the choice best for each student.
  • In most instances, choosing S/P/U grades will not impact students’ financial aid or scholarships.  However, financial aid Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards are unique to each student. Please go to the Financial Aid Office website at  to learn more information on the implications of selecting the pass/fail option.  
  • All students are strongly encouraged to consult with their advisor before they make decisions about the grading scheme they choose for each course.

This grading option is available for spring 2020 only; MSU will revert to our normal grading mode for summer 2020.

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