UNC offers satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading option

In March 2020, the University of Northern Colorado shifted to all-online education as the coronavirus outbreak started threatening lives and forced all campuses to close for the remainder of the semester. In April 2020, the board proposed the satisfactory-unsatisfactory option for the following spring and summer semester. Photo courtesy of unco.edu.

Mark Anderson, the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, sent out an email to students on April 8 laying out the new satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading option for the Spring 2020 semester. This is part of the University of Northern Colorado’s response to the growing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students.

UNC joined the Metropolitan State University in Denver in this decision, who announced a similar option for students in late March. 

“All undergraduate and graduate students may opt into S/U grading for any spring 2020 course in which they are currently enrolled, except for those very few courses that require a letter grade such as those required for licensure,” Anderson said in the email.

Each student is encouraged to consult their academic advisors and the financial aid office before selecting to change the grading system for a class. There is a possibility that choosing the S/U grading system could affect: financial aid, licensure, graduate school applications, probationary status, student-athlete eligibility, or possibly student veteran assistance. 

The grading system will be converted as follows: 


“For undergraduate students: Any letter grade that is a C- or higher would be converted to an S+; a letter grade that is a D-, D, or D+ would be converted to an S; and, an F would be converted to a U. Students should be aware the letter grade they would have earned may still determine whether a course will be accepted as a prerequisite or transferable to another institution.

For graduate students: To receive an S+, the earned letter grade must be a B- or higher; a letter grade that is a D- through a C+ would be converted to an S; and, an F would be converted to a U. Specific graduate programs may require that students earn a B- or higher for courses to count toward their program,” the email included. 

Getting an S or S+ will satisfy student’s degree requirements and will not be counted against the S credit limit in any degree or major.

The deadline to select the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading system is by 5 p.m., May 29. Students can choose the new grading system by logging into their URSA student page and clicking on the  “S/U Grading Option Application” link under “Grades.”

Many students seem to have a positive response to the new grading option. 

On the April 13 Daily Operational Update for the University’s website, Anderson said, “We’ve had just about a hundred students select that option already.”

However, students like Emily King an English major noted a possible concern for this new option. 

“I think there could be room for a student to lose motivation to complete all of their coursework because there is not that structure available,” King said. 

Despite concerns, other students approve of the option. 

“I think that it’s a nice option considering how complicated the school year became with such short notice,” said Samatha Vielbig, an English Education major.

Vielbig said many students have been stressed and this new rule lessens the stress around final grades.

For more information about the satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading option visit the University of Northern Colorado’s COVID-19 FAQ page. 


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