Shortly after announcing the move to online classes, LMU released a message stating that the deadline for Credit/No Credit grading had been extended and that “graded courses taken on a credit/no credit basis will count towards fulfilling Core, major, and minor requirements during the spring 2020 semester.”
While this decision has pros and cons — most of which are largely irrelevant to this article. But once having weighed those options and opted to allow for Credit/No Credit grading, it is only logical to extend the deadline for that decision to after final grades are released.
Now I’m very aware that, at first glance, this idea seems preposterous. When I first heard that institutions like Boston University were allowing students to decide whether their grade would affect their GPA after seeing their final grades, I was absolutely shocked. But when you think about it more, this might actually be the best option.
There are a number of reasons why universities are allowing students to choose Credit/No Credit grading for major and core classes. It takes away some stress from this already very stressful pandemic, it gives students who are sick or in unstable situations the ability to prioritize their personal lives and it ensures that high-achieving students don’t see their GPA drop for a situation that was out of their control. However, it turns out that moving the Credit/No Credit decision to after final grades are released is more beneficial in achieving each of these goals.
If students are already stressed, having to make an additional (and potentially crucial) decision the week before finals can be a source of more stress, not less. I know that for me it is. Furthermore, this option doesn’t account for any issues (whether medical or personal) that might arise after May 1, once students have made their decision on Credit/No Credit grading.
To make matters worse, having the Credit/No Credit grading decision be sooner rather than later also incentivizes what is perhaps the worst side effect of Credit/No Credit grading: laziness. After all, at least subconsciously, once a student decides to opt for Credit/No Credit grading, they will inevitably feel less pressure to excel in class and study for their exams. If getting an A and a C are the same, why aim for the A?
If the Credit/No Credit decision is moved to after finals week, students will remain motivated to work for the best grade they can all the way until the end. But if for a pandemic-related reason they fail to meet their ideal grade, there is still the safety net of Credit/No Credit grading that allows students to approach the rest of the semester without an additional source of stress.
So why does moving Credit/No Credit grading to after final grades are released feel so wrong? The only real reason is because it puts final grades in the hands of students — and that's something that we have all been trained to think is inconceivable.
But think about it this way: two students go into the final exam with a current grade of a B+, knowing that if they succeed they can bring their grade up to an A, but if they fail, it could drop to a C. The first spends a week studying for the final and earns a perfect score. The other walks into the exam without having studied a word, but earns just enough to keep a C.
If both students had opted for Credit/No Credit before the exam (worried about their GPA dropping) they would leave the exam with the exact same score: a Credit stamp on their transcript.
If the Credit/No Credit deadline is extended to after the exam, the second student still earns the same score, but the first student is able to opt to keep the hard-earned A that they spent a week studying for.
The advantages of this second path outweigh those of the first from any direction you look at the situation.
This is the opinion of Veronica Backer-Peral, a sophomore film and television production, history and computer science triple major from Pasadena, CA. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email firstname.lastname@example.org.