Explained: how UWL students can change to satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading


Graphic by Julia Balli.

Julia Balli, Executive Editor

When the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse transitioned to an online-only platform for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester, UWL students created a petition to change the grading system to a pass/fail due to COVID-19. The petitions gathered hundreds of signatures to change the grading system, and on April 24 UWL Provost Betsy Morgan sent out an email to UWL students and personnel regarding a satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U) grading system.

The letter grading system will be used for students when all grades are entered on May 22, however, students have the option to change their letter grade to an S/U grade for individual courses.

The S/U policy only applied to undergraduate levels and not graduate-level courses.

An “S” will be applied to students who receive a letter grade of C or higher in a course which will satisfy prerequisite requirements, counts toward major and minor requirements-unless specified differently by department policy-counts toward the total credits earned, is not used to calculate GPA, and is counted as “credits attempted.”

A “U” will be applied to students who receive a letter grade of D or lower in a course which will not satisfy prerequisite requirements, will not count toward major and minor requirements, will not count toward the total credits earned, is not used to calculate GPA, and is “not counted as credits attempted.”

To petition your case for an “S” or “U” letter grade, a completed form will need to be submitted to their respected Dean’s office by June 12. Once the form is approved by the Dean’s office, it is then passed over to the Committee on Academic Policies and Standards (CAPS) for further approval.  

A link for students to change their letter grade to an S/U grade will be available once final grades are posted on May 22 at 8 a.m. until June 12 at 11:59 p.m. The link will be available on the “Global Announcements” section on a UWL student’s Canvas dashboard.

UWL Records & Administration registrar emailed UWL students Jan Von Ruden on May 21 at 12:15 p.m. the office emailed frequently asked questions (FAQ) with answers for UWL students to consider before petitioning to change the grade to an S/U.

Portion of FAQ and answers from the email sent out by Von Ruden on May 21:

  • I earned a grade of “C” or higher. Should I request to change my letter grade to “S”?
    • In most cases, the letter grade would be preferable to an “S”.
      • Consider how a future employer or graduate program might view the S; an assumption could be made that you were earning a “C”.
      • If you are concerned that your “BC” or “C“ would “drop” your GPA, know that this is just one semester on your record and may have minimal effect. There will be a “COVID-19 Disruption” notation on all transcripts for the spring 2020 semester to inform readers of the extraordinary circumstances this semester.
      • The UWL transcript definition of “S” is a letter grade of “C or better” although there is no way to document the original letter grade.
  • If I request a grade change from “BC” to “S”, for example, and my semester GPA improves to 3.5 or higher, will I be eligible for Dean’s List honors on my transcript?
    • NO. The Dean’s List notation will be based on the original grades submitted by the faculty.
  • I earned a grade of “D”. Should I request to change my grade to “U”?
    • A “U” grade does not earn credit for a course. This means you have not completed the course and will not satisfy any degree requirement or prerequisite with the “U”.
    • “D” grades earn credit. In most cases, the “D” and subsequent credits earned will satisfy degree requirements, including General Education.
    • If you need a grade of “C or better” to satisfy major or prerequisite requirements, consider the “U” option. Consult with your Academic Services Office of your first major for advice, if needed.
  • I am repeating a “D or F” from a previous semester and did not improve the original grade. What does a “U” do to my record?
    • The grade of “U” would mean that the original grade will no longer count in your GPA.
    • If you originally failed the course, a “D” this semester would give you credit and positively impact your GPA.
    • If you originally earned a “D” in the course, you will lose credit for the course if you receive an “F” or “U” grade.
  • I earned a “D” or “F” in a course and want to request a change to “U”. Can I take the course with the “U” at another campus and transfer the course back to UWL?
    • NO. “U” grades are considered “F” grades for the purpose of repeating courses; repeats must be taken at UWL.
Screenshot of email sent out to UWL students by UWL Records & Registration.

For UWL students wanting to know how the S/U grading policy will affect:

  • financial aid and scholarships contact the Financial Aid office at 608-785-8604 or [email protected].
  • athletic eligibility contact director of athletics Kim Blum ([email protected]) or deputy director of athletics Erin Hanson ([email protected]).
  • federal or state veteran’s benefits contact the Veteran Services Office at 608-785-8631 or [email protected].

If a UWL student decides to change a course to an S/U grade but later would like to change back to a letter grade that student should contact their Academic Services Office before June 12.