College students are given the power to manipulate their GPAs


Brooke Kruger, Opinion Writer

Last March, students of the University of North Dakota were given the opportunity to choose how they were evaluated in their classes. Students and staff alike were unprepared for the sudden change to virtual learning and both had little time to adjust to their new environment. Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading was introduced to UND students following their eviction from campus due to the Coronavirus.  

Halfway through the Fall 2020 semester, students are once again being asked if they prefer the S/U grading system over traditional evaluation methods (A, B, C, D, F). A research survey was distributed to students asking about their current mode of instruction and whether online or hybrid classes are having positive or negative effects on their performance. This information will help make the final decision as to whether traditional grading evaluation will be used, or a pass/fail system.  

UND is currently halfway through the fall semester, with this being week eight of courses. Freshmen or new students have had close to two months of hybrid or online learning and returning students have already been exposed to new teaching methodsThroughout the semester students have been given the opportunity to meet with professors, adjust to their courses, and access schools resources such as department advisors and on-campus counseling servicesLaboratory courses are once again available in the classroom and aviation students have returned to their scheduled flight lessonsWith campus slowly returning to an altered state of normalcy, S/U grading should not be made available for the semester.  

The pass/fail grading system of Spring 2020 allowed students to underperform. There was no distinction between finishing a class with a seventy-five or a ninety. With S/U grading, students weren’t required to work hard to receive a reputable grade. The elimination of traditional grading allowed students to be content with settling for “satisfactory.” Of course, prior to S/U grading system, students uninterested in pursuing top grades saw their efforts reflected in evaluations resulting in C’s or D’s. With the satisfactory scale, students that perform at the C or D earning level were no different than the top students in the class.  

S/U grading allowed all students to achieve 4.0’s regardless of their effort. The grading decision implemented by the university allowed students to choose how they wanted to be graded for each of their courses; traditional letter grading or the pass/fail method. Only courses that were evaluated using the traditional letter grading impacted a students’ cumulative GPAs. Students were able to apply pass/fail grading to courses they had low grades in and use traditional grading methods. Classes that students are successful in are chosen to count towards their GPA by using traditional letter grading. If a student receives a bad grade, they could apply S/U grading techniques, allowing that course to be disregarded when calculating cumulative GPAs. With students having the power to manipulate their cumulative grade point averagesall students had the potential to increase their grades with no effort. 

Pass/fail grading is going to impact the hiring process completed by companies as well. With the inability to distinguish between students that earned 4.0s and students that manipulated their grades with the S/U scale, employers are going to struggle to find the most appropriate employeesApplications for internships, jobs, and organization positions will contain inaccurate college transcripts and resumes. Employers at reputable companies may be looking for highly skilled graduates. It is possible for them to be misled by potential employees’ GPAs that were distorted due to S/U grading. 

To avoid falsifying GPAs and the underperformance of students, the University of North Dakota needs to revaluate their consideration for satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading. Students have had time to adjust to the fall 2020 semester and utilize the resources they need to be successful. The option to choose S/U grading allows students to underperform and stunts learning potential, which impacts the future careers of UND students.  


Brooke Kruger is a Dakota Student Opinion Writer. She can be reached at [email protected]