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Changes to MSU’s Non-Binary Grade Recording and Course Repeat Policies

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Dear Undergraduate Students, Faculty, and Academic Staff: 
We have confronted many challenges over the last 20 months, and MSU is emerging from the pandemic as a better university than when we entered it. In partnership with Academic Governance and motivated by our shared commitment to health, wellness, and student success, we adapted existing policies and created new ones to meet the pandemic’s demands. We want to draw your attention to three academic policy recommendations for undergraduate education that Provost Woodruff has decided to adopt.  
Satisfactory/Non-Satisfactory Grade Recording Option: At the beginning of the pandemic and continuing through the 2020-2021 academic year, students could choose to have their grade for a course recorded in the S/NS grade binary recording system. S/NS provided relief to some of the stress students experienced during a time of great uncertainty and change, and MSU offered the binary grade reporting option longer than its peer institutions. It helped preserve students’ GPAs, and it allowed them to retake courses recorded as S or NS without limit. Both last semester and earlier this semester, the Provost asked the University Committee on Undergraduate Education (UCUE) to advise her on the continuation of S/NS. The committee recommended it not be offered in current or future semesters because of concerns that it masked the degree to which students achieved course learning outcomes, was not aligned with MSU’s graduation requirements, might disincentivize student engagement, and could reduce the resiliency of GPAs. Given UCUE's recommendations and the decisions by peer institutions not to offer something similar, the Provost has chosen not to offer S/NS this semester and does not plan to offer it in future semesters. 
We learned a great deal from the natural experiment that S/NS provides, which led the Provost to request that UCUE consider adaptations to existing policies that might provide some of the benefits recognized by S/NS without encumbering its potentially harmful effects. UCUE deliberated on her request and has recommended substantive changes to the existing Credit/No Credit (C/NC) grade recording option and the course repeat policy. 
Credit/No Credit Grade Reporting Option: UCUE recommended expanding students' potential use of the C/NC option through two reforms: First, it recommended lengthening the amount of time a student could choose the option from the current fifth day of classes to mid-semester. Second, it encouraged academic units to consider allowing students to choose to have grades recorded as C/NC for some of the university, college, or major-required courses not currently eligible for it. The Provost has accepted their recommendations and has asked the Registrar’s Office to lengthen the amount of time a student can choose C/NC. She has also begun the process of asking relevant academic units on campus to consider expanding the undergraduate classes for which a student could choose the C/NC option. 
Course Repeat Policy: In 2011, four different Academic Governance committees, as well as ASMSU and COGS, recommended a new course repeat policy that would allow any undergraduate to retake any class up to twice, regardless of the grade they earned in their previous attempt, and with a 20-credit cap on retake credits. Then-Provost Wilcox accepted their recommendation but put the new policy in abeyance because the existing student information system could not prioritize enrollment in ways that ensured seats were available to students who most needed them. In its place, he created our current system of pass-repeatable and pass-nonrepeatable grades, which addressed seat allocation issues but introduced a set of new challenges. Our newly modernized student information system has the capability to prioritize enrollment beyond simple seniority, so UCUE has asked Provost Woodruff to implement the policy that has long been in abeyance. This new course repeat policy will be in effect for students beginning in Summer 2022 and will apply to all prior semesters’ courses. 
These reforms emerged from the forward-thinking collaboration of leaders from ASMSU and Academic Governance, and they provide a stable and enduring framework for students to consider their grade reporting and enrollment options. Regardless of modality or temporary circumstances that may arise, these reforms will help equitably support our students to learn, thrive, and graduate and provide them the resources and time they need to pursue meaningful and impactful pathways after they graduate. 
Please reach out to me with any feedback or questions you might have.   
Thank you, 
Mark Largent
Associate Provost of Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate Studies