Spring 2020 Academic Options
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, on Tuesday, March 24, the George Mason University Faculty Senate approved an alternative grading mode for active undergraduate classes in spring 2020. On Friday, March 27, Graduate Council enacted the same for active graduate courses. The following academic policy and/or procedural changes are ONLY FOR ACTIVE SPRING 2020 CLASSES. Classes that ended on or before March 9, 2020 are not eligible for these changes.
Students in A-F graded classes are able to select the alternative grade mode on a class-by-class basis through FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020. Simply submit the Change of Grade Mode Request form. Multiple sections can be submitted simultaneously. Students will need to include the Subject, Course Number, and Section Number for each course. The submission deadline has been extended through FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020 to align with the deadline for grade submission.
Students who have previously designated a section for the alternative grade mode may also submit the Change of Grade Mode Request form to change that section back to A-F grading.
The Change of Grade Mode Request form comes directly to the Office of the University Registrar for processing, it does not go to the faculty for review or approval. All forms submitted by the deadline of May 22, 2020, will be processed. Depending on the volume of forms submitted, processing time may vary.
!! Students are not selecting a specific grade for each section, they are selecting the overall grade mode. Students still need to complete work in the class and have it graded in order for the faculty member to assess your learning and assign an appropriate letter grade, which will then be converted to the corresponding alternative grade mode grade.
If the alternative grade mode is selected, classes receiving those grades will not count in the GPA.
For Undergraduate Classes (numbered 100-499):
- The deadline for selecting the alternative grade mode is FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020.
- Through the deadline of FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020, students who wish to select the alternative grade mode must submit the Change of Grade Mode Request form for sections they want to designate.
- None of the classes graded with the alternative grade mode for spring 2020 count against the undergraduate academic policy of only 6 credits taken as Satisfactory/No Credit (AP 3.3).
- There will not be a Dean’s List for Spring 2020 for undergraduates.
- Selective Withdrawal has been extended through the last day of classes. Students who withdraw from a class between March 9, 2020 and May 11, 2020 will receive an XW grade on their transcript. Theses withdrawals will not count against the undergraduate academic policy of only 3 Selective Withdrawals over the course of the academic career. (AP 1.5.1)
For Graduate Classes (numbered 500-999):
- The deadline for selecting the alternative grade mode is FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020.
- Through the deadline of FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020, students who wish to select the alternative grade mode must submit the Change of Grade Mode Request form for each section they want to designate.
- Classes that ended on or before March 9, 2020 are not eligible for the alternative grading mode.
- Students may withdraw from any graduate course or courses in which they are enrolled in Spring 2020 by May 11, 2020, or until a final grade is submitted, whichever is earlier, or following the specific deadlines for selecting the alternative grade mode detailed in the chart below. These withdrawals will appear with the notation “XW” on their official transcript.
- The academic termination policy has been altered for all graduate students. All letter grades “C” or the equivalent alternative grade “XP” received in graduate courses will not count towards the number of unsatisfactory grades stated under AP.6.6.2 Academic Termination. Graduate students who may receive letter grade “F” or the equivalent alternative grade “XN” should consider the available withdrawal option as the effect of these non-passing grades on AP.6.6.2 Academic Termination will remain unaltered.
- Some graduate programs’ classes end prior to the end of the term, and therefore the deadline to select the alternative grade mode may differ.
|Program / Session||
Deadline for Alternative Grade Mode Selection or Withdrawing from Course
|BU-MBA-BUAD – MBA
BU-MS-ACCT – MS in Accounting
BU-MS-MGMT – MS in Management
BU-MS-TECM – MS in Technology Management
BU-CERG-FACC – graduate certificate in Forensic Accounting
BU-CERG-GACT – graduate certificate in Government Accounting
BU-CERG-ACAN – graduate certificate in Accounting Analytics
BU-CERG-ITDT – graduate certificate in IT Strategy and Digital Transformation
BU-CERG-GITL – graduate certificate in Global IT Leadership
8-Week Session 2
|BU-CERG-BUSF – graduate certificate in Business Fundamentals||5/10/2020|
|7.5 Week Session 2||5/12/2020|
|CEHD Modular, Contract Cohort, or Abbreviated Semester Courses||Last Day of Class|
The grades included in the alternative grading mode for Spring 2020 classes are:
XS (Extraordinary Circumstances – Satisfactory) – The student earns credit in the course by meeting a minimum grade threshold; at the undergraduate level that would be a C or higher, at the graduate level it would be a B- or higher.
XP (Extraordinary Circumstances – Pass) – The student earns credit in the course but has not met a minimum grade threshold to apply the course to requirements with a minimum grade requirement; at the undergraduate level this would be a C- or D, at the graduate level it would be a C.
XN (Extraordinary Circumstances – No Credit) – The student does not earn credit in the course.
XW (Extraordinary Circumstances – Withdrawal) – The student withdraws from the class as a result of difficulties arising from Covid-19. No credit is earned in the class. The deadline to withdraw from a class is Monday, May 11, 2020. Students are not able to withdraw from a class once a final grade has been submitted.
Note: There will be a transcript notation for Spring 2020 indicating the change in grade schemes.
Eligible students are now able to submit the Change of Grade Mode Request form, through FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020.
The University’s COVID-19 website is found here.
Additional information specifically relating to graduate students can be found on the Graduate Education website.
Spring 2020 Grading Options FAQs
Students who are registered into active classes with the A-F grade type are eligible for the alternative grading mode.
Students who were grade sanctioned because of a decision by the Honor Committee, irrespective of the date of such a decision, may not choose the alternative grade mode for the affected course. Academic units may not use the alternative grading model to change a course grade that was assigned to a student as a result of a decision by the Honor Committee.
To ensure graduate students make the best selection for themselves and maximize their potential for long-term academic and professional success, it is critical that:
1) Graduate students seek advising and guidance from their advisor, mentor and/or coordinator prior to making a decision about their courses; and
2) Graduate students determine the impact electing an alternative grading option may have on financial aid, licensure, admission to professional programs, scholarships, fellowships, among others.
Detailed information can be found on the Graduate Education webpage.
Submit the Change of Grade Mode Request form. Multiple sections can be submitted simultaneously. Students will need to include the Subject, Course Number, and Section Number for each course.
Students who have previously designated a section for the alternative grade mode may also submit the form to change that section back to A-F grading.
The Change of Grade Mode Request form comes directly to the Office of the University Registrar for processing; it does not go to the faculty for review or approval. Depending on the volume of forms submitted, processing time may vary.
If you don’t submit a Change of Grade Mode Request form to select the alternative grading mode, your classes will default to their current grade mode (A-F grading).
The deadline for selecting the alternative grade mode has been extended to Friday, May 22, 2020, as set by the Faculty Senate and the Graduate Council.
Students will have through Monday, May 11, 2020–or until a final grade is submitted, whichever is earlier–to choose the Credit/Non-credit (COVID19) option via Patriot Web for classes they are registered for in the Spring 2020 semester.
After Monday, May 11, 2020, or following the submission of a final grade through the deadline of Friday, May 22, 2020, students may still select the alternative grade mode by submitting the Change of Grade Mode Request form.
Some graduate programs’ classes end prior to the end of the term, and therefore the deadline to select the alternative grade mode may differ. Please refer to your specific program, or to the chart found near the top of this page.
If students have any questions about the deadline for selecting the alternative grade mode via Patriot Web, please contact an academic adviser.
Undergraduate classes (numbered 100-499) graded with the alternative grading mode are only eligible to fulfill degree requirements if grades of XS or XP are received. Undergraduate classes receiving an XS grade are eligible to fulfill general education requirements and major requirements that have a minimum grade threshold. Undergraduate classes receiving an XP grade are eligible to fulfill degree requirements unless a minimum grade of C or better is specified.
Graduate classes (numbered 500-999) graded with the alternative grading mode are eligible to fulfill degree requirements if a grade of XS is received.
If you have questions about whether a class taken under the alternative grading mode will apply to your degree, please contact your academic advisor to discuss.
For classes that require a minimum grade threshold to be achieved in order to allow registration, students may be able to meet that prereq requirement using the alternative grade mode.
For undergraduate courses (numbered 100-499), students earning an XS grade can fulfill minimum grade thresholds of C or better associated with subsequent classes.
For graduate courses (numbered 500-999), students earning an XS grade can fulfill minimum grade thresholds of B- or better associated with subsequent classes.
If you have questions about the prerequisite for a future class for which you need to register, please contact your academic advisor to discuss.
Classes with the alternative grading mode will appear on your academic transcript just like any other course. The only difference will be the grade associated with the course. Either XS, XP, or XN will be printed as the final grade.
No, students can pick and choose among their classes to select the alternative grading mode on an individual class-by-class basis. Students may select the alternative grading mode for all of their classes, none of their classes, or some of their classes, at the student’s discretion.
Will there be a comment on my transcript associated with Spring 2020 indicating that there was a special grading scheme in place?
Yes. The academic transcript will have a notation associated with Spring 2020 that briefly highlights the Covid-19 response. Additional information about the grades themselves will be included in the transcript key.
Students who select the alternative grade mode for all of their classes will not have a GPA for the term, and their cumulative GPA will be unaffected. Students who select the alternative grading mode for some classes will have their GPA calculated by the remaining A-F graded courses. If the student does not select the alternative grading mode for any courses, the GPA will be calculated normally.
Study Elsewhere grades are subject to the grading policies in place at the visited institution and are subject to Mason’s transfer eligibility rules. Consortium courses are also subject to the grading policies in place at the visited institution, but the grade received there will appear on the Mason transcript.
It depends. State Grant programs (Commonwealth and VGAP) require that an undergraduate student have a 2.0 GPA to award. If an undergraduate student’s GPA is below 2.0 now (based on previous terms), or if this is the student’s first semester and they select all alternate grades, they would not qualify for state grants if the GPA stays or is below 2.0.
If they were above 2.0 at the end of the previous term and select all alternate grades, their GPA would carry over so they would still qualify.
Please consult the Office of Financial Aid if you have specific questions about your aid or aid eligibility.
If a student used a selective withdrawal recently and in direct response to the online format, could we allow a “free” return to that course given the new grading options?
Unfortunately, no. Students must be currently registered in the class in order to select the alternative grading mode.
How will Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) be calculated by the Office of Financial Aid for Spring 2020?
The U.S. Department of Education is still requiring that we calculate Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) at the end of spring semester, as of now.
If students elect the standard grading system, SAP calculates as normal.
Students who matriculated at Mason in spring 2020 will have issues with the SAP GPA rule if they elect all alternate grades. Pace (attempted and earned credits) can be tracked correctly, but if spring 2020 matriculants elect all alternate grades, they would have NO GPA so they would pass for pace but fail the GPA rule since they would show no GPA but earned credits. Mason will manually review those students with mixed XP and XN grades.
If students select all alternate grades and were at Mason previously, their GPA will carry over from that point. So a student with a good cumulative GPA from fall 2019 would keep that GPA, but a student with a low GPA could not improve if they select all alternate grades.
In spring 2020, students will have the option to select a grade scheme that carries no quality points, therefore special considerations must be taken into account when calculating academic standing.
There will be three groups of students in spring 2020, each requiring a different type of assessment for academic standing:
- Students who have retained the A-F grade mode entirely and will therefore have a term GPA that affects the cumulative GPA;
- Students who have selected the alternative grade mode (generically, “Xx” grades) for some of their classes and will therefore have a term GPA calculated on a partial selection of classes that affects the cumulative GPA;
- Students who have selected “Xx” grades for all of their classes and will therefore not have a term GPA and the cumulative GPA will not change from the previous semester.
Academic Policy 5.2.3 defines the undergraduate retention categories of Warning, Probation, and Suspension and bases eligibility for those categories on a combination of Attempted Credits and Cumulative GPA. Because undergraduate students could increase their Attempted Credits in Spring 2020 without improving their Cumulative GPA, they are at risk of “earning” their way into a more severe retention category.
Therefore: Undergraduate students who select “Xx” grades will not have those grades considered as Attempted Credits for the purposes of Academic Standing calculations.
Academic Standing classifications are defined by George Mason. The calculation of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is governed by federal financial aid guidelines as is not affected by this decision.
For students receiving merit scholarships, they will need to determine what the GPA is for keeping those scholarships. For many of the Admissions scholarships, that cut off is a 2.75 GPA. If the student had less than 2.75 in the previous term and select all alternate grades, they cannot bring up that GPA and that would disqualify them for scholarship renewal.
Alternately, if the student’s GPA is above the thresholds from the previous term and they select all alternative grades, their scholarship renewal would calculate off the previous term GPA. Students will need to determine what the GPA requirement is for their individual scholarships and act accordingly in terms of their overall GPA.
If I am receiving benefits from the Veteran’s Administration, how might the alternative grading mode affect me?
For undergraduate students who decide to use alternate grading mode and receive grades of XS or XP, there will be no change or effect on your Education Benefits. For graduate students who decide to use alternate grading mode and receive grades of XS, there will be no effect on your Education Benefits.
For undergraduate students who receive grades of XN or graduate students who receive grades of XP or XN, the School Certifying Officials will report this to the VA as an adjustment or termination (depending on number of credits this applies to) with Non-Punitive Grade Assigned. The effective date will be the end of term. Please keep in mind, the VA will determine if a debt is warranted, NOT the University.
If I am repeating a course in Spring 2020 (that I took in a previous semester and did poorly) and I select the alternative grade mode, how will my GPA be affected by the repeated course?
The repeat policy for undergraduates indicates that the latest attempt of the course will be the grade that counts, even if that grade is lower than a previous attempt. Because there are no quality points associated with the alternate grade mode, the previous attempt will no longer factor into the GPA, but there won’t be a grade included to replace it.
Is there someone I can speak with about deciding between A-F grading and the alternative grade mode for my classes?
Yes! Your academic advisor would be happy to talk to you about your grade option selection.
Undergraduate students can find your academic advisor using the following tool: https://advising.gmu.edu/current-student/advisor-locator/
If you are receiving financial aid, you might also reach out the Mason Student Services Center to talk to a counselor.
I’m an undergraduate taking a graduate level course. Does the alternative grade mode affect my graduate level course?
Undergraduate students taking graduate-level courses will be able to select the alternative grading mode in those courses, but are subject to the graduate-level grade definitions.
No. The Antonin Scalia Law School will separately determine the grading policies for its courses.
My employer currently pays for the classes I am enrolled in. What effect might changing to the alternative grading mode have on me?
It depends. You should contact your employer and seek clarity on the requirements for continued tuition remission. If there is a term-by-term GPA requirement, you should consider remaining in A-F grading. If the requirement is the successful completion of coursework, the alternative grading mode would be fine. Each situation is unique and you should seek guidance from your employer prior to making your decision.
That depends. You should reach out to your academic advisor to discuss your options. You may potentially reach out to an advisor in the school that houses the major you want to change into for their guidance, as well.
F-1 and J-1 students do not need permission to choose an alternative grading option as long as they maintain full-time enrollment.
If you are an international student in F-1 or J-1 status, please be aware that withdrawing from a course will reduce your credit load. F-1 and J-1 students must enroll full-time in the fall and spring semesters in order to maintain their SEVIS record. Full-time status is defined by the Registrar. Even for those students who have left the United States, full-time enrollment is required to keep the SEVIS record active. The University is required to terminate the SEVIS record of any student who drops below full-time, unless the student has permission in writing from the Office of International Programs and Services (OIPS) prior to dropping classes. Students who cannot enroll or remain full-time should contact an OIPS advisor for guidance.
Further information is available in the Self-Service Center at https://oips.gmu.edu/.
Each student needs to review their current GPA and make decisions based on that, based on the answer to the questions above, and review the standards of good SAP on the Financial Aid Office website – https://www2.gmu.edu/admissions-aid/financial-aid/eligibility/satisfactory-academic-progress-policy.
No, your classes will default to their current grading mode (A-F grading).
How will choosing an alternative grading option affect my eligibility for admission to graduate/professional schools, or competitive fellowship programs outside of Mason?
Although many programs are modifying requirements to accommodate special circumstances related to COVID-19, we have no control over requirements for external institutions and programs. Students are encouraged to check with graduate/professional programs and/or fellowship programs to ensure they are familiar with specific requirements prior to selecting an alternative grade option. If you are not certain of a future program’s requirements, keeping the standard grade may be a safer choice.