UTEP students weigh in on ‘satisfactory / unsatisfactory’ grading scale

‘I honestly don’t even want an S (satisfactory) on my transcript at all’


Claudia Hernandez

The change will give instructors the option to grade in a S/U manner instead of the standard grading scale.

Paulina Astrid Spencer, Staff Reporter

As classes throughout the country switch to online platforms due to the coronavirus pandemic, the list of colleges and universities adopting a pass or fail grading scale continues to grow and this list now includes UTEP.

Last week, UTEP announced via email that it officially granted its faculty the ability to assign semester grades to students who pass the course with an S for “satisfactory” or a U for “unsatisfactory” if a student does not meet course expectations.

But what exactly is this satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U) grading scale? It’s exactly what it sounds like. Instead of a traditional letter grade based on a point system, students now have the option to receive either a passing grade or a failing grade at the discretion of their professor. It’s entirely optional.

University provosts and administrators across the country have said expanding pass/fail options gives students flexibility during the crisis and can mitigate their anxiety, but for some students, suddenly switching to online still poses significant challenges.

Michael Rosales, a sophomore studying business at UTEP, was faced with the reality of having no other choice but to finish off his semester through a computer monitor.

“Going online for our classes isn’t as simple as it seems,” Rosales said. “Each class has a uniqueness about it that makes transferring online possible but that still takes away from the unique experience that a face-to-face class gives.”

The S/U option is supposed help alleviate the stress that many students may be feeling, especially if they lack the necessary sources or equipment that an online class requires, and it also gives instructors the opportunity to grade students in a non-conventional way.

“Giving the pass/fail option allows students to still do the work but it won’t tarnish their grades if going online was more harmful than helpful,” Rosales said.

The S/U grading scale will not impact a student’s GPA, if a student decides to opt for it.

UTEP students have varying opinions on the matter, with some approving of the new grading option and others still on the fence about it for several possible reasons — one of them is that getting an S for a grade might show that they took the easy way out.

“I honestly don’t even want an S (satisfactory) on my transcript at all,” said Brenda Gaytan, a UTEP junior majoring in business entrepreneurship and healthcare management.

While this grading scale is new for several classes at UTEP, the university offers courses that regularly use the S/U grading method, for example, the senior internship course.

Often students commit to a S/U class before a course begins or early in its run, making the decision this far in the semester a one-of-a-kind experience for many students.

UTEP urges that, in considering grading options, students should talk with their advisors about any impact these decisions may have on their path to degree completion, financial aid and scholarship eligibility and international student status among many other factors.

The most notable concern among students is their grade point average (GPA) and how a S/U grading scale could affect it.

Some students are concerned about the way it would appear on their transcript and how it could affect their future if they decide to transfer universities or apply to graduate school after graduation.

Before opting for the S/U grading option, students should inquire if the grade will negatively influence their transcript when applying to graduate or professional schools or be appropriate if they need to increase their GPA, according to the email students received being informed about this new  change in grading.

If you should determine that the S/U option is appropriate for you, you must fill out this form and email it to [email protected].

Paulina Astrid Spencer may be reached at [email protected]