Grading and Withdrawal Options

Barbara A. Bichelmeyer Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor
Friday, April 17, 2020, 4:52 p.m.
All KU Lawrence and Edwards Students

UPDATE: University leadership approved changes to the Medical & Compassionate Retroactive Withdrawal Policy Friday evening, April 17, 2020.


As we’ve continued to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and what it means for the KU community, you have asked questions, shared your stories, and provided feedback. Your continued engagement and communication has been vital to us as we work to support your efforts to continue your educational goals.

In recent days we’ve heard from many of you and from student leadership regarding the grading changes we announced April 1. It is clear that you want assurance that a safety net is in place to minimize disruption to your academic record and goals. We hear you and agree that we need to ensure you have options. It is equally important that we provide you with the information you need to understand any potential ramifications from pursuing changes to grading options or withdrawing from courses.

Grading Options

Changing grading options beyond the traditional A-F scale can have serious financial and academic implications for a student. Any time a student considers taking a course for Credit/No Credit (CR/NC), we strongly advise the student consult with both their academic advisor and financial aid counselor to ensure they understand any and all ramifications of selecting these grading options.

In some instances, changing the grading option to CR/NC can:

  • hinder a student’s ability to gain admission into a desired degree program,
  • delay graduation,
  • impact candidacy for admission into a graduate or professional degree program,
  • result in the loss or repayment of scholarships or financial aid, or
  • delay access to professional licensure needed for employment.

Although KU and other colleges and universities across the country are exercising some leniency with grading options this semester, there are still some entities that are unable to modify their policies and unable to accept coursework completed with the CR/NC grading option.

It is also important to note the process to update student records to reflect the CR/NC grading at the end of the semester once grades have posted is labor intensive and must be completed quickly to ensure student records are accurate and ready for degree certification, transcript requests, and other timely end-of-semester processes. The bulk of these processes are managed by the Office of the University Registrar and the window to complete all of these processes is tight, as they must be completed well before the beginning of the summer session in June. I know some students have inquired about more time to consider changes to grading options. Retaining the Friday, April 17, deadline to change grading options to CR/NC ensures staff have time to process requests and prepare grade rosters for the end of the semester.

Withdrawal Options

If you find yourself in a situation where you are unsure if you will pass a course this semester or feel that circumstances inhibit you from completing your coursework, you are strongly encouraged to speak with your academic advisor and financial aid counselor. The best option may be to withdraw from a course, as opposed to seeking a grading change option. Graduate students should talk with their advisor about the option to take an academic leave of absence.

If you withdraw from a course, you can expect to receive a “W” letter grade, which is not calculated into your GPA. Withdrawing from a course can have implications on student housing status, insurance (e.g. health, automobile), or financial aid. The window to withdrawal from an individual course or all courses has been extended for the spring 2020 semester. Students enrolled in regular 16-week courses have until May 4, 2020, to withdraw from a course. For short courses still in progress, the withdrawal deadline has been modified proportionately. Please check with your advisor for the details.

Students have asked questions about the option to withdraw from a course without a grade (therefore the course does not appear on a student’s academic record), which is part of what we refer to as period 1 withdrawal or drop in the University Senate Rules and Regulations, article II. Period 1 occurs during the first fifteen instructional days of a fall or spring semester, meaning a student’s activity in a course has been brief at best. The COVID-19 pandemic occurred around the mid-point of our semester meaning that students in 16-week courses had engaged in almost half of the material, and were in the period 2 withdrawal window. Utilizing the period 2 option accurately reflects the amount of the semester that had been completed at the time of the pandemic and minimizes the adverse implications for students receiving scholarships or loans and who choose to withdraw from a course.

Medical & Compassionate Retroactive Withdrawal

We’ve heard from many of you who are concerned about what your options would be if you or a family member were to become ill or if other personal circumstances prevent you from focusing on your coursework and completing the semester. Should this type of situation arise, we encourage you (in an extreme situation, a family member/guardian) to reach out to your academic advisor or professors immediately, as withdrawing from your courses may be the best option. Remember, students have until May 4 to withdraw from any or all courses. Additionally, we are working to update the university retroactive withdraw policy (U.S.R.R. Article II) to assist students enrolled in the spring 2020 semester facing personal or family emergencies and who miss the May 4 withdrawal deadline. It would assist in the following situations:

  • A student (or family member/guardian in extreme cases where the student is unable) may request and be considered for a medical withdrawal when extraordinary circumstances, such as a serious illness or injury prevent the student from continuing classes. The medical withdrawal policy covers both physical health and mental health. Examples can include sudden debilitating illness, hospitalization, mental health crisis, sudden exacerbation of a chronic health condition (e.g. arthritis, Crohn’s disease, cancer).
  • A student (or family member/guardian in extreme cases where the student is unable) may request and be considered for a compassionate withdrawal when extraordinary personal reasons, not related to the student's personal physical or mental health, prevent the student from continuing in classes. Examples can include: care of a seriously ill child, spouse or close family member, a death in the student's immediate family.

Requests to withdraw after the May 4 deadline are considered only if there are compelling documented circumstances that reasonably prevented the student from withdrawing by the deadline. If there is sufficient and compelling documentation, the student will submit these medical or compassionate petitions directly to the Office of the University Registrar for review by a committee of faculty and staff. Appropriate documentation will be required and could include written recommendations from Watkins Health Services or Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Consideration will be made for current situation and access to medical documentation.

Additional Support

We’ve also heard from students that there are concerns and stressors beyond grading options and courses. Please know that we have a variety of support services available to help you navigate your options. The Emergency Aid Network ( has a robust website with resources and information about housing, food, and financial assistance available through KU as well as through local and regional agencies. The Student Support and Case Management team is also available to assist and can be reached at or at 785-864-4060.

Leadership is also working through the details and specifics of how we can distribute the federal resources available to students as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Details will be forthcoming on the resources and assistance available to students.

Conversation Breaks

Next week we will hold two separate conversation breaks online, one specifically for graduate students and the other for undergraduate students. During these hour-long conversations, vice provosts and I will cover several topics that are on your minds. The graduate student conversation break will be noon, Monday, April 20.  The undergraduate student conversation break takes place at noon, Wednesday, April 22. Because we expect viewership to be large we need to solicit your questions and concerns in advance.

We’ll send you additional reminders in advance of each event. Before then, please let us know the questions you have and the topics you want us to cover by following the appropriate link:

Careful Changes

Each college and university across the globe is making policy and procedural modifications to meet the needs of their campus communities. KU is no different in this manner, and we have spent extensive time reviewing requests for changes to KU policy and procedures and the short- and long-term implications of any change on the university community. We continue to learn and adjust with each decision, and value all of the feedback you have provided in response to these decisions.

As always, if you need help and are unsure where to go, or if you feel the need to share your perspective with us, please send an email to



Barbara A. Bichelmeyer

Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor