Academic Grading, Withdrawal, Refunds, and Financial Issues Related to the Spring 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic

Academic Grading, Withdrawal, Refunds, and Financial Issues Related to the Spring 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic


During these unprecedented times we hope to support you if you are struggling academically because of the response to the coronavirus. We offer these suggestions:

1.    Talk to your instructor(s). They may be able to help or to point you to helpful resources.

2.    Talk to your advisor, either in your department or in the Advising & Transfer Center. If you do not know who your advisor is, you can look in your MySSU or check out Where to Seek Advising. The Advisors can help you work through the options.

3.     The COVID-19 - Academic Affairs Info Hub is also full of many wonderful resources to help you transition to remote learning.

Below are some additional options you can consider:

Change of Grade Mode:

1. Change my grade mode from letter grade to Credit/No Credit during the semester:

  • Before changing a grade mode to CR/NC, students should first review the course syllabus and consult with their instructor, and then check with their major advisor(s) or department chair(s), or with the Advising Center if undeclared.

  • From April 15 to May 8, 2020, undergraduate students may change the grade mode of any graded course (including major, minor, General Education (including A1, A2, A3, and Br), or elective) from letter grade to CR/NC.

  • You can make this change yourself in My SSU. There is no need to file a petition. But you may want to consult with an advisor.

  • If you change your grade mode to CR/NC, you cannot change back to letter grade mode after May 8th when grades have been posted.

  • Points to consider about changing to CR/NC:

    •  CR (Credit) is given in undergraduate classes (499 and below) for work equivalent to a C- or better. NC (No Credit) is given in undergraduate classes for work equivalent to a D+ or below.

  •  CR and NC courses are not included in the calculation of your GPA. However, earning a CR counts toward your SSU degree and toward completion of GE requirements. By contrast, D-range grades (D+, D, D-) are included in the calculation of your GPA. They also count toward your SSU degree and can count as “completion” of a GE requirement, except for areas A1, A2, A3, and B4, in which you must earn a C- or better.

  • If students are taking a course for grade replacement that was originally in letter grade mode, the replacement course must be taken in letter grade mode.

  • Some department courses and prerequisites also require a grade of a C or better. Check with your advisor.

  • Students should be aware that graduate and professional schools sometimes recompute grade point averages based on a different set of definitions. For example, the NC may be treated as an F or the CR may be treated as a C. We anticipate that graduate and professional schools may change some of these practices as a result of Covid-19, but students should seek advice from major advisors about potential risks.

  • You can count a maximum of 24 CR/NC units toward graduation.

2. Change my grade mode from letter grade to Credit/No Credit after the semester.

  • From the time your grade is posted until June 5, 2020, at 5:00 p.m., you can petition the Registrar to convert a letter grade to CR/NC for a Spring 2020 course due to the special circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Be aware that there may be a considerable delay in updating your transcript to reflect the change. To make this request, use the Special Circumstances for Spring 2020 form on the Registrar’s website.

3.  Be sure to consult with your financial aid advisor about the impact of CR/NC on your individual financial aid package. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) includes several provisions to help students with financial aid:

  • The CARES Act pauses federal student loan payments for 6 months and halts interest accrual during that period.

  • Students who receive the Pell Grant and do not complete the spring semester will not have the Spring 2020 semester counted toward their maximum of 12 semester eligibility to receive the Pell Grant.

  • Schools do not need to return federal aid funds if a student withdraws due to COVID-19 crisis.

  • If a student fails to complete individual courses due to this emergency, Sonoma State may exclude those units from Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP).

  • The CARES act calls for direct emergency aid to students, including “grants to students for food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and childcare.” At this time, the U.S. Department of Education has not provided guidance about the amount of aid or who will qualify. Due to this lack of guidance, no federal grants for this purpose can be processed at this time. Please note that this provision of the CARES act does not apply to campus- or program-based grants.

4. Special populations, such as veterans, international students, and student athletes, should check with advisors to determine the advisability of taking courses CR/NC. Veterans and dependents should contact Julia Ibanez, the VA School Certifying Official in the Military and Veteran Resource Center, at International students should contact International Student Services through Katie O’Brien at Student athletes should contact Jared Chasey at

Course Repeats:

The campus policy on course repeats ordinarily permits a student to repeat a course in which they earned a C- or below once for “grade replacement” and again for “grade averaging” in the same grade mode, up to a total of 16 units. The temporary modifications for Spring 2020 are the following:

  • Students who are repeating a course in Spring 2020 that they previously took for a letter grade may use a CR earned in Spring 2020 for “grade replacement.”

  • Students who earn either a CR or a NC grade in Spring 2020 may subsequently repeat the course for a letter grade. 

  • Students who are currently repeating a course in Spring 2020 for “grade replacement” may choose to take the course a third time in a future semester for “grade replacement.”

  • Units earned for a repeated course in Spring 2020 are excluded from the 16 unit maximum for “grade replacement.”


You can ask your instructor for an Incomplete at the end of the semester if . . .

  • You have completed a substantial amount of the work for a course (usually 50% or more), but are unable to complete the course requirements within the semester, AND, you can complete the remaining work without needing to attend the class when it is next offered.

  • If you met deadlines and completed work before the coronavirus outbreak but have spottier completion rates in the second half of the semester, this may be a situation in which an incomplete is appropriate. Faculty will need to evaluate the amount of work completed for the course as a whole to ensure it is a substantial amount.

  • Unless otherwise specified, you have up to one year to finish an incomplete, but faculty may require you to submit the work by a particular date less than one year from the end of the semester when you took the class. 

  • Please note that faculty are not required to grant an incomplete. 

  • To make this request, work with your instructor to complete the Request for an Incomplete form on the Registrar’s website. 

Withdraw from One or More Classes:

Withdrawing from one class, some classes, or all classes requires that you have a “serious & compelling” reason as defined by the campus policy. Notice that some reasons that may feel serious to you (such as a low grade) may not be permitted under the policy. Please consult your advisor and read the following carefully.

Serious & Compelling Reasons:

For the purposes of withdrawal, the University defines “serious & compelling” as follows.The standard of “serious & compelling” applies to situations, such as illness or accident clearly beyond the student’s control. All situations require documentation.

  1. The following situations are typical of those for which “serious & compelling” is appropriate justification for withdrawal:

    1. An extended absence due to verifiable accident, illness, or personal problem serious enough to cause withdrawal from the university;

    2. An extended absence due to a death in the immediate family;

    3. A necessary change in employment status that interferes with the student’s ability to attend class (whether in person or online);

    4. Errors made by SSU.

  2. The following situations DO NOT fall under the intent of “serious & compelling”:

    1. Grade anticipated in the class is not sufficiently high, or the student is doing failyg work (including being penalized with a failing grade for academic dishonest);

    2. Failure to attend class (in person and/or online), complete assignments, or take a test; 

    3. Dissatisfaction with the course material, instructional method, or instructor; 

    4. Class is harder than expected;

    5. Pressure of other classes, employment, and/or participation in extracurricular activities;

    6. A change of major;

    7. Lack of awareness of the withdrawal process or procedures.

  3. Other unusual or very special cases will be considered on their merit by the University Standards Committee. In the context of the novel coronavirus, such circumstances may include, but are not limited to:

    1. Student had significant caretaking responsibilities for family members as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic;

    2. Student experienced significant psychological and/or physical trauma as a result of the coronavirus; 

    3. Student was not able to access course materials despite documented efforts to address these issues with the instructor.

Process for a student to withdraw from an individual class in Spring 2020

  • Through May 8, students may petition to withdraw from one or more classes for “serious and compelling” reasons.

  • The usual $20 course fee has been waived for Spring 2020.

  • The student must complete the online petition signed digitally by the course instructor, the student’s advisor, and the university registrar (

  • Students should include an explanation of the circumstances and documentation. If students cannot obtain documentation for coronavirus-related situations, faculty may indicate this on the form and omit documentation. 

  • Faculty instructors should include a comment about the student’s participation in the class since the move to remote instruction.

Process for a student to withdraw completely from all courses and the university in Spring 2020

  •  We strongly encourage students to speak to their instructors and to see an advisor in your department or in the Advising Center before making this decision. Your advisor may be able to suggest resources for managing challenges presented by the response to coronavirus that would let you finish some or all of your classes rather than withdrawing. 

  • You must have “serious & compelling” reasons to withdraw from the university (see definition above).

  • If you and your advisor agree that a total withdraw is the correct next step, the last day to withdraw completely from the Spring 2020 term is May 8, 2020. 

  • There is no fee to withdraw from the term.

  • Please use this form if you need to withdraw completely from all your courses in Spring 2020:

How to withdraw AFTER the last day of instruction in Spring 2020

  • With “serious & compelling” reasons, you can petition to retroactively withdraw from an entire semester after the last day of instruction. Typically withdrawing after the semester ends requires you to withdraw from all the courses you took that semester.

  • However, between May 9, 2020, and December 4, 2020, the University Standards Committee will consider petitions to withdraw from an individual course or courses taken at SSU (in Spring 2020 only), for “serious and compelling” reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • To make this request, use the Special Circumstances for Spring 2020 form on the Registrar’s website.

Refunds and Financial Aid

If you have any questions about financial aid, you should see a financial aid advisor. Here’s how:

Can a student get a full refund for dropping a course?

  • No, the deadline for getting a tuition refund for the difference between full-time and part-time tuition was February 5.

  • There will be no financial aid reductions at this point in the semester for students who drop one or more classes as long as the student remains enrolled in at least one course.

  • There may, however, be other financial aid implications for dropping one or more courses. All questions about financial aid should be discussed with a financial aid advisor.

Can a student get a full refund for withdrawing completely from Spring 2020?

  • There are CSU and federal guidelines that govern full tuition refunds for complete withdrawal for Spring 2020. Standard policies apply, but students who believe there are reasons for a full refund should consult with the Registrar’s Office (

Change to Probation and Disqualification Process

  • Students who are currently on academic probation will not be disqualified at the end of Spring 2020 due to poor academic performance, failure to progress, or electing to take Credit/No Credit courses in Spring 2020. Students currently on academic probation will be continued on probation for another semester, unless their grades in Spring 2020 return them to good standing with a GPA of 2.0 or above.