Keene State College students can now opt out of receiving traditional letter grades for some classes they are taking this semester.

The change comes as colleges and universities nationwide are modifying their grading systems in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerns about the virus caused higher-education institutions, including Keene State, to switch from in-person classes to remote learning mid-semester. And that change has raised concerns about the barriers students could face finishing their classes, including having poor or no Internet access at home, or having to cope with a family member ill with the novel coronavirus.

Keene State spokeswoman Kelly Ricaurte said by email that the grading policy has been changed to allow students to choose a “pass/no pass” grade for eligible classes. Students can request this option via a form they must submit by May 8 at 11:59 p.m., she said.

Accreditation and academic standards are the main reasons why some classes don’t have the pass/no pass option, she said.

Unlike letter grades, the pass/no pass model has no scoring system attached to it that could increase or decrease a student’s grade-point average. Students’ GPA will be calculated based on all their other grades that have letters assigned to them, Ricaurte said.

“Before students submit their request, they are urged to consult with their advisor or professor, and think carefully about the decision, and how it could possibly impact access to scholarships and graduate school admissions requirements,” she wrote.

The faculty senate made the recommendation for the grading policy changes at its April 8 meeting. That recommendation then went to Keene State President Melinda Treadwell for approval.

“The recommendation was made in recognition that students experienced a disruption during the spring semester, and the college wanted to give students the chance to decide how to have a course graded,” Ricaurte wrote.

Plymouth State University, which along with Keene State, the University of New Hampshire and Granite State College, is part of the University System of New Hampshire, announced in March it would offer its students a pass/no pass grading option for this semester. However, a student wouldn’t be able to consider the option unless the faculty member teaching the course allowed it, according to the policy.

The University Of New Hampshire has also adopted a pass/fail grading policy for undergraduate students.