COVID-19's impact on spring student academic success

While the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the way the college operates, it fortunately had only a moderate impact on student academic performance this spring.

"I was very impressed by the dedication of our faculty and staff and the resilience of our students this semester. Faculty and staff responded quickly and professionally to move all instruction and services online," says Dr. Charles Cook, ACC provost and executive vice president of Academic Affairs. "Students persisted at an amazing rate and they have really inspired all of us with their achievements."

Unsuccessful grades increased by just one percent, and there was very little variation in the change in unsuccessful grades by race/ethnicity. The same was true of successful grades.

The most significant change from spring semester 2019 to spring 2020 was a large decrease in withdrawals — a trend observed across every area of study and every race/ethnic group — from 13 percent to 9 percent, respectively. The decreases in withdrawals were largest among courses that were originally distance learning.

About 1,650 students withdrew due to COVID-19, with the vast majority citing issues related to their learning environment. Fewer cited personal or family illness issues related to COVID-19, such as a change in work schedule or dependent care.

Incomplete grades collegewide rose from near zero in spring 2019 to three percent, and they varied considerably by area of study. The two areas with the largest increases in incompletes were Health Sciences and DMCAT—both of which have significant face-to-face components that were interrupted when classes moved online.

Students may still complete incomplete coursework and have until July 26 to change an incomplete grade to a withdrawal and retake the course at no charge in fall 2020.

Pass/No Pass
The spring 2020 semester marked the first time students were given the option to change their grade to pass or no pass. Students in nearly 10,000 courses used this option — 5,184 pass grades and 4,538 no pass grades.

Pass and no pass grades each made up about five percent of all grades awarded this term. Students who earned a C were most likely to utilize the pass grade, and those who earned an F were most likely to utilize the no pass grade.

Students with historically high percentages of unsuccessful course grades tended to utilize the no pass option most, including:

  • Black/African American, Hawaiian /Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latino students
  • Students in Computer Science and IT and Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

A small number of students who earned an A switched to the pass option, and nearly two-thirds of students with Ds and Fs could have opted for no pass, but did not. The college will be following up with these students.

Financial Assistance
The spring semester saw demand for student emergency financial aid increase due to the global pandemic. There also was high demand for CARES Act funding, with ACC receiving nearly 2,500 applications in the first 24 hours. Total CARES applications increased to 4,200 by the end of the first week. Historically, there are fewer than 100 emergency aid requests every two months.

The college worked quickly to give 3,247 awards with an average amount of about $1,000. ACC's full CARES Act Student Aid Report for spring 2020 is available online.

ACC's CARES Act Student Aid application reopened Friday, May 29, for students enrolled in summer 2020 courses.