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The Impact of AB 104 on College Admissions

Over the summer, Governor Newsome signed into law AB-104 Pupil instruction: retention, grade changes, and exemptions*. This law was intended to be a continuation of the hold harmless grading policy most K-12 schools implemented at the beginning of COVID-19 related remote instruction in March 2020. Rather than issue letter grades, schools issued Pass / No Pass status for the Spring 2020 semester. Due to continuing COVID-19 related barriers, most students were still engaged in remote learning for the 2020-2021 school year. Some school continued the P/NP grading system, but many schools reverted to letter grades. The end result was a lot of students failing multiple classes over both semesters. AB104 was passed to allow schools and parents to take action, if needed, to address student low grades.

AB104 allows for many actions, but the following three will have the most impact on college admission for the next few years.

  • The ability of parents/guardians and adult students to request that high school grades earned during the 20-21 school year be changed from a letter grade to Pass or No Pass.
  • There is no limit to the number of courses to which a grade change request may be made.
  • Although the bill requires that the Cal State University system not penalize students for Pass/No Pass grades for admission purposes, there is no corresponding requirement for the University of California or any other public or private institutions.

While changing failed grades to No Pass may look better on a transcript than F’s, admission officers will now be looking at college applications for the Class of 2022 with possibly ONLY ONE SEMESTER OF ACTUAL GRADES. Remember, both the UC & CSU only look at grades from A-G courses taken in 10th and 11th grades. This year’s graduating class was in the second semester of 10th grade when COVID hit. Most, if not all, applicants will have only one semester of letter grades, and three semesters of P/NP.

In college admission GPA calculation, marks of P/NP do no impact either way. There is no grade, hence no grade points. So if a student only has one semester of grades from first semester of 10th grade, that is what the college has to work with. That is going to make for a very difficult and challenging upcoming college admission cycle.

While this is not a Counselor’s problem to fix, it does mean that Counselors may be vital in helping students prepare other parts of their applications to help explain their academic success and/or failures. It is vital that counselors examine their Class of 2022 academic records early and prepare a plan to assist students.