Final Grade Complaints

My grades were due this morning. They're posted and done and I AM FREE (for a few weeks at least.)

Since reporting final grades online this weekend, suddenly students I haven't heard from all term are coming out of the woodwork to contest their grades. I'm trying to find the balance between my tough teacher side that is annoyed at these 11th hour ploys and my softy side that wants to make sure students stay in college and keep their financial aid...

The Invisible Student:
I got a franctic email from one student who has completed exactly one post on the discussion board and zero assignments (I teach online, so blackboard is my classroom). Every semester, there are always a few students who sign up and never do anything. I can't figure out why these students don't drop, despite my annoying email reminders and updates, but there are always a few.

Anyway, this particular student claims that she's been doing the work all term and doesn't know why I didn't get it. She also claims that she has not received the dozens of updates and reminders I send to students with missing work. Nor has she noticed that no one has ever replied to her phantom posts on the discussion board. As we email back and forth, she never actually sends me any of her work or explains how this is possible other than blaming weird internet service.

One word: BIZARRE. This may be some kind of blackboard black hole that I don't understand, so I'm trying not too assume she's full of it. Regardless, no dice.

If this was an in-class class, it's like a student came up to me to say she's been invisible all term and I should have noticed...

The Guilt-Tripper Student:
Student 2 completed all major assignments and showed some improvement through the term. If he had done the class work, he'd probably be at the B/C level... but he only ever did half the weekly participation requirement. (They have three posts per week. He usually did 1 or 2).

This resulted in a 50% participation grade at midterm which was posted two months ago. I make participation a big part of the grade because I'm a tough paper-grader, so I stress (to an annoying degree) the importance of participating in the online discussion.

So Sunday night, about 12 hours before I have to report final grades to the university, this student is emailing me begging to boost his grade by 3%, claiming he could lose his financial aid. Part of me feels bad and wants to help make sure he keeps going to school, the other part of me is furious that he's pulling this at the 11th hour so there's now way he can actually make up the missing work. He just wants me to give it to him because I feel bad and I just can't do it.

The Model Student:
This last student story is kililng me because I want to help, but I can't get in touch with her. My "model student" worked extremely hard all term, did all her class work and put effort into the writing assignments. At times, she struggled with the work, but she did her best.

Last week, she told me her final paper was late because she had a legit excuse, so I told her to make sure she got in everything by the end of last week. I've contacted her a few times, but never heard back. Without the missing finals (essay/exam) or discussing some kind of "incomplete" grade extension, there is nothing I can do.

I can't give her a higher grade without getting her work in because that's not fair to the other students. As a college student, she has to take responsibility, right? If that's true, why do I still feel bad?

How do you deal with students (or parents) contesting grades? Share in the comments section!