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Grade inflation is a serious problem in many prestige colleges and universities and one of its principal causes is a desire for positive student evaluations and high enrollments on the part of professors and economical insecure departments who need the funding generated by high enrollments. Positive student evaluations have been found to correlate with high grades, and students have been shown to expect that they can influence their final grades by rating their instructors highly. Research indicates that most departments realize this, and are also aware that professors often aim for positive evaluations in order to get tenure, yet they often fail to intervene to curb grade inflation. Grade inflation is also caused by students expecting high grades due to the fact that they are paying a great amount of money for college. Fair grading, however, is a teacher's moral and ethical responsibility, and administrations must take steps to ensure that faculty members do not contribute to grade inflation.
Grade Inflation Problem
Turn on the news and all you hear is a great deal of talk about price inflation, whether at the pump, or as exhibited on the shelves of the grocery store. What can be so bad, you might ask, about a few extra cents here and there, when you fill up your tank with gas, or when you buy a loaf of bread at the local store? The problem is that as prices go up, salaries tend to remain the same. This means that what you have earned with sweat and tears at your job buys less, whenever you make a purchase, even though you are working just as hard. Unfortunately, while grade inflation as a concept may be equally destructive the quality of life and education at American institutions of learning, it is difficult to statistically quantify that the inflation of the grade earnings of students at colleges and universities across America are going up as significantly as the price of eggs and gas.
What exactly is grade inflation? Grade inflation is a rise in grades awarded without a corresponding rise in student ability or performance. Grade inflation describes a trend occurring
in many prestige colleges and universities including high school settings that show a continued
rise in the number of higher grades assigned to students. Higher grades do not reflect a genuine improvement in student achievement (Simone, 2005).
The most obvious definition is that grade patterns change so that the overwhelming majority of students in a class, college or university receive higher grades for the same quantity and quality of work done by students in the past. A result to this definition is the same GPA obtained by students with poorer academic skills. Another less well known version of grade inflation is content deflation, where students receive the same grades as students in the past but with less work required and less learning (MNSU, 2011).
The degree of grade inflation at some prestigious colleges and universities can be outrageous. Even Harvard, the most prominent university, in 1992, had 91 percent of all undergraduate grades were B- or higher. In 1993, 83.6 percent of all Harvard seniors graduated with honors. The university did not permit an F grade. The honors' rate for individual colleges ranges between 20 to 40 percent. Last fall term, the average GPA for undergraduates for Mankato State was 2.93, nearly a B average. The average GPA in the colleges was fairly consistent, ranging from 2.86 to 3.08 (MNSU, 2011).
Unfortunately grade inflation does exit; the saddest part of all is that it exits even at our school, Kaplan College. Many students do not see the problem with grade inflation. But before continuing, what causes grade inflation? Why do colleges and universities allow it? One of the main reasons is the institutional pressure to retain students. The easiest way to maintain enrollment is to keep the students that are already on campus. The professors, departments, colleges, and even entire universities may implicitly believe that giving their students higher grades will improve retention and the attractiveness of their classes and courses. With students seeing themselves more as consumers of education and more eager to succeed than to learn, the pressure on institutions to provide more success can be persuasive (Kohn, 2002).
Also the fact that higher grades are used to obtain better student evaluations of teaching is another fact about why grade inflation exists. In an increased effort at faculty accountability, many colleges and universities mandate frequent student evaluations of faculty that often end up being published. These same evaluations play an increasingly important role in possession and promotion decisions. Faculty members who find themselves in such situations may attempt to buy better student evaluations of their teaching by giving higher grades.
Faculty attitudes have a lot to do with grade inflation too. Faculty member who believe that grades are a mean to please students rather than to recognize and reward performance will tend to give higher grades. Similarly a professor less willing to distinguish superior work from good or average work will tend to impart an upward unfairness to grades. Even though some teachers see the problem with grade inflation, many others have become so accustomed to it, that they no longer even realize it is happening. This means that universities must be explicit in their plan to remedy the situation and leave no room for interpretation.
Inflation in grades unfortunately exists throughout the United Stated and including, like I mentioned earlier, our college, Kaplan. Students are being graded not only by their skill level or participation, but basically by their excessive nagging to review grades that they are not satisfied with. Therefore, students want to get their money's worth when it comes to receiving grades, making college seem more like a business organization rather than an education system.
Not to blame anybody but grade inflation basically consists of professors who would rather not be bothered by students or administrators if occasional low grades were given out. If a low grade is given to a student, the student has the right to appeal the grade and demand that it be graded again. Usually in response to this, professors would placate the students by not putting up much of a fight and inflate the grade just to avoid certain situations. Such as, being harassed by administrators to higher grades or receiving negative evaluations from the students.
Let's contemplate the fact that everyone in the class is receiving the same grade. How then will students know how they are performing individually? Why should students feel they need to put forth the extra effort, if they can give a mediocre performance and succeed anyway? Knowing that students will receive the same grade regardless of the effort they put in, steals all the sense of accomplishment from studying, working hard, and receiving the high mark they know they deserve.
What happens with these students receiving same grades with no effort what so ever? This means that grade inflation is making students lazy. A study shows that college students study a lot less now than in the 1960's, yet they get better grades (De Vise, 2010). For students, these trends must seem like marvelous developments. But they raise questions about both declining harshness and potential grade inflation in higher education.
In a forthcoming study in the journal Economic Inquiry, economist Philip Babcock finds the trends linked. He mentions that when the instructor chooses to grade more strictly, students put in a lot more effort. And when the professor gives easy A's, students apply less effort. This proves that professors who get high ratings from their students tend to teach those students less. The minimal effort required in those classes apparently fuels the professor's popularity (Simone, 2005).
Babcock says that college students are, in fact, getting lazier. Aggregate time spent studying by fulltime college students declined from about 24 hours per week in 1961 to about 14 hours per week in 2004 (De Vise, 2010). This means that students study less because they expect higher grades. Students report they study half as much for a class in which they expect an A than for a course in which they expect a C. So in other words, students are studying less because their professors are grading easier.
For every problem there is a solution and for grade inflation there must be a solution. If college students observe school without the thought of money, grade inflation would cease to exist. If professors would grade effectively with skill and participation instead of compulsive complaining than grade inflation would also cease to exist, if not then become limited throughout the U.S. We have to realize that education is the key to success and to succeed one must struggle and work hard. We must work for our grades and earn A's rather than just receive A's. There is a difference between the both. Receive is given, earned is hard work. But unfortunately students would rather much receive an A than to earn one.
Last but not least, many students feel, especially if they attend a university where grade inflation is not significant, that lower grades can significantly damage their opportunities to gain employment after attending universities. It is hard to compete with a near straight-A student from a university that has shown grade inflation, especially if one's grades are lower. Grade inflation, some claim, give certain students an unfair advantage in the job market, or when applying to graduate schools. Not only that, but it becomes hard for employers to differentiate between a knowledgeable employee and the one that is not as knowledgeable if both have same grades or GPA.
As many individuals agree, grade inflation is unethical due to the fact that students work and study less than previous years and "receive" better grades. There is no way to tell the difference between the mediocre individuals who perform poorly and the successful individuals who put an extra effort to "earn" good grades. Therefore, colleges and universities must implement a plan to stop grade inflation and stop seeing education as merely business and look at it as what the word actually represents, "education."