Thursday, September 18, 2003

Inflation -- it's out there. 

No, this is not about the Federal Reserve.

Charles Nuckolls asks whether there are parallels between grade inflation and price inflation.

We have dozens of little Argentinas in the United States today. They are called "universities." Their currency is the grade transcript, a "commodity" that has been losing value for decades as grade inflation eats away at its worth. Employers and graduate school admission committees increasingly discount the value of a recent graduate's transcript. They know that an "A" today means little or nothing, since, at many schools, most students receive A's just for showing up.
Nuckolls teaches at Alabama, where attempts to document grade inflation have been hampered by its administration. (Scroll down their page for the story.) I think his analogy is apt, and has even some extensions. For example, is there a Gresham's Law of grade inflation, whereby bad (inflated) grades drive good grades out of existence? Do students keep seeking higher and higher grades, so that one can get a hyperinflation wherein A+ (for a grade point greater than 4.0) is a common grade?

More intriguing, in my view, is the distribution of grades across disciplines. University average GPA at SCSU is 2.8; while researching a report I am writing on our department I found that our GPA is below 2.6. For the math classes our students are taking the GPA is even lower. But Human Relations and Multicultural Education? 3.7. How much of grade inflation has come from the creation of whole programs where one cannot even establish a grading standard? Here's the site so you can whip, chop and puree your own numbers, but only authorized users can figure out which courses are "high difficulty" (and we professors are NOT authorized.)