Grade inflation no longer comes as a surprise to college campuses, yet experts are still debating the cause of this 30-year-old trend.
According to gradeinflation.com, the average GPA at four-year colleges and universities has risen across the nation since 1983, regardless of whether or not the school is private or public.
The question that baffles many is: why has there been an inflation of grades?
Ferris forensic science instructor and president of the Ferris Nontenure-Track Faculty organization Mary Bacon has been teaching for more than 27 years and has seen the majority of grade inflation in the high school GPAs of her freshmen classes.
“There are a variety of reasons for grade inflation,” Bacon said. “One main reason is university administrations are viewing students as consumers, ‘The customer is always right’ philosophy. Professors may get tired of fighting and if a student complains, administration may not be supportive, so the professor may say, ‘Why fight it?’”
Grade inflation has also seen higher increases in disciplines such as the humanities compared to disciplines such as engineering, according to gradeinflation.com, which raises the question: why is there higher grade inflation in the arts and social sciences?
Ferris English professor Zac Wendler, who has been teaching for nine years, attributes the difference to the improvement of writing instruction, as many arts and social science classes revolve around the skill of writing.
“We started noticing that the more we focused on revision, on process, rather than result, the better students were able to do the tasks we asked them to do,” Wendler said. “And this has really become the foundation of writing instruction.”
Wendler went on to exemplify this process by comparing it to art.
“Somebody’s teaching painting, the focus isn’t on the painting at the end, the focus is on the technique used to create the painting in the process and I think that’s one of the big differences between instructional styles,” Wendler said.
Bacon also agreed that the difference lies within the structure of the rubrics, which will be different depending on the subject area.
“We want a superior outcome, but it’s the process itself that we’re trying to get neck deep in,” Wendler said. “I think anytime you have revision built into education, you’re going to have higher grades.”
The development in teaching provides an explanation for many of the statistics and a further breakdown on grade inflation can be found at gradeinflation.com.
Read a letter to the editor from a former Ferris professor on the matter by clicking here!