Grade inflation isn’t the issue; lack of context is

Universities should provide more information surrounding grades.

The Minnesota Daily recently reported on grade inflation within higher education.

Though steadily rising GPAs at the university level received attention in past years, the Daily reported that GPAs at the University of Minnesota have increased only marginally. The University’s increases are not significantly different from the small increase in GPAs at colleges and universities nationwide. Grade inflation, it seems, is not as big of an issue as is commonly perceived.

But as grades and GPAs have gone up, students seem to be stressing about them more than ever, as higher education culture places a significant emphasis on competition between students for top scores. If a student understands that there are only a certain number of A’s to earn in a particular class, it makes the competition for those A’s all the more fervent.

As grades and GPAs have increased nationally, a shrinking grading scale makes the range of scores that much smaller. In many circumstances, a D no longer counts as passing, and for some students and their programs, C’s are also unacceptable.

Universities should provide students with greater evaluation as to where they stand in a particular class in a particular field. Inflation itself isn’t the issue. A more pressing and stressful problem arises when a small-range grading scale puts pressure on students to compete against each other. And since that competition won’t go away, students should at least be better prepared to face it head-on.

There are many ways universities could help increase grade awareness. Teachers could provide an anonymous makeup of grades. Universities could record course ranks alongside grades on transcripts, which could ultimately fight grade inflation. Ultimately, more contextual transcripts would better inform employers and professional schools about a student’s performance.