Grade Inflation

Departmental differences

Some studies find that the migration of student majors from low to high grading departments is a principal factor behind grade inflation (Bearden, Wolf, and Grosch, 1992; Sabot and Wakemen-Linn, 1991; Summerville, Ridley, and Maris, 1990). Some students shrewdly manage their academic careers on the basis of "gradesmanship" and opt not to take courses where more difficult assignments are an impediment to earning good grades; rather they prefer majors and courses where the average grade is higher (Sabot and Wakeman-Linn, 1991).

Then, in order to counteract the flight of students to higher GPA departments, traditionally low grading departments might be inflating grades in order to recruit and retain majors (Sabot and Wakeman-Linn, 1991).

Nevertheless, some academics argue that the departments that award higher grades do so because they accept exceptionally high-achieving students. But there is no evidence that education and the humanities generally attract superior students (Zirkel, 1999). In fact, one study (Summerville, Ridley, and Maris, 1990) found that the differences in grading were, to a large extent, independent of students' majors.

© Margret Winzer, 2005. This site last updated: May 3, 2005