The aim of this paper is to illustrate how universities play an institutional role in inflating student grade point averages (GPA) by modifying academic polices such as course withdraw, repeats, and satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade options.
Three research strategies are employed: an examination of eight public institutions in a southern state illustrates the variability in academic policies; a transcript analysis demonstrates how students at some universities can capitalize on academic regulations to inflate GPA; and an empirical analysis of 1,798 graduating seniors at one institution explores the parameters of utilizing “do‐over” policies and how the policies correlate with GPA inflation.
Schools are transforming the “rules” of the academic game. Such changes enable students to selectively inflate their GPA, thereby rendering effective comparison of GPA problematic. This is of particular significance to administrators, governing and accrediting bodies, potential employers, graduate or professional school recruiters, and policy makers.
This study is cross‐sectional and the sample is restricted to one state and in some analyses one institution. Longitudinal research exploring a larger number of universities in a variety of states is necessary to uncover the determinants of any changes in academic policies.
The paper reframes grade inflation as GPA inflation, which is partially a function of institutionalized processes, and offers a remedy to the problem of GPA comparison. A new simple metric (EAR) is offered to accompany GPA; only when considering earned hours versus attempted hours (EAR) does grade point regain some utility to educators, recruiters, or policy makers engaged in assessment.
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