University grade distribution steadily increasing

News Reporter

High letter grades have been awarded to an increasing amount of Texas State students over the past two decades, which administrators say can be attributed to the caliber of incoming freshmen.

Higher grade distribution is due to to students’ success in their courses, said Associate Provost Cynthia Opheim. In recent years, incoming freshmen have typically been ranked higher in their graduating classes than in the past, she said.

“We’ve had about a 15 percent increase in the rank of first-time freshmen since 1985,” Opheim said.

However, Christopher Healy, associate professor at Furman University, said awarding a larger distribution of high marks to students damages the integrity of the grade. Healy, along with Stuart Rojstaczer, former Duke professor, published research papers about grade inflation at American colleges and universities in 2010 and 2011.

“You think about the purpose of grades and with the grade inflation and phenomenon that we have all across America, the value that people put into grades erodes overtime or becomes devalued over time,” Healy said.

In fall 1998, 26.8 percent of grades awarded to Texas State students were A’s, 30.6 percent were B’s, 21.6 percent were C’s, 6.8 percent were D’s and 5.3 percent were F’s, according to data from Institutional Research. In 2013, the distribution of A’s was 31.2 percent, 30.6 percent of grades were B’s, 18.9 percent were C’s, 6.5 percent were D’s and 6.1 percent were F’s.

“We have noticed some increase in the percentage of grades that are in the higher categories, but we also know that admission requirements for students have increased a few times during the time that I have been here,” said Joseph Meyer, director of Institutional Research.

The average GPA for undergraduate students at Texas State increased 8.2 percent from 2.55 in 1985 to 2.76 in 2010, Meyer said.

Although the university has seen an increase in distribution of higher grades, the campus has a lower distribution compared to the national average of public schools, Meyer said. Students at other Texas universities such as Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin receive a larger number of high grades than those at Texas State, Meyer said.

The university’s Student Learning Assistance Center and Personalized Academic and Career Exploration are contributing factors toward students being awarded higher grades, Opheim said.

The university’s policy for faculty syllabi states professors need to provide clear expectations for the course, Opheim said. As a result, students are prepared for what they need to do to be successful, she said.

“In some respects, I think our faculty are very good these days about describing their expectations for students, and that makes a big difference when students know what to expect,” Opheim said.