Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Nine Potential Solutions to Abate Grade Inflation at Regionally Accredited Online U.S. Universities: An Intrinsic Case Study

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Nine Potential Solutions to Abate Grade Inflation at Regionally Accredited Online U.S. Universities: An Intrinsic Case Study

Article excerpt

Grade inflation is a problem at online universities in the United States (Caruth & Caruth, 2013; Castillo, Wakefield, & LeMaster, 2010; Gray, 2008; Kohn, 2002; Love & Kotchen, 2010; Nikolakakos, Reeves, & Shuch, 2012; Rojstaczer, 2015). Grade inflation is an objective increase in grades and grade point averages (GPA) over time from alterations made in grading standards and practices independent of student ability and actual performance (Hu, 2005; O'Halloran & Gordon, 2014). Grade inflation has been most prevalent at public universities and liberal arts colleges in the southern United States (Caruth & Caruth, 2013). However, Rojstaczer and Hartley (2012) noted grade inflation tends to be more widespread at private universities.

One reason for grade inflation at U.S. universities as postulated by Caruth and Caruth (2013) Donaldson and Gray (2012) Hu (2005), and O'Halloran and Gordon (2014) is a dysfunctional reversed customer-based model based on student evaluations of instructors. The basis of this dysfunction is faculty members act as employees of the students and students' act as customers of the university (Caruth & Caruth, 2013; Donaldson & Gray, 2012; Hu, 2005; O'Halloran & Gordon, 2014). Students get "paid" by faculty via unearned grades ensuring the student receives satisfaction for payment (Hu, 2005). Grade inflation appears to weaken standards of excellence required of students within educational institutions to the point where accurately assessing levels of competency and student knowledge is often difficult to determine (Tucker & Courts, 2010).

Grade inflation is manifested in academia, among students, in society, and for employers potentially affecting online universities worldwide. In academia, grade inflation degrades institutional reputation (Chan, Hao, & Suen, 2007; Ehlers & Schwager, 2016). Once the university engages in grade inflation, the value of a 4.0 GPA, even from a traditional reputable school, might no longer carry the same weight as it once did therefore lowering institutional reputation (Marquis, 2013). Grade inflation at less reputable schools and many online universities could earn the school the classification as a degree mill, essentially making the degree earned worthless (Haynie, 2013; Marquis, 2013). Grade inflation lessens academic rigor and lowers the overall quality of the education received (Marquis, 2013). As student grades rise, the education received becomes less effective and meaningful (Marquis, 2013). The degree earned is not valued as robust by society and is often not much more than a mere piece of paper for the student (Tucker & Courts, 2010).

Grade inflation deprives students feedback required to assess strength and weaknesses and devalues the performance of better students relative to that of average classmates (O'Halloran & Gordon, 2014). Grade inflation means students never know where he or she ranks in class and are unable to objectively evaluate what has been learned (Hyde, 2015). Because "As" and "Bs" are readily dispersed, students become unaccustomed to work hard to obtain good grades (Marquis, 2013). Grade inflation does not help students build the grit, fortitude, dedication, perseverance, persistence, discipline, humility, the ability to sacrifice, ambition, and a can do what it takes attitude necessary to successfully compete in a changing and challenging global economy (Marquis, 2013).

For society, grade inflation is manifested in the dissatisfaction with educational results from the loss of confidence in the education system to prepare individuals for the world of work (Franz, 2010). Grade inflation means graduates lack requisite skills, knowledge, and willingness to struggle to accomplish a task (Caruth & Caruth, 2013). Grade inflation negatively influences society by an increasing glut of unqualified workers in the United States who are not capable of taking on the most technologically advanced jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields (Caruth & Caruth, 2013; Marquis, 2013; Yang & Yip, 2003). …

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