Graduation is good for society. Graduates become doctors and politicians and engineers, they pay more taxes, and they wear blazers. But in the U.S., only half of college students actually end up moving on with a diploma.
Since a college’s purpose is to provide degrees to the students seeking them, universities with low graduation rates are seen as “failure factories.” Students no longer want to go there. Tuition money slips through the school's fingers.
To combat the trend, several institutions are taking drastic measures to bump up graduation rates. But because students’ academic achievement is a hard thing to improve quickly, colleges are finding creative ways to fudge the numbers.
Whether they’re letting students pick their own grades, eliminating the math requirements to make the curriculum easier, or utilizing grade inflation to make it rain A’s on idiots, it seems schools are dying to see even the dumbest students get diplomas.
ELIMINATING MATH REQUIREMENTS
Math is essential to every college curriculum. Learning math produces people who can solve real-world problems with calculations, who can handle their finances, who can carry the 1.
But at California State University, where only 21 percent of students graduate in four years, many students need to eliminate the hard-thinky classes that are holding them back. To accommodate those simpleton students, CSU eliminated its requirements to take intermediate algebra, in hopes of boosting the graduation rate up to a whopping 40 percent.
Now, students who aren’t math or science majors can rejoice about their far simpler curriculum, and begin counting down the days to their graduation. That is, if they can count at all.
STUDENTS PICK THEIR OWN GRADES
Students have always been bitching and moaning that they’re overworked, but it seems no one ever took the time to listen — until now.
At the University of Georgia, students lamented to business school professor Richard Watson that stress wasn’t good for their complexions, and Watson took pity on them. He implemented a “stress reduction” policy that offered students the option to pick their own grades.
"If you feel unduly stressed by a grade for any assessable material or the overall course, you can email the instructor indicating what grade you think is appropriate and it will be so changed," the policy reads.
Unfortunately, the dean of the school of business, Benjamin “Buzzkill” Ayers, didn’t share the professor’s compassion. "His grading policy would allow students inappropriate input into the assignment of their own grades," Ayers claimed. Ayers expressed his concerns to Professor Watson, and the policy was subsequently removed.
Students hope Professor Watson will continue taking their advice on which movies to watch during his lectures and which trivia questions should appear on upcoming exams.
Students aren’t getting smarter. They’re not studying more. Yet they’re receiving A’s across the board, all thanks to the work of grade inflation.
Stuart Rojstaczer, a writer and former science professor, founded GradeInflation.com, on which he compiles the data from more than 230 American universities to illustrate the extent of our bullshit GPA escalation.
As far back at the 30s, the average GPA for both private and public colleges was a 2.3 — a standard C+. By 2006, that grade had climbed a whole point, to a 3.0 — a B — at public universities and a 3.3 — a B+ — at private universities.
To uncover the causes of this startling grade inflation, a University of North Texas study sought to determine the major forces behind the boosted numbers. Their report pins the blame on particular classes, such as music, English, and speech courses, which are more prone to inflation than calculator-lovin' courses, like chemistry and psychics.
Theories also point to class size as a major factor. In smaller classes, where instructors have less job security than their huge lecture-hall colleagues, there’s a greater tendency to pretty up the grades. Interestingly, the instructor’s gender plays a part, too — female professors seem to inflate grades more than their male coworkers.
More than ever, universities are giving their lazy, pea-brained students a handicap to keep them from dropping out. But because this diminishes the value of good grades and a college degree, it may not be the advantage our society hoped for. We need more than blazers and tax dollars from our doctors, politicians and engineers. We need a quality education.