EDITORIAL: How much is your “A” really worth?



At Villanova, the average University-wide GPA was 3.21 in the fall of 2007. This is 0.27 points higher than the average University-wide GPA in 1994, 2.94. As any student knows from personal experience, such a large GPA jump is a big deal.

Villanova’s rise in average GPA over that roughly 12-year period occurred during an era with rampant claims and questions of grade inflation. Even today, many claim that grade inflation is a common problem in the university environment.

What about Villanova? With the increases in incoming students’ GPAs and SAT scores, it only follows that a stronger college performance would match a stronger high school performance. The grades are higher, but not because of inflation. Rather, the students graduating from Villanova are more competitive, harder working and more serious students.

Because concerns of grade inflation are so widespread, Villanova should take extra precautions in order to set aside any worries. In such a competitive job market, employers will give extra scrutiny to an applicant’s GPA.

Some schools, including Cornell and Dartmouth, have made a decision to list the average class grade beside a student’s individual grade on transcripts. This gives more clout to a student’s grade because a potential employer can see how a student fared in comparison to his or her academic peers.

Villanova could even take the idea one step further and list the class’s average cumulative GPA next to a student’s cumulative GPA. This is similar to a class rank, but provides more hard data for students and employers to wrap their heads around.

At the same time, such a measure would check any inclinations toward inflating grades. Seeing students’ grades in context helps professors and administrators to understand the grading system at Villanova. While professors and administrators don’t stand to gain from grade inflation, they might not be aware of grades trending in this direction.

This isn’t to say that Villanova doesn’t monitor grade trends – the school certainly does. Being more transparent with students’ academic standing, though, makes all parties aware and all parties accountable to grading standards and results.

The caliber of students at Villanova has increased in recent years and there is no concrete evidence to suggest that students’ GPAs are rising at a faster rate than their qualifications are. More grade information and especially grades’ appropriate context need to be accessible to students, professors, administrators and employers, though, or else there is no check on the system and no clear understanding of a student’s real standing.

When grades are inflated, students look good, until it’s evident that they haven’t learned enough. They’re both the winners and the losers of grade inflation. No one stands to gain from a deflated image of a Villanova “A,” either, which is why the school should move to clarify the worth of a grade by putting student’s achievements in context on transcripts.