Of the problems facing higher education,
grade inflation has been one of the most frequently debated,
especially at the country’s elite universities. In an effort
to fight this phenomenon, the faculty of Princeton University will
vote later this month on a proposal that would limit the number of
A-pluses, A’s and A-minuses each academic department would be
able to award its students. Although grade inflation is obviously a
problem at some universities, this is clearly not the way to go
about correcting it. Grade inflation is an issue that should be
handled on a class-by-class basis, by individual professors, and
without outside interference.

Julie Pannuto

The Princeton proposal comes in response to the nationwide rise
in college grades over the past three decades. Princeton students
are currently receiving A’s 46 percent of the time, up from
31 percent in the 1970s. Since 1998, Princeton has urged its
faculty to cut down on the number of A’s it awards. This has
proven ineffective, however, and the university decided to take
official action by voting to limit the number of A’s each
academic department can hand out to 35 percent of total class
enrollment.

This measure will be detrimental to the quality of education for
several reasons. First of all, limiting the number of A’s
will foster unhealthy levels of competition among students. Once
grades become based on a relative rather than an objective standard
of performance, students will develop a mindset to compete, rather
than strive for their own personal achievement. Competition is
diametrically opposed to academic principles of cooperation,
dialogue and the sharing of knowledge.

Furthermore, the administration should not be allowed to
interfere with grading policies. Only the professors and graduate
student instructors, who closely work with undergraduates on a
daily basis, can accurately evaluate the performance of their own
students. This proposal fails to take into account the differences
between each class that require flexibility when it comes time to
issue grades.

Later this month, the faculty of Princeton University should
vote down the proposal to limit the number of A’s it is
allowed to award. A’s Princeton is a highly respected and
influential university, its actions could potentially influence
grading policies at schools across the country. Even if Princeton
does approve the plan, however, other universities should not
follow in its footsteps. Rather, schools should allow professors to
decide their own grading policies in order to maintain a healthy,
cooperative learning environment among their students.

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