Purdue Professors Creating Committee To Investigate Grade Inflation

Sep 29, 2016

The average Purdue GPA has increased from 2.8 about 30 years ago to nearly 3.1 today.
Credit vozach1234 / https://www.flickr.com/photos/126640961

A group of Purdue professors is getting ready to study whether grades have risen artificially in the last 30 years.

Agriculture professor Levon Esters and math professor Ralph Kaufmann, agree with President Mitch Daniels that the issue deserves consideration if Purdue wants to maintain a reputation for rigor.

“If you have a Purdue education, it means something. If you got an A here, it means something,” Kaufmann says. “It’s not like at other Universities where 40-percent of the grades are A’s, so it doesn’t mean that much.”

In a presentation given by Daniels at the September 12 University Senate meeting, members were told the average Purdue GPA has increased from 2.8 about 30 years ago to nearly 3.1 today.

But Esters says that’s not evidence of grade inflation by itself.

“This increase in GPA has a lot to do with the students’ preparation in school in the early, formative years,” Esters says. “(For example) K-8, high school, maybe perhaps community college, so I think that has a lot to do with it.”

Additionally, Esters asserts that the rigorous environment of the institution doesn’t necessarily allow for inflation.

Esters says he hasn’t noticed grade inflation in his seven years at Purdue. Kaufmann says he has beliefs about the topic, but doesn’t want to influence the committee before it’s assembled.

Kaufmann says the panel will study “academic rigor” – which includes grade inflation, but is a broader statement he feels better represents the different types of research its members will be conducting. 

Esters says the committee may have to consider more than just raw numbers.

“I don’t know if the data at the end of the day will truly be a solid enough indicator. I think there’s going to have to be some other things we look at,” Esters says. “Talking to students, talking to faculty, really getting down into the trenches … But I don’t think I would be okay with our decision being based solely on trend lines and those sorts of things. I think we have to look deeper than just the numbers.”

Committee members are expected to meet for the first time in October.