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The Daily Tar Heel

Grade Inflation Makes Marks at Harvard

Some professors say increasingly inflated grades reduce their institutions' validity and that the problem must be addressed.

According to the report, half of all grades awarded to Harvard undergraduates are A's or A-'s.

The report adds that the humanities have the biggest problem with grade inflation, with A's and A-'s making up almost two-thirds of grades awarded in small humanities classes.

In a letter accompanying the report, Susan Pedersen, Harvard's dean of undergraduate education, said actions will be taken in the spring to correct this trend.

UNC economics Professor Boone Turchi said the report's findings indicate a problem that needs to be addressed by many universities, including UNC. Turchi brought the issue to the forefront at the University two years ago, saying inflated grades needed to be investigated.

The Faculty Council approved a resolution this fall requiring individual departments to monitor grade inflation and give annual reports to deans. An amendment to the resolution also required that the Educational Policy Committee collect information from those reports for the council.

Turchi said the Harvard report's findings will remind the faculty of the issue on the UNC's campus.

Harvey Mansfield, a Harvard government professor and the lead opponent of grade inflation, said the issue is a major epidemic at the university. "I think it's a scandal here at Harvard."

But he said grade inflation is not limited to Harvard and is especially prevalent in other private institutions.

Mansfield said in addition to the staggering percentage of A's and A-'s, more than 90 percent of students graduate with honors.

Mansfield said weighting grades by reporting the percentage of students who received each letter grade in the class on transcripts is one solution to the problem.

The system will retain a professor's sovereignty by not limiting the amount of a specific letter grade a professor can assign, he said.

But he said a curve system, while stripping grading freedom from individual professors, might be necessary in order to correct this trend.

Mansfield said grade inflation only flatters students while damaging the reputation of the university. "It's meant to be doing something nice, but it ends up really hurting people," he said.

Although he is still concerned about UNC's inflated grades, Turchi said grades are much higher at schools such as Harvard than at UNC. "It's schools like that that have the biggest problems."

He said inflation makes grades a worthless indicator of a student's academic success, and the best law schools take this into account when admitting students.

But Turchi also said grade inflation at institutions like Harvard can be partially attributed to economics.

He said that when parents pay for Ivy League educations, they expect their children to receive high grades.

He added that after high school -- where such students generally receive high grades -- they come to expect comparable scores on the collegiate level.

Turchi said, "Students aren't used to seeing anything less than (an A)."

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