Grade Inflation Under Scrutiny in Indiana

Several economics professors at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., have stirred up a controversy with a study revealing serious grade-inflation problems at the school. It has led to a bill in the state senate to study the phenomenon, the subject of this newspaper story.

Naturally, the Ball State administration is pooh-poohing the matter. The provost says that the school has already created a task force to look into “academic rigor.” But people shouldn’t worry because “At Ball State, we’re committed to providing a high quality and rigorous education.” The last thing you’d expect from this task force is an admission that many courses and feeble and students can pass with very little effort.

Craig Ladwig of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation isn’t buying the smiley-face talk: “When you are an institution dealing with a state revenue stream, the incentives might be to let grade inflation go up. Everybody is happier. Everything looks better.”

Exactly. This is what Murray Sperber calls “the faculty/student non-aggression pact.” Easy grading of courses that don’t require much appeals to everyone except those few students who really wanted an intellectual challenge. But there are few of them and instead of complaining, they’ll just learn on their own or seek out one of the remaining professors who really challenges students.

Hat tip: Norman Van Cott

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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