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The Effects of an Anti-grade-Inflation Policy at Wellesley College

Author

Listed:
  • Kristin F. Butcher
  • Patrick J. McEwan
  • Akila Weerapana

Abstract

Average grades in colleges and universities have risen markedly since the 1960s. Critics express concern that grade inflation erodes incentives for students to learn; gives students, employers, and graduate schools poor information on absolute and relative abilities; and reflects the quid pro quo of grades for better student evaluations of professors. This paper evaluates an anti-grade-inflation policy that capped most course averages at a B+. The cap was biding for high-grading departments (in the humanities and social sciences) and was not binding for low-grading departments (in economics and sciences), facilitating a difference-in-differences analysis. Professors complied with the policy by reducing compression at the top of the grade distribution. It had little effect on receipt of top honors, but affected receipt of magna cum laude. In departments affected by the cap, the policy expanded racial gaps in grades, reduced enrollments and majors, and lowered student ratings of professors.

Suggested Citation

  • Kristin F. Butcher & Patrick J. McEwan & Akila Weerapana, 2014. "The Effects of an Anti-grade-Inflation Policy at Wellesley College," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(3), pages 189-204, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:28:y:2014:i:3:p:189-204
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.28.3.189
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Talia Bar & Vrinda Kadiyali & Asaf Zussman, 2014. "Online Posting of Teaching Evaluations and Grade Inflation," Working papers 2014-29, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    2. Donghun Cho & Joonmo Cho, 2017. "Does More Accurate Knowledge of Course Grade Impact Teaching Evaluation?," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 12(2), pages 224-240, Spring.
    3. Sam Allgood & William B. Walstad & John J. Siegfried, 2015. "Research on Teaching Economics to Undergraduates," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 53(2), pages 285-325, June.
    4. Gorry, Devon, 2017. "The impact of grade ceilings on student grades and course evaluations: Evidence from a policy change," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 133-140.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • A22 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics - - - Undergraduate
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions

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