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Differential Grading Standards and Student Incentives

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  • B. Curtis Eaton
  • Mukesh Eswaran

Abstract

We present data on grades from three Canadian universities. These data suggest that grading standards differ significantly across disciplines within universities. To the extent that grading standards are not uniform across disciplines, the grade point averages (GPAs) of students with different course mixes cannot be meaningfully compared, and therefore their GPAs cannot legitimately be used to assess their relative achievement. Yet GPAs are used in precisely this way--to award scholarships, honours and degrees, and to ration access to courses, academic programs, and jobs. Hence, we think differential standards raise a fundamental issue of integrity for universities. We develop a simple human capital model to assess some of the distortions arising from differential standards and suggest some non-intrusive ways to rectify the problem.

Suggested Citation

  • B. Curtis Eaton & Mukesh Eswaran, 2008. "Differential Grading Standards and Student Incentives," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 34(2), pages 215-236, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpp:issued:v:34:y:2008:i:2:p:215-236
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.3138/cpp.34.2.215
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    1. Becker, William E. & Rosen, Sherwin, 1992. "The learning effect of assessment and evaluation in high school," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 107-118, June.
    2. Betts, Julian R, 1998. "The Impact of Educational Standards on the Level and Distribution of Earnings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 266-275, March.
    3. Costrell, Robert M, 1994. "A Simple Model of Educational Standards," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 956-971, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bauer, Thomas K. & Grave, Barbara S., 2011. "Performance-related Funding of Universities – Does more Competition Lead to Grade Inflation?," Ruhr Economic Papers 288, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.

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