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Differential Grading Standards and Student Incentives

  • Mukesh Eswaran

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 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 that differential standards give rise to. We suggest some non-intrusive ways to rectify the problem.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Calgary in its series Working Papers with number 2008-11.

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Date of creation: 01 Feb 2008
Date of revision: 13 Feb 2008
Handle: RePEc:clg:wpaper:2008-11
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Web page: http://econ.ucalgary.ca/

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  1. Becker, W. & Rosen, S., 1990. "The Learning Effect Of Assessment And Evaluation In High School," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 90-7, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
  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 266-75, March.
  3. Costrell, Robert M, 1994. "A Simple Model of Educational Standards," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 956-71, September.
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