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Making the grade

Yesterday afternoon the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing presented a report to the Faculty-Student Course of Study Committee that examined trends in grade inflation at the University over the last 24 years. The Faculty Committee concluded that inflated grades have become a University norm and proposed multiple recommendations to combat this trend.

The committee sent these statistics to a wide swath of professors and recommended that the various academic departments urge their members to give fewer take-home finals and stop grading on a rigid curve that favors higher grades.

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The Faculty Committee's report also looked at six other universities of similar caliber and found the University's grade inflation was no greater than the inflation at those schools. Why make Princeton students the guinea pigs in an experiment on grade deflation?

The recent improvements in the University's financial aid system – prompting Yale to quickly follow suit – are generally recognized as a move for the greater good. The same cannot be said, however, for any initiatives aimed to lower students' grades. Lowering GPAs will only serve to hurt students' chances as they look for jobs, internships and admission to graduate schools. Grades are infinitely important for endeavors after Princeton and the committee's recommendations would hamstring students' options.

If the University is hoping that – as in the case of its financial aid alterations – these recommendations will serve as a new standard for the collegiate world, it is mistaken. Schools are typically averse to initiatives that irreparably harm their student bodies. If increased scrutiny of student work is the goal, the University should encourage professors to offer more detailed feedback on examinations and papers instead of simply doling out lower grades.

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