Grade inflation and the lowering of academic standards in Florida colleges

Grade inflation is an age-old problem gnawing away at the deteriorating quality of Florida’s public colleges.

Broadly speaking, grade inflation occurs when grading patterns change so that a large percentage of an institution’s students receive higher grades for the same quality and quantity of work done by students in the past.

In Florida’s public universities, the average GPA for students rose within a margin of one grade point, with two very major exceptions: the University of Florida and Florida State. 

The state’s co-flagship and very high research-oriented universities are guilty of lowering academic standards to inflate the average GPA of their students by nearly two grade points. From fall 1997 to the spring 2009, the average GPA of students at the University of Florida rose from 3.0 to 3.3. At Florida State, average GPAs rose from 2.78 to 3.05 in Fall 2008.

Both schools tout competitive admission criteria for first-time-in-college students.  The vast majority, 86 percent of the University of Florida’s class of 2014, had a GPA of 4.0 or above, according to its admissions office. The class of 2014 at Florida State has an average GPA of 3.5 and above.

While both schools use these numbers for funding from the state, research entities and, ironically, to build their academic reputations, their admissions committees forget that the same prominence-building ploys used at the university level play out in grades K-12 as well.

 Since 1990, the percentage of high school students receiving A’s has increased while students receiving a C grade or lower has decreased substantially, according Laurence Bunin, senior vice president of college connection and success at College Board.

This trend should be alarming to taxpayers, because two of our state’s most prominent universities are producing graduates who will not be an asset to the Florida’s plan to transform he state’s economy.

Billions are being thrown into the New Florida initiative, which aims to instill a knowledge-based economy in Florida. Key to this transformation are the graduates from Florida’s 11 public universities, but namely University of Florida and Florida State, on which the state depends to produce graduates who will take on leadership roles in government and business at the national level.

This initiative is aimless, not to mention very costly, if graduates of these two schools are matriculating masses of incompetent graduates.

But the citizens of Florida can find consolation from this problem in the state’s smaller universities. While grade inflation has occurred at Florida’s other public universities, it has only been a slight influx, with the exception of the University of North Florida, which inflates grades the most– some 4 grade points over a 12-year span.

The only school not guilty of grade inflation is FAMU. The school comes under constant scrutiny for its questionable administrative practices, but taxpayers can rest assured that the school maintains stringent academic standards.

Florida’s lawmakers cannot expect to fix the state’s economic problem with the help of its state university system if the bulk of Florida schools are turning into grade inflating degree mills.