Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Opinion: Fix grade inflation before tying SUS funding with grad rates

Before pushing any proposal to tie State University System funding with graduation rates, Chancellor Frank Brogan and Board of Governors need to address a problem that their predecessors failed to fix: grade inflation.

Grade inflation has plagued the SUS for decades. It began to get close attention from the now- defunct Board of Regents in the 1970s. But a 2009 study by the Fort Myers News-Press revealed strong evidence of continuing grade inflation throughout the system.

In its 2005-2013 Strategic Plan, the BOG calls for "a revised funding formula that rewards retention and graduation." The goal is similar to what a number of other states are considering. Ohio, Indiana, and Louisiana’s legislatures are all weighing plans to make college graduation rates a criterion in public university funding.

If grade inflation isn’t fixed before dollars are attached to graduation and retention rates, then the problem will just get worse. Professors will be under pressure to further shrink the already tiny number of students who receive “F’s” – regardless of whether those failing grades are warranted.

Princeton University is one institution that’s leading the way for reform by adopting a new grade deflation policy. It’s capped the percentage of A’s each academic department can award at 35 percent.

If the SUS does not keep up with this example by deflating its grades, then its graduation rate numbers will be viewed with skepticism across the nation.

Any revised funding formula also needs to take account of how student income backgrounds affect graduation rates.

The severe lack of campus housing in the SUS makes college very expensive for low-income students. Housing helps students afford more credit hours by cutting down the cost of living.

Considering the scarcity of on-campus housing in the SUS it’s no surprise that UF, which has a wealthy student body, is on top of the graduation rate list. The average family income for UF students is about $105,000 and only 22.1 percent receive Pell Grants. Most FAMU students come from families that make $30,000 or less. FAMU is also the only SUS member at which most students receive Pell Grants, with a total of 65.3 percent.

It’s easy for most UF students to call their parents and get extra money for rent, car gas, and food when prices go up. The majority of FAMU students can’t do that. That's why most FAMU students have to take smaller course loads whenever the cost of college increases. Smaller courses loads hurt the university's six-year graduation rate. If FAMU had more campus housing, the cost of education would be lower and students could take more classes.

And lastly, the FAMU administration needs be timely in complying with public records requests for its annual, university-wide GPAs. There was no excuse for FAMU’s failure to provide that information to the News-Press by the same deadline that every other university met.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

By hook or crook, Brogan, McDevitt and company are bound and determined to dismantle FAMU.