, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 95-107
Date: 23 Dec 2011

Grade inflation or productivity growth? An analysis of changing grade distributions at a regional university

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We examine departmental grade distributions for the school years 1985–1986, 1995–1996, and 2004–2005 at Southeast Missouri State University. Mean undergraduate grade point averages (GPAs) increased from 2.6 in 1985–1986 to 3.1 in 2004–2005. Although higher student GPAs might be evidence of grade inflation, university departments might have experienced productivity improvements that enhanced student learning, given inputs. We represent the technology by the directional distance function. Departments produce two outputs-grade points earned by students and the information content of those grades-using faculty and student inputs. The entropy index is used to proxy the information content of grade distributions. The estimates indicate; no systematic changes in inefficiency over time; a movement along the production frontier toward a mix of outputs with relative more grade points and less entropy; a shift toward non-tenure track faculty that increases the shadow price of entropy relative to grade points.