Eastern Economic Journal

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 151–163

Grades, Course Evaluations, and Academic Incentives

  • David A Love
  • Matthew J Kotchen


We develop a model that identifies a range of new and somewhat counterintuitive results about how the incentives created by academic institutions affect student and faculty behavior. The model provides a theoretical basis for grade inflation and the behavioral response of students. Comparative statics are used to analyze the effects of institutional expectations placed on faculty. The results show that placing more emphasis on course evaluations exacerbates the problems of grade inflation and can even decrease a professor's teaching effort. Increased emphasis on research productivity also decreases teaching effort and provides a further incentive to inflate grades. We use the model to analyze how grade targets can control grade inflation and align professorial incentives with institutional objectives. We also discuss the implications of the model for hiring, promotion, and tenure.


grade inflation course evaluations teaching and research 

JEL Classifications

A20 A22 I20 

Copyright information

© Eastern Economic Association 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A Love
    • 1
  • Matthew J Kotchen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsWilliams College, South Academic Building, RM 202WilliamstownUSA
  2. 2.University of California, Santa Barbara and NBERCaliforniaUSA

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