Editorial: New grading scale bad for students, university

GradebookMinusEditorialComic (1)Baylor recently announced that as of summer 2014, it would be renovating its grading system from a system that only had plus grades to a system that has plus and minus grades.

In other words, not only can you receive a B+, but you can also receive an A-.

Granted, many other schools utilize a plus/minus system and it does allow professors to have a greater range when assigning grades, but Baylor is adding rigor to an already rigorous academic system. Even outside of Texas, Baylor is known for its rigorous academics, even with its strictly plus system.

Under the new system, an A would still earn a student four grade points per hour. An A-, on the other hand, would only earn students 3.67 grade points.

This policy would be effective across the university so even the Graduate School, law school and Truett Seminary, which already utilize plus/minus system, will be affected. Under the new grading system, graduate and Truett Seminary students who make an A- would no longer be a 3.75 but the standardized 3.67. Again, we commend Baylor for standardizing the grading system across the university, but it’s unnecessarily artificially deflating grades for the sake of continuity. Baylor has a long history of striving for excellence and we concede that this move is consistent with this goal. However, this change will make it even more difficult for students to do things such as maintain their scholarships and financial aid or apply to professional school.

The new grading system would only deflate grades. Under the system, receiving a minus grade or even a plus grade would deflate a student’s GPA compared to the current system. In general, it gives students lower GPAs for the same work output.

As it is, all regents’ scholarships and several other full-tuition scholarships at Baylor require students to maintain a 3.5 grade point average.

Most other scholarships require a 3.0 GPA. This is already a difficult GPA to maintain even with a strictly plus system.

The drop from four grade points to 3.67 grade points for the same numerical results could lead to some harsh consequences for students.

This would make it more difficult for students to maintain their scholarships and as such, more students may have to withdraw from the university.

Additionally, the criteria for setting what is the equivalent to an A- may differ between professors, which would jeopardize consistency among course grades across sections of a particular class. According to the registrar’s Frequently Asked Questions about the Grading Policy Change, “Students should refer to individual course syllabi to determine how instructors intend to use the grading scale.”

There is currently no guideline or suggested standard about what an A-, B- or C- will constitute. One professor may decide an A- is a 90-93 while another may decide that an A- is an 88-89. Since Baylor is adopting the new grading scale, some published guidelines may help students feel more at ease about the changes.

These small differences can not only affect students’ GPAs but also give an unfair advantage to students who register early and as such can pick professors that have a more lenient grading system.
At least with the current plus system, there is some commonality with the grading system, some predictability in the manner.

Sure, in the real world, true requirements are not always known, but for students who work hard day after day to strive for excellence in very difficult classes, it’s an added stressor about the best way to ensure that they are not only learning as much as they can, but that their GPA reflects that.

And as much as we would like to say it’s all about learning, for students who strive for medical, graduate or law school, minute differences can mean the difference between an acceptance and a rejection.

More information about the new grading policy can be found at http://www.baylor.edu/registrar/gradingpolicy.