The Daily Gamecock

SG to research uniform grading scale

Current system allows professors to set standards at own discretion


The possibility of implementing a universitywide uniform grading scale is currently being researched as a Student Government initiative.

Officers have submitted a research request to the American Student Government Association to poll member universities across the country about their grading scale systems, according to SG Secretary of Academics Miller Hane. This step is the starting point in SG’s assessment of USC’s current grading system, which allows professors to set grade standards at their own discretion, often consistent within, but not always between, academic departments.

The idea of a uniform grading scale would aim to set common standards for grades among all classes. For instance, grades ranging from 90 to 100 would be an “A” in any class.

For now, the idea is in its infancy. But the goal behind researching and assessing USC’s system compared to others, Hane said, is seeking consistency, both among USC’s peer institutions and within the university’s various colleges.

“It’s just making sure that an ‘A’ in the business school is the same thing as an ‘A’ in the engineering school — making sure that everyone’s GPA is reflected the same across the board,” Hane said.

Depending on the results of the information gathered from other universities, any further SG discussions or proposals would work with and go through university administration. However, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies Helen Doerpinghaus said she does not foresee any significant benefit that could be offered by a uniform grading scale.

“I don’t think it would make grading uniform across classes. There are a lot of factors that go into a grade. For example, faculty may curve grades (or offer extra credit) ... There’s some latitude there,” Doerpinghaus said. “It really doesn’t make things any more fixed in my opinion.”

Having a fixed scale would not mean more “A’s” for more students, Doerpinghaus said. The most important thing to ensure under the university’s discretionary grading system, she said, is that students understand each instructor’s grading expectations and that instructors be clear in their syllabi regarding all grade standards and components.

Doerpinghaus said she is not aware of any schools with uniform grading scales and has never heard any discussion of such scales among peer university administrators.

SG’s goal at the moment is just to determine USC’s position relative to other schools’ grading standards.

“Then we can say, ‘Oh, well we’re right in line with what everyone else is doing, that’s great,’ Hane said. “And from there we can say, ‘Well, do we think we can improve this system?’ And if not, then maybe we’re doing the right thing.  

“And if we’re not in line with what other schools are doing, well, are we doing the right thing, or do we need to change?”