While a C has been long expected to be representative of average work, it turns out that Ohio State students aren’t facing that mark as often as a B+, leading to concerns about grade inflation from some students.
The median grade given in undergraduate courses taught at OSU’s Columbus campus is a B+, said Linda Katunich, the senior associate director of OSU Enrollment Services Analysis and Reporting.
A median can be defined as the middle number in a data set and is often different from an average.
Some students said they believe grade inflation, meaning raising grades without specific academic reason, might be happening at OSU.
Sara Katrenich, a second-year in history, said there seems to be blatant inflation.
“If you look at 50,000 or 40,000 students and there are so many people getting (a) B+, I think that is an inflation of the grade scale,” Katrenich said. “I would say the reason is more than just OSU students are smarter than other schools’ (students).”
Brad Myers, the university registrar, said it’s the large number of students at OSU that causes such a high median grade. More specifically, he said when comparing grades earned in the College of Engineering versus the College of Arts and Sciences, engineering grades are “definitely lower” while Arts and Sciences grades are typically higher.
Myers said, though, he can’t draw a conclusion unless more specific data is released.
OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said in a Friday email the university is hesitant to assume grade inflation is happening.
“The Ohio State University has 44,000 undergraduate students on the Columbus campus and we take great pride in selecting and educating the best and brightest. The topic of ‘grade inflation’ is a complex question and we’re cautious about drawing simple conclusions from a very complex set of variables for a very large population such as ours,” Lewis said.
Megan Sullivan, a fourth-year in ecology, said she wouldn’t have expected a B+ to be the median grade.
“I was surprised it was B+ because I thought it would be a C or C+,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said the higher median grade might be caused by professors curving grades in large classes.
“Generally, especially with the larger classes, a lot of the grades are curved higher than the (students) are just getting,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said having smaller classes could help prevent there from being an especially high median grade.
“The professor could actually talk to (the) student and get to know them and focus more on each individual student and give them the grades they actually deserve,” Sullivan said.
Some students, however, said having a B+ as the median grade is reasonable.
Nan Wilson, a third-year in public affairs and Chinese, said some OSU students deserve a high grade because of their hard work.
“I don’t find it surprising (that a B+ is the median grade) only because I’ve been a lot of classes where all the students are so engaged and they are so excited to learn,” Wilson said. “I’ve been (surprised) by how intelligent people are.”
The Harvard Crimson, Harvard College’s student newspaper, reported Dec. 3 the median grade at Harvard College was an A- and the most frequently awarded grade was an A, which the paper said supported fears that the school has lesser grading standards than other comparable schools.
According to the U.S. News 2014 Best Colleges list, Harvard University is ranked No. 2 and OSU is ranked No. 52.
Deija McLean, a third-year in early and middle childhood studies, said she wasn’t expecting students to care about grades as much as they do when she came to OSU.
“We do have really a lot of high-achieving students. I was really surprised when I came to college.” McLean said. “People are really focusing on studies and people really, really, really want A’s.”