Bill would require average grade given in course to appear on transcript

Claire Allbright

Institutions of higher education would be required to include the average grade in a course beside an individual’s final grade on their transcript under a bill approved Wednesday by a Texas Senate committee.

Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said the intent of Senate Bill 2079 is to provide transparency to students, parents, employers and graduate school admissions offices about the hyperinflation of grades on college campuses throughout the nation.

Since the 1960s, Taylor said the percentage of As given in college courses has increased from 15 to 45 percent, and As and Bs make up 75 percent of all grades received by students in college courses.

“Rather than a higher education system where students are honestly assessed for their abilities, we now have a system where every student is told they are above average,” Taylor said during the bill’s April 26
committee hearing.

A revised version of the bill introduced Wednesday would broaden the scope of the bill so that it applies to community colleges.

Miranda Goodsheller, manager of governmental affairs for the Texas Association of Business, said grade inflation has made it nearly impossible for companies to rank applicants by academic achievement. 

“Employers are unable to tell whether a high GPA is a sign of talent, intelligence and dedication, or merely the completion of the easiest course available,” Goodsheller said. 

While the University is not able to speak on pending legislation, J.B. Bird, director of University media relations, said employers seem pleased with UT Austin graduates.  

Philosophy professor Robert Koons said grade inflation presents an “existential crisis” for our system of higher education. Although not speaking on behalf of the University, Koons said this grade inflation is seen across all areas of study, including sciences and engineering, and if the inflation continues at the current rate, everyone will receive all As in 20 years. 

“The system collapses at that point,” Koons said. “The B.A., the B.S. become meaningless credentials. Who is going to spend five, 10, 20, 200 thousand dollars to get a meaningless credential?” 

The bill would require the average grade given in the course on all student transcripts, except those who take the course for pass/fail credit or classes with 10 or fewer students. 

Taylor also said he hopes to introduce an amendment on the House floor that would delay implementation of the bill’s provisions for five years to avoid imposing a burden on institutions of higher education. 

Thomas Lindsay, director of the Center for Higher Education at Texas Public Policy Foundation, said the bill would enhance workforce competitiveness among Texas public university students. 

Lindsay said Dartmouth College, Columbia University, the University of Indiana and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have similar transcript requirements, but if Texas implements this policy, it would come to be known as the Texas transcript. 

“I think that it would quickly become the gold standard among the 50 states,” Lindsay said.

Koons said he believes the most important jobs of a college teacher include holding students to high standards, being a tough grader and providing constructive feedback. 

“The greatest lectures in the world … are not going to make up for the fact that you’re not holding students to high standards and expecting them to write, to speak, analyze and do research at that higher level,” Koons said. “That is why I think grade inflation strikes at the very core of our vocation as college teachers.”