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The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

McCombs’ recommended grading guidelines limit student success

Chelsea Purgahn

The McCombs School of Business’ current recommended grading guidelines prevents student success in classes. The recommended grading guidelines suggests that core business courses should have an average GPA of 3.0 to 3.2.

David Platt, the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs at McCombs, said that they created this recommendation a few years ago to account for wildly varying course GPA averages between different sections of the same class. When Dean Platt brought this issue to the McCombs Undergraduate Programs Committee, they found most BBA McCombs Core Courses fell in the 3.0–3.2 grading range, and created their recommendation to match that average.

According to Dean Platt, many top undergraduate businesses schools follow a similar guideline, but McCombs guidelines are unusual among UT-Austin colleges.

While not required policy, the recommended grading guidelines are so widely adopted by McCombs professors that the recommendations have become de facto policy. One need only look at grade distributions of BBA core classes to see the effect the recommendation has had. In his own classes, Dean Platt strives to fit that recommendation.

“I aim for grade results that naturally fall in that range,” Dean Platt said. “But if I miss then I will curve as needed.”

While few students will complain about a curve, problems are created when professors class averages fall too high. The recommendation advocates for curving grades up if too low and lowering students grades through tougher assignments if they’re too high, therefore limiting the amount of students who can succeed in the course. The better students do in the course, the harder the course must become.

Dean Platt notes that classes follow this recommendation “unless circumstances of a specific class warrant a different outcome,” but those circumstances are not made clear in the guidelines communicated to students. While it is logical to want to ensure that students in different sections of the same course do not have vastly different grade outcomes, the execution of this recommendation seems extreme.

In one of my own classes, our first exam average was far above the recommendations prescribed by McCombs. Our professor told us in class that the exam was too easy and the next exam needed to be a lot harder to make sure our grades were not “too high.” The adjustment felt clear. Our first exam had an A- average. The second had a D+ average.

There are countless anecdotes that testify to similar experiences.

It’s an open secret that if grades are too high, professors will have to do something to correct that. Even if that means harming students who could have done far better in the course.

“It’s something every McCombs student knows is gonna happen at least once or twice throughout their career in the school,” Garza said. “But there’s not much to be done about it.”

Rather than encouraging students to succeed in mastery of the course, the recommendation encourages them to succeed relative to everyone else, regardless of whether or not they fully learn the material. Instead of focusing on making sure that grades fall within a very specific 3.0–3.2 GPA range, McCombs needs to re-prioritize and aim for an option where all students can succeed and master the material.

Treuthardt is a marketing and journalism sophomore from Allen. Follow him on Twitter @jamestreuthardt.

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McCombs’ recommended grading guidelines limit student success