Husker Football GPA And Grade Inflation: Academics, Not Sports, Are Undermining Higher Education

Jon Johnston

The Husker football team's accumulative GPA has never been higher, but it's never been easier to get good grades. That's not because of athletics. It's because the academics who are running higher education are failing to do their jobs properly.

When it was announced late last year that the 2011 team was the first Husker football team to have over a 3.0 accumulative GPA, I made a comment about it on twitter. It was a moment of pride for the Husker football team

I received what I thought was a snarky reply - that the high GPA was due to grade inflation. I had never heard of grade inflation, so I replied with some snark of my own. The tweeter remained resolute and responded with a link to an article about the subject and urged me to take a look. (I've been unable to find that exchange, unfortunately, twitter's search functionality only allows you to find tweets from only so far back, and I'm not digging through my thousands of tweets to find the exchange, sorry.)

You don't need to know the exact article the article the person was pointing to, simply do a Google search for grade inflation and the first site you'll find provides a detailed explanation of the issue.

The concept is relatively simple. Wikipedia defines it as follows:

Grade inflation is the tendency of academic grades for work of comparable quality to increase over time.

The bottom line - good grades have come easier to students as the cost of tuition has increased, the idea being that students are paying so much for college that they expect to receive good grades whether they're doing the work or not.

This is not a trivial issue. Companies who hire graduates would like to depend on a student's grade point average to determine who the most qualified prospects are out of college. At the least, they have relied on universities to validate students who are capable of performing the tasks for which they're being hired.

The gradeinflation.com site includes information from the University of Nebraska. That data is as follows:

Average grade awarded, Fall term, all undergraduates. Note: UN-L added minus grades in 2001.

1995

2.96

1996

3.00

1997

3.02

1998

3.05

1999

3.07

2000

3.11

2001

3.05

2002

3.07

2003

3.09

2004

3.10

2005

3.08

2006

3.07

2007

3.08

2008

3.10

Source: Director, Registration and Records

The purpose of this article is not to take away anything from the Husker football team. Bo Pelini has done an excellent job keeping an enormous amount of young men heading in the right direction, which includes getting to class, getting decent grades and staying out of trouble. That's no easy feat (as a parent with three kids of my own I can tell you that Mrs Corn Nation has worked very hard at keeping the children in line and their grades in good order).

That the University of Nebraska recently became the only school across all divisions to reach 300 Academic All-Americans is a great source of pride for Nebraska alums and should continue in that regard.

The purpose of this article is two fold. First, to make you aware of the issue if you are not already, and second, to point out that this issue has nothing to do with sports. It is not a symptom of athletics at all, but a credibility problem that has been created by academia at universities regardless of whether they're private or public, large or small, or in what major the student has chosen (although it should be pointed out that if you examine the data at gradeinflation.com that the problem is more prevalent at private universities).

The next time you encounter someone who believes athletes don't belong in higher education because they're not good enough to do the work, feel free to bring up the grade inflation issue.

If the rest of the student body isn't being forced to prove their worth because their professors are giving them a free pass, why wouldn't the same apply to the athletes?

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