September 29, 2003
URBANA-CHAMPAIGN SENATE Senate Committee on Educational Policy
(Final - Action) EP.04.07 Computation of Grade Point Average SPONSOR: Senate Committee on Educational Policy; Contact, Abbas Aminmansour BRIEF DESCRIPTION:
For the past seven years the campus' practice of using the decimal equivalents of 0.33 and 0.67 has been at variance with Senate policy, which states that grade point averages should be calculated on "effective numerical grade weight increments of 1/3" (EP.97.19). The imprecision introduced by this variance can result in grade point averages that are inconsistent with policy and can, in the case of decision lines such as probation, disadvantage students by producing a "false" 1.99 grade point average. The Senate Committee on Educational Policy recommends that in both policy and practice the numerical grade weights of 0.3 for pluses and 0.7 for minuses be used in the calculation of grade point averages. Further, we reaffirm that grade point averages should be truncated to two decimal places when reported on the official transcript and when used for decisions of campus-wide import. (See Attachment A for revisions to the Code of Polices and Regulations Applying to All Students.) Adopting these values as policy and employing them in practice will: 1) eliminate the variance between policy and practice; 2) eliminate the mathematical imprecision that results from three "thirds" not adding to one, which occurs no matter how many decimal places are used; 3) produce consistent, replicable, understandable grade point averages; 4) more closely approximate actual grades distributions within each letter grade; 5) align the campus more closely with the policies of peer AAU institutions, and 6) reduce students' sense of being penalized for receiving minus grades. JUSTIFICATION:
The proposed grade weights are based on the following considerations:
- There is a variance between policy and practice in calculating and reporting GPA's. Our practice must be consistent with the policies previously set by the Senate.
- There are no commercially available student service systems that can accommodate the calculation of grade point averages based on current policy of grade weight increments of 1/3. The inability to implement the Senate's "true thirds" policy is not due to the perceived lack of flexibility and sophistication on the part of UI Direct and its successor Banner.
- The subjectivity of grading and the mathematical uncertainty in grade point averages calls the precision and meaningfulness of utilizing more than two decimal grade point averages into question. For example, when assigning grades on term papers, essays, presentations, art projects, etc. there is a certain amount of subjectivity involved in assigning grades. Each letter grade may encompass a range of three to four points out of the total 100 points. Students receiving an 87 and an 89 both receive a B+ though there is a quantifiable difference in their performance. As a result, a student's grade point average inherently contains a degree of uncertainty. Mathematically, a grade point average calculated on 40 grades has an uncertainty of +/- .0042. In other words, a grade point of 3.273 based on 40 grades should be reported as 3.273 +/- .0042, or somewhere between 3.269 to 3.277.
- A review of peer AAU universities reveals that of the 43 universities using a plus/minus grading systems 22 use the proposed 0.3 and 0.7 grade weights, nine use 0.33 and 0.67 grade weights and the remaining 12 use a variety of different values and approaches.
- The current grade point weights attempt to approximate an equal distribution of grades within each letter grade (i.e., there should be roughly the same number of X+, X and X- grades). However, an analysis of grades assigned in courses using plus/minus grading shows that this is not the case. In fall 2002, 49 percent of undergraduate students in sections using plus/minus grades received the whole letter grade and the remaining 51 percent received a mix of plus and minus grades. The proposed weights of .3 and .7 reflect a bell-shaped distribution of grades within each letter grade. Rather than assuming that students will fall equally into each of the three grades, it assumes that a larger percent of students will earn the whole letter grade and that smaller percentages will merit the plus and minus grade.
- Student, employer and public expectation is that an "A" and two "B"s (actually A-, B, B) are and should produce a grade point average that is slightly higher than three "B"s (actually B+, B+, B.) The current 0.33 and 0.67 system would result in identical grade point averages for these grade sets; the proposed 0.3 and 0.7 policy would result in a slightly higher grade point average for the first grade set. The proposed change effectively gives more weight to the letter and less to the plus or minus - following general expectations.
- Students typically perceive the 0.33 extra grade points received for a plus grade as "bonus" grade points. However, they typically perceive the 0.67 grade points received for a minus grade as a "penalty" since they perceive they are loosing 0.33 grade points because of the minus assigned to the grade. The 0.3 and 0.7 grade weights proposed here will lessen the sense of "penalty" associated with a minus grade by slight increasing the grade points assigned to a minus grade and a slight decrease to the plus grade.
- Given these points, the only viable options are to 1) invest considerable resources to develop a custom system to calculate "true thirds" grade point averages that would not provide the precision in grading that it might imply, 2) accept the variance between policy and practice and accommodate the resulting mathematical imprecision, or 3) adopt new grade weights that eliminate the variance, are consistent with the practice of peer institutions, conform to actual grade distributions and student expectations, and provide consistent grade point average calculations.
There are no known budgetary or staff implications. EFFECTIVE DATE:
Ideally, this proposal should be implemented when the Banner student system is implemented in fall 2004. If this proposal cannot be implemented by this date, the Office of the Provost should report to the Senate the reasons for the delay and an estimated implementation date.
Proposed Revision of Rule 71A
(revisions and additions are in bold)
71. Computation of Scholastic Averages A. Numerical ValuesB. Undergraduates
Grade Honor Points Grade Honor Points A+ 4.0 C+ 2.3 A 4.0 C 2.0 A- 3.7 C- 1.7 B+ 3.3 D+ 1.3 B 3.0 D 1.0 B- 2.7 D- 0.7 F Failure (including courses dropped for academic irregularities) = 0.00 **F F by rule. Grade of "F" on the letter scale = 0.00
A uniform method for calculating undergraduate grade-point averages has been established for all undergraduate colleges on the Urbana-Champaign campus. These averages are calculated on the basis of all courses attempted for which grades and credits are assigned and that carry credit in accordance with the Courses catalog. Since courses offered by the religious foundations on or near the Urbana-Champaign campus are not official University courses and are not included in the Courses catalog, the grades earned in such courses will not be included in the calculation of any grade-point averages. Grades of S, U, CR, NC, and Pass are reported on the official University transcript but are not included in the grade-point averages since grade-points are not assigned to these letter grades. This method of calculation is used to determine honors, probationary and drop status, financial aid and scholastic awards, and transfer between colleges on this campus. For the purpose of computing a grade-point average for graduation, only the grades received in those courses counting toward the degree, including grades in repeated courses, are included in the average. (See also Rule 91.)
In calculating the grade-point average of a graduate student, only courses taken for unit credit and with grades of A through F are included in the computation. To be eligible for an advanced degree a graduate student must have a grade-point average of at least 2.75. Some departments require a higher average.
D. A two decimal place truncated grade point average will be used on the official transcript, on all other official communications and for decisions of campus-wide import (e.g., campus awards, probation and drops, honors, graduation checks, etc.).