Bricks on the Brain

UM Law

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Grade Inflation at UM?

Recently there has been much discussion regarding the possibility of adding B- to the grading scale used at UM Law. As I understand it, the SBA has voted to recommend this approach to the administration.

In her January 24 State of the Campus Address, SBA President Monica Segura articulated the following support for the B-:

The post-graduation job market is highly competitive and we, the students, deserve a Student Bar Association that will lobby the law faculty to help us overcome the competition. There are currently other law schools, like Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, that have grading scales which recognize a 2.5 quality G.P.A as being a “B-” as opposed to “C+.” The use of the current grading scale has created a slight handicap for UM students competing with law students from other schools. We, as future UM law alumni, deserve a support structure that will enable us to compete with students from those schools.
I don't know that Harvard or U.Penn. are relevant examples (if you're not 3.8+ at UM don't bother trying to compete with a Harvard grad), but certainly there are plenty of schools on par with UM that inflate their student's grades and thus edge out UM job applicants on this basis. Employers have limited information and time, and tend to use GPA measures incorrectly. GPA is a statistic that is only meaningful when viewed in light of statistical measures describing the GPA distribution of the entire class. While these numbers are available, few employers bother to seek them out and use them. Rankings are perhaps more usefull, but suffer from not describing the differences in GPA between any particular ranks.

While I reluctantly support this measure, I think there are more far-reaching things that can be done to better the school's reputation and thus increase everyone's job prospects. I think this type of grade inflation is only going to help students in the lower GPA tiers, and indeed these may be the students who need the most help. But it certainly won't change the way Miami is perceived in the legal marketplace, which is really what counts come job hunting time.

Worse, high-GPA grads might conceivably be harmed if employers begin questioning whether or not a high GPA from UM really means anything. UM may not have the best rep, but local employers in particular are somewhat aware that most UM profs are stingy with A's. If we acquire a reputation as having joined the schools that inflate grades, those elite students might themselves suffer when compared to other schools' grads. By adding a B-, we might be merely robbing Peter to pay Paul.

What will the UM administration decide? That's easy enough to predict--it all depends on how the USNWR ranking would be affected.


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