The Faculty Senate recently proposed a change in the grading system used at Missouri S&T. This shift would fundamentally mimic the scale in place at Mizzou - and other UM system universities - with a plus/minus system. Logistically, A+, D+, and D- would not be used and C- would not count as passing for prerequisite purposes. The GPA breakdown would work as follows: A (4.0), A- (3.7), B+ (3.3), B (3.0), B- (2.7), C+ (2.3), C (2.0), C- (1.7), D(1.0). Students would still have to maintain a 2.0 GPA to have good academic standing and teaching faculty would be able to adopt a variant of the campus grading system.
In my personal opinion, this switch would negatively impact the S&T campus because it does not fit or translate well to our academic curriculum in terms of rigor. As any student will tell you, the courses here can be difficult. Minimizing the passing range of prerequisites will extend many students stay at the university. For many, this school is already a challenge to complete a degree in four years and having to retake classes because the passing grade went up would be very inconvenient for many students. Not to mention, department heads are already under external pressure about the current graduation rates.
One frustrating thing that would come about from the grading change would be not getting a 4.0 for every A earned. Getting an A in a class is an accomplishment at any university, especially when the class requires a lot of time and work. Working hard all semester and barely making a A is still an A in my mind. Getting an A- and a 3.7 does not help raise a GPA as much as a 4.0 does and as many of you know, any cushion helps.
One reason this system is a bad fit for our school is because our university is fundamentally different from most. Academics are taken very seriously, both by the students and the faculty at S&T. Most students are frequently stressed about classes and push themselves to succeed. There is also a competitive academic environment at the university, which would be increased to an unhealthy level with the scale change. It is not to say that other universities do not take their academics seriously or that their students do not experience stress or a competitive environment; however, a university’s grading system should be a reflection of the majority and their degree programs. Most universities’ majority is not in STEM and consequently, I would argue that a +/- system might be more appropriate as a grading system.
Keeping scholarships can be a challenge for students at this university as well, especially if the transition into freshman year is not as smooth as most incoming students hope. Low grades are bad enough; however, having a good grade and not getting full GPA points to average in, obviously lowers the cumulative GPA. Maintaining a good cumulative is essential to keeping scholarships on campus. It is one thing to mess with a grading system; however, when a change in grading scales impacts college funds, it crosses a line. Obviously, college is very expensive and this new grading scale would make it more difficult to keep scholarships that are crucial to affording a degree.
Ultimately, this grading scale is not a good fit for this university. The grading system has the potential to extend the average student’s stay at S&T, make it more difficult to maintain scholarships, and might create an unhealthy, competitive environment. I am not alone in favoring the current system as most students agree that the switch to a +/- system would not be suitable for S&T.