Applied Economics Teaching Resources

an AAEA Journal

Agricultural and Applied Economics Association

Research Article

Are We Similar? Differences in Grading Patterns among Departments in the Same College

Anna Yeritsyan(a) and James W. Mjelde(a)
(a)Texas A&M University

JEL Codes: JEL Codes: I23
Keywords: Grade inflation, student characteristics, instructor characteristics, higher education

Publish Date: March 27, 2024
Volume 6, Issue 1

View Full Article (PDF)


Using a unique data set on institutional, instructor, and student characteristics, mixed effect models are estimated to identify factors correlated with class grade point averages (GPAs) over time among different departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (COALS) at Texas A&M University (TAMU). More departments show more potential grade inflation in the years 2004–2019 than during the years 1989–2003. After controlling for individual instructors, student characteristics appear to be more important than instructor and institutional characteristics, except for class size, in explaining GPAs. The number of students in a class is negatively correlated with grades for all departments and periods. If significant, increase in students’ high school rank is positively correlated with university GPA. Graduate students, non-graduate instructors, visiting faculty, and lecturers tend to grade higher than professors. Out of the eight non-science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) departments, seven (87.5 percent) potentially encountered grade inflation. In contrast, out of the four STEM departments, only two (50 percent) experienced potential grade inflation.

About the Authors: Dr. Anna Yeritsyan is a post-doctoral researcher at Texas A&M University (Corresponding author email: Dr. James W. Mjelde is a professor at Texas A&M University. Competing Interests: Anna Yeritsyan and James Mjelde declare no competing interests. Data Availability Statement: Data are available from the authors upon request and subject to human subject and FERPA restrictions. Human Subjects Approval: This research was reviewed by the Texas A&M University IRB, Approval Number IRB2017-0802M

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