UVM Ponders A-Plus Plan

UVM is looking to truly recognize those students who achieve academic excellence with the addition of 4.33 grade points for an A-plus. The Faculty Senate is currently reviewing the pros and cons to the A-plus grade point over the 4.0 grade points which are currently given for an A or an A-plus grade in a course.

The issue first came about when a student with a 4.0 average requested that he receive credit for his A-pluses that he earned. He previously received an A-minus and his 4.0 was lowered when his grade point average was calculated.

Grade points are 4.0 for an A, 3.0 for a B, 2.0 for a C, 1.0 for a D and an F is zero. There are also points assigned to a plus or minus, for example a B-plus would be 3.33 and an A minus would be 3.67. However, an A-plus only receives a 4.0 which is the same as an A, regardless of the amount of extra work done to earn the A-plus.

One main concern about bringing in the A-plus points is “gradeflation” which is a rising problem across the country. GPAs have been going up everywhere in within the past ten years while at UVM the average GPA from 1998 to 2002 has climbed from 2.86 to 2.97.

“Is there no bar? Is there no high end?” said UVM Board of Trustee member, Jim Leddy. “I just question how far or how high must you go before we break the sound barrier.”

A poll of the faculty and students found the UVM community equally divided to keep the A and the A-plus worth 4.0 or to assign 4.33 grade points to an A-plus. Some feel concerned that a potential employer might be confused or favor a higher GPA when looking a student’s transcripts who attended a school with the 4.33 A-plus as opposed to one who did not.

Students also wonder if the system would be equally favorable for everyone at UVM. While some graders are liberal when recognizing a student’s extra effort, there are also who are rather stingy with their grading.

“I wouldn’t be able to capitalize from this system because I have some professors who are hesitant to give an A in their course,” said junior Jeff Price. “I am in favor of students getting recognition for their work, but I think there would need to be a way to standardize the grading system.”

Of the Champlain Valley colleges, Burlington College, Champlain College, Middlebury College, Community College of Vermont, and St. Michael’s College, none assign grade points for an A-plus. Cornell University in New York and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, among others have the A-plus grading system.

Alison Pechenick, a computer science lecturer, is leading the subcommittee who is studying the A-plus system and feels that if a student earns an A-plus then it should translate to the grade point equivalent.

“It doesn’t seem as cut and dry as it used to be,” said Pechecnick. “It is a significant change, that’s why we’re proceedng carefully.”

Brent Hallenbeck of the Burlington Free Press made contributions to this article.