The new grading scale is a plus

Northern Kentucky University has implemented a plus/minus scale that has some people rejoicing, while others are left resentful.’ According to the poll on The Northerner’s Web site,, about 70 percent of responding students said they felt the new grading scale would affect them negatively.

Personally, I am fully embracing the new grading scale.’ I feel that the implementation of pluses and minuses will place clearer distinctions of the value of a student’s work, foster healthy competition at NKU, and finally, place NKU’s students at a more level playing field when it comes to competing with students from other universities.

Some people fear that the new grading system will punish those at the higher end of the grading scale while rewarding those at the lower end and/or reduce the general grade point average of NKU students.’ There also seems to be notable concern about the lack of an A+ on the new system.

Rick Matthews, associate provost of Wake Forest University, conducted a computer model study that calculated differences in students’ GPA, prior to a plus/minus system just like NKU’s, finding that the majority of students holding a GPA between 1.0 and a 3.6 will experience a difference of +/- 0.06.

Students with a GPA of 0.6 will see a reduction of about 0.12 – a student with 16 or more credit hours could be placed on academic probation if his/her GPA fell below a 2.00 at NKU.’ According to Matthews, a student with a GPA close to 3.9 would see a decrease by as much as 0.08.’ He also said that fewer students would receive a 4.0 with the plus/minus system.’

Sure, it’s harder to attain a 4.0, but the system also weighs down the grades at the low end, so I would say that the decreases are fair.

Really, it shouldn’t be easy to be the best, and it determines those more qualified from those who fall under the bar more distinctly.’ B- work is vastly different from B+ work.’ With the previous system, the difference from a B/C was 1.00.’ With the new system, however, a student’s academic achievements can be more closely calculated; the difference between a C+/B is .33, so we get a clearer picture of grade differentials.

‘The only problem I have with the system is the lack of balance for A students. How is it fair to reward a D+ student but not a student who has worked hard to attain an A+, perhaps to balance out an A- they might receive in another class,’ someone by the handle ‘SRS’ commented on The Northerner’s message boards online.

The lack of an A+ really doesn’t hurt students who receive high grades.’ In fact, Matthews said the main criticism of an A+ is that, because most employers and graduate schools are most familiar with a 4.0 grade cap, a 4.3 (A+) would cause the organizations to multiply all students under a 4.3 scale by (4.0/4.33).’ The ending result would be that the 4.3 scale could end up hurting more students rather than helping them.’ This makes sense, and I don’t see an issue with the lack of an A+ anyway.

The system promotes competition among students, and students performing at a 4.0 level will be rewarded more justly.’ The new system distinguishes between average and excellent students in a way the old system failed to do.

This new grading scale also puts NKU in a more comparable position grade-wise to some of the larger schools; Northwestern University, Penn State, Purdue, and Syracuse are just a few examples of the schools that use the same scale NKU does.’

The new scale could be seen as a step in the right direction to further drop the notion as a ‘No Knowledge College.’

NKU is advancing each year, and the grading system should match the progress the university has made.’ While some may remain unconvinced as to whether or not the new system is what the university needs right now, I confidently stand by NKU’s decision to help push itself to new levels academically.’ I think this change in the grading scale was the best thing for NKU.