Princeton University decided this week to rank undergraduates in quintiles based on grade point average and add the statistic to students’ academic records.
A students’ rank will be used only for internal purposes and administrators said they hope the new ranking system will help students see where they stand with respect to their peers and motivate some students to improve their performance. The rankings will not appear on transcripts students send to potential employers or graduate and professional schools.
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said Yale does not intend to implement a similar policy.
“There are lots of informal discussions among the faculty about grading policies in Yale College, but we have no special proposal on the table from anyone right now that we’re contemplating,” Salovey said. “My experience is that anything having to do with grading evokes strong emotions among the faculty and students. It’s an area where we have to move really carefully.”
Princeton College Dean Nancy Malkiel told the Daily Princetonian she thinks the ranking system will give students “a context in which to understand what their grades mean.”
“[A student who] comes to Princeton expecting to get all Bs [might think he or she is] doing well,” Malkiel told the newspaper. “The quintile rank will help this student to see where they stand relative to their peers.”
Several Yale students said they think ranking students by GPA would create an unnecessarily stressful environment.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Simone Ellis ’08 said. “I think there’s enough stress on you being in a top university — I think [rankings] should probably be available to those who want to know, but I don’t even want to know.”
Danni Wang ’06 agreed and said she thinks students would be more cautious in selecting courses if they were ranked by their grades against their peers.
“I don’t think it helps the students very much because the courses the students chose to take are really diverse,” Wang said. “If the University put pressure on students for their GPA, they might not design for themselves as challenging a curriculum as they might otherwise. People might just gather around and say which is the gut course to take.”
Princeton’s decision comes just five months after university officials, in an effort to curb grade inflation, asked academic departments to limit the number of As they award to 35 percent of all grades.