The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

Benefits of a grade-based reward system


College students today face extraordinary pressures from their academic curriculum, interpersonal relationships and ultimately deciding on a degree or career choice that will shape their future for a lifetime. 

But perhaps no pressure weighs so heavily day-to-day on the mind of a college student as financial stress.

Statistics from Forbes magazine reveal that college tuition prices have inflated 500 percent since 1985, a figure that grossly outpaces the overall consumer price index inflation of 115 percent from the same year.

In addition, college enrollment has risen over 138 percent in the past 40 years, while administration expenses rose 61 percent from 1993 to 2007. 

These figures clearly reveal that today’s college students face an uphill battle for higher education unparalleled by any previous generation.

It has the benefit of cultivating a highly motivated workforce better prepared to compete in an increasingly competitive world market. 

A world market that is on an unquestionable trend toward high tech and service industry jobs. 

Jobs in these fields require education and students from around the world who are rising to the challenge.

This proposal raises many questions concerning how it would be implemented, as well as how successful it would prove itself to be. 

Universities could reward students in the form of tuition reduction, reduced housing or free meal plans. 

I think students would find other forms of rewards almost or just as rewarding as cash handouts. 

Even if schools forgave 20 percent of their fees through a grade-reward system, and this loss was subsidized by state governments, it would prove a small burden on overall state budgets. 

In California 12.7 percent of the state budget in 2011 went toward funding higher education. 

A 20 percent increase of funding in this area would only result in a 2.54 percent increase of the overall state budget. 

These are numbers that are dwarfed in comparison to what other countries spend on funding higher education, proportional to their gross domestic product.

Most European countries, such as Estonia, Finland, Norway, France, Spain and Italy, provide higher education free of charge. 

A few countries, such as Denmark, even provide a stipend for students as incentive to get a degree. 

From an economic perspective, it’s without question that every dollar invested in education, be it by an individual or a country’s taxes, is paid back with a gain because of the increased earnings from jobs that require a college education. 

There are downsides and concerns with grade-based reward systems. 

Students from a higher socioeconomic status enjoy less stress and work less outside jobs than their less advantaged peers. 

This could result in the students who need financial relief the most, not enjoying the benefits of this program. 

For this reason, it would be a good idea to set an income cap that would have to be carefully determined, on which students are allowed to participate in a grade-based reward system. 

Some people fear this system could backfire. 

“What could be intended as a reward system could devolve into a punitive system,” said freshman Devin Fox.

There is the potential students may feel they are being punished for bad grades rather than rewarded for good ones. 

Also extenuating circumstances or problems in student’s personal lives that result in bad grades and thus higher fees could add insult to injury. 

“Such a system could create conflicting priorities for teachers like myself,” said mathematics professor Jim Pedgriff.  “I could feel like I was punishing or hurting a student by giving them a bad grade. As a result of this pressure I think we could see grade inflation. Plus, some old-styled teachers like myself feel students should be here because of their love for learning, that they should be here because they want to be here.”

While these concerns make valid arguments, it’s without a doubt that monetary reward can be a powerful motivating force. 

America is already woefully behind most other industrialized nations in terms of the cost of higher education, and how much of their economic productivity they invest back in education. A grades-based reward system is simply a step in improving this trend. 

Americans used to have the advantage of being one of the best educated nations in the world. 

This dominance in education correlated to a dominance in high income service industry jobs. 

But the modern reality is millions of students from around the world are now attaining higher education. 

This is resulting in a world where jobs and industries previously enjoyed by the American workers will have to be contested over with foreign competition like never before. 

Rewarding students for good grades is by no means a panacea for the future of the American economy, but it could prove an effective tool in giving our future workforce a competitive edge.

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