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Can College Students Really Negotiate Grades?

A student’s Grade Point Average can be a key factor when applying for jobs in his or her chosen field. Therefore, it is imperative that students take the necessary steps to ensure quality grades. Aside from academic performance, students will need to make an extra effort in attempt to boost their grades. Often, they will approach their professors and try to negotiate with them to reach a desired GPA. There is constant debate as to whether or not this is a viable method of securing classroom success. 

Some professors feel that grades are non-negotiable, and that if a student fails, he or she earned that failing grade. However, other professors feel that grades are not black and white and should be open to discussion them with students. 

According to an article on USAToday.com published on Feb. 3, “Great Career Success Debate: Did you know you can negotiate your grades?” there is a certain criterion that the circumstance must meet in order to justify the compromising of grades. 

If a student believes a recorded grade has been entered mistakenly, author Dr. Susan Davis-Ali, noted that a student can approach the professor about the error and ask for it to be corrected. Furthermore, she said if class participation is factored into grading, students can reasonably appeal grades and assert that they have sufficiently contributed to the class. Finally, if the majority of the class involves essay writing, she added that students can approach the professor and request a second look at the paper in an attempt to raise the grade.

Co-author Patrick O’Brien noted that it is critical for a student to establish good rapport with a professor; so that future negotiations will not seem unwarranted. Additionally, he added that students need to start negotiations early. They should not wait until they are desperate to approach the professor; a student who consistently asks for extra credit opportunities will be regarded as conscientious. Finally, O’Brien said that grade negotiations must be reasonable. Students should be more cooperative with their professors and not take advantage of them.

According to Dr. Pietro Sasso, an assistant professor of education, students are always welcome to negotiate grades.

“Students should never be timid to discuss their grade with their professor. It encourages a learning dialogue between the faculty member and the student. This is fairly common where a student approaches a faculty about their grade or asks for feedback on how they can improve their academic performance in a course,” said Sasso. “However, it is unreasonable to demand a change of grade if it is unearned. Students should remember that a grade is earned and not given.”

Sasso added that students sometimes approach him if they believe he made a computation error or are on the cusp of earning the next letter grade. 

Students often feel timid and have reservations about approaching their professor. However, Andrew Betro, a freshman biology and psychology student, said negotiating with professors is an excellent way to show that students care about their grades.

“I think trying to compromise grades with a professor is a good idea. Sometimes students will have a rough day and mess up on an exam, and it is not fair. They should have the opportunity to redeem themselves,” said Betro. “Obviously there needs to be some moderation. Professors cannot just hand out points; they need to be earned in some way.” 

To prevent a misunderstanding of grading policy, many professors devise detailed rubrics to give students have all the guidance they need to earn a desired grade. Students will earn a grade according to how closely they followed the expectations listed in the rubric. This will remove any need for negotiation and will allow students to understand what is expected of them..

Dr. Judith Bazler, a lecturer of science education, said that many of her classes are structured in a fashion that eliminates the need for negotiation. She instructs a number course that is nationally certified; meaning students must excel in all assessment items and must meet the evaluation criteria. Therefore, Bazler is prohibited from negotiating with students. However, Bazler noted that her other courses gives her much leeway, but she makes sure to formulate a diverse evaluation system in order to prevent negotiation. 

“All of my assessments have specific rubrics attached to each assessment.  This lessens any need for a student to ‘negotiate’ a grade. Negotiation is not part of the basic education form,” said Bazler. “Having said that, on written assignments, there is always room for a student to ‘negotiate’ the grade due to my own human error.”

Bazler noted that she might miss a page of an essay submitted via dropbox. The students can then approach her, show her the missing material, and rectify the situation.   

Open-ended assessments, such as essays or presentations are, often negotiable. However, objective assignments, such as multiple choice questions, are either right or wrong, and are typically non-negotiable. As humans are inherently fallible, many professors are willing to discuss essay writing with students and often take an additional look at the material. 

“I think the professors here are very understanding with grade negotiation,” said Alexis Mason, a freshman education student. “If there is a reason a student got a lower grade than expected and they can explain their reasoning, the professors usually take the explanation into account and often give partial credit or work with the student in other ways,” Mason continued. 

PHOTO TAKEN by Kiera Lanni