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Academics Discover Slackers

To the uncredentialled, it may often appear that academics receive many degrees, not to mention a multitude of research grants, in order to ascertain what many can figure out by simple observation.  “Students prefer larger post-school wages but dislike studying,” Daniel L. Gottlieb and Kent Smetters observe in a paper which they wrote for the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Gottlieb and Smetters toil at the University of Pennsylvania. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER [1]) is located at Harvard.

“The signal value of education has been well studied ever since Michael Spence’s seminal 1973 contribution,” Gottlieb and Smetters write. “It is, therefore, interesting that students in many leading Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs vote to reduce the accuracy of their own signal by passing grade non-disclosure policies.”

“These policies are distinctive in that they mainly exist in MBA programs and not in other professional programs including medicine, law, and accounting.”  Arguably, the knowledge base required of the first is a bit easier to improvise on than chemistry, legal citations or tax returns.

“Moreover, grade non-disclosure is most prevalent in schools where the faculty are largely trained economists,” Gottlieb and Smetters conclude, in what actually is an interesting observation. “In some cases, faculty seems to support these policies – or, at least, not heavily discourage them,” the researchers from Penn find.

Students, it seems, get to decide whether their grades are disclosed or not. “By U.S. federal law, academic grades cannot be released by schools to third-parties, including potential employers, without student permission,” Gottlieb and Smetters inform us.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia [2].

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org [3]