Importing Grade Inflation? – Credential Evaluation Economics

October 04, 2012

balance scale

Are you helping import grade inflation from abroad? Many colleges, universities and licensing boards in the U.S. unknowingly encourage artificial inflation of international students’ grades by accepting questionable credential evaluations. This is a troubling issue to many comparative education researchers because of the way the foreign credentials evaluation industry works in the U.S. Let me explain:

Because many U.S. institutions refer international applicants to credential evaluation services, the true de-facto standards for analyzing foreign academic credentials are shaped by each U.S. institution’s decision about which evaluation services to accept. For many years, U.S. institutions and evaluation services successfully self-regulated in this environment, sharing and comparing research and creating a generally consistent standard for evaluation decisions. However, while the number of international applicants is growing, the self-regulated balance in U.S. credential evaluations is becoming increasingly threatened.

In recent years, a small number of evaluation services, including at least one very large provider, have started to deviate significantly from generally-accepted evaluation decisions in ways that seem blatantly more “generous” to certain groups of international students. While an evolving understanding of comparative education does require some disagreement among the community, a private entity’s dramatic shift towards evaluation results that inflate U.S. degree and grade equivalency recommendations appears to be motivated mainly by short-term financial profit.

Here’s the problem – if U.S. colleges, universities and professional licensing boards decide to accept evaluations from providers that inflate students’ degree recommendations and grades, the dishonest evaluator will win! Of course students will flock to an evaluation service that recommends consistently higher levels of education than its competitors. Consumers should always be able to shop around for lower prices or better service, but students should probably not be able to pay for artificially inflated credential evaluation results.

So what’s the solution? U.S. institutions need to be more cautious when accepting foreign credential evaluations. Colleges, universities, licensing boards and others should be very comfortable with an evaluation service’s personnel and methodology before accepting their evaluations. Additionally, currently accepted evaluators should be periodically reviewed to ensure continued best practices.

Here are two very helpful resources : “Guide for Selecting a Foreign Credential Evaluation Service,” by the NAFSA: Association of International Educators and “An Admissions Office’s Guide to Foreign Credential Evaluations” by the Association of International Credential Evaluators.

Most reputable evaluation services have not compromised the integrity of their evaluation methods, and some evaluators such as the members of the Association of International Credential Evaluators even make concerted efforts to share research and form consensus decisions. My company, Credential Consultants, is promoting evaluation consistency by collecting and organizing comparative education research as a comprehensive resource for those in the community. I encourage admissions officials at U.S. institutions to reach out to evaluators and get to know the people behind the “due diligence”. Many of us are happy to answer questions and get to know you as well.

Drew Feder
Acting President & Co-Founder
Credential Consultants, Inc.

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Filed under Credentials, Education

2 responses to “Importing Grade Inflation? – Credential Evaluation Economics

  1. Bridgett J

    I applaud you on your discussion of this issue. I would like all of my students to be successful, but when I have students that have attended colleges and universities from countries other than the U.S., I feel that sometimes transcript evaluators may accept credits that are not equivalent to what is offered at the current institution. It is evident in their classwork and exams. Many of my international students have problems with reading comprehension and critical thinking. I am frustrated when I have to teach basic English, as well as my course content.

  2. Gerard P.

    Bridget J., I think you are completely missing the point. English proficiency and critical thinking have NOTHING to do with foreign credential evaluation. Credential evaluation is just an assessment or “measurement” of the content, length/duration and depth of someone’s previous academic record and performance. It is NOT an English or IQ assessment. You are questioning their credentials because they allegedly can’t speak perfect English or can’t understand your English. What logic is that? As a native French speaker, I personally had to attend an intensive English program for nearly 6 months and submit qualifying Toefl and GRE scores before I could apply for Grad school. My current experience as a Professor and scholar in the U.S. is slightly different from yours. I have seen countless engineers and doctors from foreign countries arbitrarily forced to start from scratch when applying for U.S. Universities because of the “laziness” of dubious credential evaluators working in “connection” with colleges/universities so foreign students are forced into taking in more credits than necessary toward graduation. My international students are not less intelligent than the rest of the class…They want to be successful too. Speaking of critical thinking, please make sure yours always stays sharp…

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