Sunday, July 8, 2007

On the returns to studying at University

1) Eric Rasmusen raises the question of why student grades can't be posted with their names next to them. When students' grades are posted they have to use an ID number that makes it difficult to identify who got the grade.

The question is: wouldn't posting of grades create even more of an incentive for students to work harder? It is not really clear to me what the downside is, though I suppose that it would create even more pressure for grade inflation. In any case, Eric points to England where posting of names with grades has been allowed at least at Cambridge for 300 years. There is a push to end it because:

"It just adds to the stress . . . ."


But that is another way of saying that it adds to the incentive to do well.

2) I was talking to my second oldest son today about studying at universities. He has been taking summer school classes, and he pointed out to me that the range in ability in his university classes seems narrower than was the case in high school. Given the sorting that goes on as you move up through different levels of education, I don't think that claim is too surprising. The question that we discussed is what does that do to your incentive to study and the implication seems pretty clear. In high school, if there is a large gap between yourself and the next student, you could slack off some with out it making much difference. But if all the students are really tightly packed in terms of ability, the returns to studying would be higher.

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