GPA data shows discrepant results for races

Ryan Jarvi

Data provided by Institutional Analysis at Grand Valley State University showed discrepancies among GPAs of bachelor’s degree recipients for the 2011-2012 school year, with race and ethnicity being a notable factor.

Students who self-identified as African-American or black had an average GPA of 2.95, which was lower than the overall average GPA of 3.23.

Students who identified themselves as white, which made up 87 percent of degree recipients, had an average GPA of 3.26. Asian or Pacific Islander graduates had the second highest GPA at 3.19, followed by the smallest group, American Indian or Alaskan Native—only 1 percent of the population—with a GPA of 3.15. Finally, Hispanic or Latino students had an average of 3.14.

One significant factor in the overall academic performance of students in higher education is their level of college preparedness, said Gayle Davis, vice president and provost of Academic Affairs.

“As has been widely noted, ethnic and racial groups within the state’s population are highly segregated in Michigan, and those segregated areas are different, one from another in terms of the affluence and effectiveness of their K-12 educational systems,” Davis said.

She added that students at underfunded schools may participate in ineffective educational programs more frequently than well-funded affluent schools.

“Unfortunately for our state, less affluent locations are often the home of minority ethnic and racial populations,” Davis said. “When you see somewhat lower GPAs on average, of still very successful students of color at Grand Valley, these college readiness factors may well play a part.”

In a recent Lanthorn article, Nancy Giardina, assistant vice president of Academic Affairs, said she is establishing a committee of faculty and staff members that will review remedial courses at GVSU, which are designed to prepare unprepared students for courses at the college level.

In addition to remedial courses, GVSU offers a number of services that are designed to provide students with academic support, said Dean of Students Bart Merkle.

“There is a whole range of resources that are intended to try to assist students to be successful in their academic and their personal lives,” Merkle said. “But the nature of the university environment is such that each individual student makes a decision about how, when and whether to use any of those resources, and while we can encourage students to take advantage of the things that are available to them, we certainly can’t make them.”

Coming from different high schools, different parts of Michigan and other states, as well, each student brings their own experiences to GVSU. The amount of college-preparedness that high schools provide each student varies dramatically, which Merkle said is unfortunate.

“Education is absolutely key and at the very heart of our democratic society,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what your politics are, education is key to the running of our whole society, and democracy depends on an educated citizenry.”

For students struggling to keep their GPAs up, GVSU’s Student Academic Success Center might be able to help.

“Tutoring is a service that students don’t have to pay for,” said Mike Messner, director of the SASC. “It’s funded right out of their tuition dollars.”

Tutors at the center are all undergraduate students, and for most 100 and 200 level courses, they are available to help students who want it, Messner said.

Wendy Steenland, tutoring assistant at the SASC Tutoring Center, said the office gets a variety of students seeking help.

“We get students that are struggling with courses, and we get students with (an) A minus who want an A, because they might be going to grad school and want that higher GPA,” Steenland said.

Students seeking help can go online to request a tutor and one will be assigned to them for a whole semester. Appointments are once a week for one academic hour or 50 minutes. The Writing Center, the Math and Stats Center, the Science Success Center and GEO tutoring also offer walk-in tutoring services.

For more information on tutoring services visit,
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