The Reasons Why America Is Currently Producing Sub-Par Academics

Even with new inventive teaching methods, American students continue to produce sub par academically in comparison to other countries. Students in the United States are currently producing sub-par academically; this is harming our economy and lowering our educational standings with other countries. If the education system could motivate students to learn more and achieve higher grades, the United States could out perform others academically. This imperative motivation could come from lowered tuition in reward for higher G.P.A.s. This will help students especially in the United States start to catch up to other countries in terms of math and science, and would reward hardworking students with a lower tuition.

The economy is, essentially, the amount of wealth and resources within a single country. The status of the United States’ economy is currently in a very rough state when compared to Asian countries like South Korea, Japan, and Vietnam (Desilver). More jobs are requiring a college education, and not many college students are filling in these employment gaps.

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“A recent study… found that at current levels of production, the United States. economy will have a shortfall of 5 million college-educated workers by 2020” (Bergeron and Martin). This means that there is an economic need for students to earn a college degree to fill in important new jobs. The economy of the United States is currently in need of improvement, and college debt is not helping cease its decline. In this article from the Wall Street journal, author Mitchell Daniels is discussing college graduates with debt, or “borrowers,” and how their debt is affecting their lives individually and the the economy as a whole.

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… today’s 20- and 30-year-olds are delaying marriage and delaying childbearing, both unhelpful trends from an economic and social standpoint. Between 25% and 40% of borrowers report postponing homes, cars and other major purchases. Half say that their student loans are increasing their risk of defaulting on other bills. (Daniels).

All of this information is evidence that the economy is currently faulty, when young college graduates are not making major purchases they are not greatly contributing to the prosperity of the economy. Similarly, when borrowers cannot pay their loans or bills they are not likely to spend what little money they have in order to give back into the economy. The importance of college students’ removal of college debt cannot be over-stated in this case, as their accomplishments directly link to the United States’ economic well-being.

So why are these statistics, that state that America’s economy and education are performing poorly, worthy of one’s time? The economy is a vital part to the American workforce, and is a big influencing factor in any large businesses. Bigger production and consumption means more wealth and power for the country, meaning that the United States needs the economy to grow. A major factor that could contribute to this growth is through the education and financial aid of college students. If the United States could get college students motivated to work harder and attain higher grades, the economy, and therefore the United States, would prosper. Why is motivation so important to America’s education, aren’t students in the United States already pushed enough? Some people feel as though students already have enough on their plate, and that they have all the motivation they could need.

As it turns out, this way of thinking is in the minority, as “only 29% of Americans rated their country’s K-12 education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known as STEM) as above average or the best in the world.” (Desilver). Most Americans feel that the education in the STEM fields in the United States is not generally better than anywhere else in the world currently. This statistic is also supported in reference to math and science standardized tests, showing the United States as 481st on average in comparison to other countries in math scores, and 497th in science scores (Desilver).

Thus, the United States is not currently making enough of an effort to “stand out” when in comparison to the rest of the world. Having a strong growing economy while also having a sturdy successful higher education in the United States. are two important issues that could be fixed by the same solution. This solution would be to reward college students with a lower tuition in return for higher G.P.A.S. This will not only benefit students financially, but will help motivate them to work harder and do more with the education they are receiving. Having debt-free college graduates that are motivated by monetary incentives would be very welcome in the corporate world. Students’ transition to payment for a satisfactory job performance is not a big change when they have practiced it beforehand within their college for satisfactory academic performance. A major issue with today’s education is the lack of student motivation.

Motivation for getting good grades through financial rewards seems like a simple solution to a currently large upper education problem. Students who are highly motivated to do their schoolwork will be able to learn more material, “… the quality of education is improved if students put more time and effort into their schoolwork and, as a result, they learn more.” (Henry and Rubenstein). This is not an entirely new concept with most parents, as many parents across the United States have rewarded their child with money at some time, and have seen varied degrees of success. Motivation through lower tuition and motivation through monetary payment can be viewed as the same type of motivation. This is because lower tuition means more money that students don’t need to spend upfront, for instance. If tuition is lessened because of one’s higher G.P.A. then, simply, less money needs to be spent at the start of the college semester.

This also means more money in the long run when there is no student loan interest to pay. With this in mind, statistics gathered from studies done with cash in reward for grades can be applied to college students with a lowered tuition. An important question to ask at this point is, how will this lower tuition affect Colleges and Universities? Institutions are not especially keen to start this merit based aid and potentially lose their main source of revenue (Henry and Rubenstein). Lowering tuition is no easy task, it is a careful balance of quality, access, and cost. Many colleges have tried to focus in on only two of these problems at once, but a better solution is available.

High tuition and high aid would be a very plausible solution, meaning that students who show the most academic success are not sent into debt (Edward 5). In fact, many colleges have found that lowering tuition has actually helped them in the long run, as it has given them more students, more attention, and more money from these new students. Undergraduate and graduate student populations are negatively affected by increased fees, especially when no additional aid is offered. Student aid is important when thinking about declining revenue. (Edward 81) This somewhat simple solution to pay students for higher grades to fix the United States’ education problem has been met with mixed reviews.

Some see this rewarding of students to be scary, or just not the kind of motivation they want to see in students. “There’s something about the practice that just feels… wrong. Isn’t there greater value in reading a good book than a certificate for cheese pizza?” (Flannery). While it is true that students should want to learn and work on their schoolwork just through their integrity alone, we have already seen that Americans are still not achieving as high as they could. This “moral dilemma” of whether students should be given financial rewards for learning and doing well in school is one that can be easily argued. Is it not more important for students to be learning and working hard for their grades, despite having their motivation come from payment, rather than having students who lack any motivation continue to underachieve? Even if some skeptics may not agree with this moral dilemma of paying students, they cannot help but see the effects.

When I indulge my inner moralist and fret over the bonuses, the program leaders always have the same response: It works. It appears particularly good at motivating low-income minority students, who are often the majority in the schools it serves. (Mathews).

Even Jay Mathews, a Washington Post Writer who has on multiple occasions spoken out against paying for higher test scores, can objectively state the effects of these “bonuses” for better grades. Others, like Gary T. Henry and Rubenstein and Ross Rubenstein, have a much higher opinion of this cash incentive and go on to write about its positive effects, “Merit-based financial aid for college stands as the best known public policy instrument available for motivating students through direct, financial incentives.” (Henry and Rubenstein 93). One of the strongest pieces of evidence that cash incentives work is from the study of the HOPE scholarship in Georgia.

The study of the HOPE (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) Scholarship in Georgia has started being used by a wide variety of schools and colleges to try out a merit based scholarship for themselves. The HOPE scholarship provides full tuition and fees plus a book allowance for any georgia student attending a state institution of higher education, if they have a 3.0 or higher in high school and maintain it through college. The theory behind this scholarship was, that,

Policies that motivate students to spend more time and effort on schoolwork will, all else being equal, increase human capital, raise future earnings for the individual and create the social benefit of a more capable workforce (Henry and Rubenstein 96).

What this means is that the more motivation students have to work on their academics, the more skills, knowledge, experience, and future career success these students will gain. Thus, the HOPE scholarship was created to help become that driving force for Georgia students to focus on their studies and achieve higher grades. Students who are rewarded with cash for 3.0 GPAs or higher have shown a significant increase in SAT scores. Several studies involving merit scholarships provided for students with a higher GPA have concluded that students who had the scholarship worked hard to maintain it, and those without it felt jealous and were motivated to get better grades (Henry and Rubenstein 96).

Another study reported by William J.Reid involved three different groups of lower performing middle and high school students who were given different types of help to motivate them. The first group was paid $50 a month if they improved by an overall 15% in their grades, the second group was given individual counseling to help tackle the specific problems holding the student back, and the last group was a control and had no intervention. While the payment group were able increase their overall grades, the study shows that many of the students did not achieve the target of a 15% increase (William). This was not a total loss, however, because even a small increase in grades was better than any decrease, “The payment intervention was able to halt the downward trend in school performance seen in the control group” (William).

The control group continued to underachieve, and their grades did not get any better without help.Even though, in this case, students did not meet the specific goals of the study they were still able to improve their grades because of the incentive of money they were given. This kind of accessibility for hard working students will help draw more students to attend college. This can aid students who can’t work to pay for their school, while attending school, by paying those hard working students. This is a type of “trade off,” where students no longer have to work to pay for college because they are being paid to learn. Learning and working hard on one’s studies becomes a kind of job in itself, where the student no longer has to maintain a job to pay for college.

Students need to be motivated to do better in college, this has been stated multiple times, and a heavy distraction like work would hinder the progress of the student’s learning. Therefore, if students were instead paid to dedicate their time on studying, they would not be impeded by a job and would also want to study and work more to get their lower tuition. However, as tempting and easy this solution may be, should we label students with a higher G.P.A. smarter, or is that just rewarding the wrong type of student? Rewarding college students with a lower tuition based on a 3.0 G.P.A. or higher can cause many problems regarding how students are being perceived.

Many students believe that teachers are just preparing them for just work or desk jobs, and that students who can achieve higher grades are just being rewarded for being able to work harder on homework as opposed to being a dedicated and intelligent student. Students are not a uniform group or people, each one is different in many different ways. Some are very passionate about art, some prefer to work by themselves, some learn better with a more hands-on approach, some are more social learners, the list goes on and on. Even though all these students are different they are academically measured in the same way, with grades. Grades may not show how successful a student is, how intelligent they are, how fast they work, and how these grades were obtained.

This statement of student measurement, while not totally incorrect, is not showing that the American school system is one that is not easily changed. Incredulously, grades are important, and can be applied in ways that will help students rather than hinder them. For example, a student in high school that has consistently poor grades and is not accepted by a highly prestigious university because of these grades, can actually be beneficial for the student. This is because a student that has repeatedly not done well with the grading in high school will probably not do better when at a, presumably academically harder, university. In this way, grades can be help a helpful indicator of a student’s ability when it comes to more challenging work.

Success, however, can be very different from academics and is measured by every individual in a different way, and some successes may not ever appreciated by anyone. Students need to define success for themselves, which may often not be in terms of their grades (Freakonomics). Many people may define success in how much income someone receives, and one could perceive that the higher the G.P.A. the more high-paying a job the student will have. This is not necessarily true, and people tend to take many different career paths in their life that don’t have to define how “successful” they are (Freakonomics). While it is true that students come in a wide variety and each one should not be compared to each other, this is an unrealistic approach to the situation. Every single student deserves to be educated, but there are simply not enough resources, teachers, and attention that can be spent on students at this time. If every student were to be treated differently, it would be harder to gauge each one’s success and ability in comparison to their classmates’.

Although parents may not want their child judged on their intellect and product alone, this is a fact of life. People everywhere are being judged constantly by everyone else, and comparison and rankings are unavoidable. If there is one new position at a company, there is only one person who can be chosen, presumably the best in comparison to the other applicants. This ranking of how well one works will only help to prepare students for what it will be like once they graduate and enter into the corporate world. Some people believe that more intelligent students find school work dull and uninteresting. This can cause them to lack motivation because they do not see how this will apply in the real world.

Some people are just not passionate about what they are learning, causing them to become less motivated and absorb less information (Radwan). There is a wide variation regarding the measure of intelligence. Some people think faster, some think logically, some think about overall layout while other are thinking about important details, and it’s very hard to measure a student’s monetary worth based on their academic successes alone. There is a standardized form of teaching in the United States, and not every student can and will conform to this type of learning. This would not measure intelligence per-se, but rather the ability to churn out proper answers on tests and homework despite what happens behind the scenes. While there is no way to see what happens “behind the scenes” in terms of a perfect score, this doesn’t stop the fact that every student right now is being judged or ranked.

This can be in terms of their individual grades, G.P.A.S, SAT or ACT scores, or attendance. Every public school in the United States utilizes these grades and categories to their advantage. The American school system, flawed as it is, was set up in this standardized way and has largely worked for hundreds of years (Historical). Although an alternate method may be superior, these divisions are still the current way of thinking and do not appear to be going away anytime soon.

There is also the touchy subject of thievery and cheating to achieve this lower tuition. Whether it’s copying someone else’s homework, looking up answers to tests in class, or simply looking to one’s neighbor’s paper during an exam, there will always be a readily available way to cheat for one’s higher grades.

Many studies classify students as cheaters if they acknowledge having ever cheated at any time, in any way, during their college studies. The reported rate of cheating at American four-year institutions using this definition ranges from 47.2 percent… to 70 percent (Wotring 1)

This means that students who, have stated in studies, that they have cheated at some point in their duration in college education, is around 47.2%-70%. This statistic is telling people that cheating is still prevalent today, and that grades are not gotten the same way. This incentive will only help students find ways to pay others for writing their essays or otherwise not have to worry as much about keeping their grade up by paying or sneaking their way to the top. There is no way to determine the validity of grades, a 100% from perseverance and daily studying vs. 100% from a slapped together late night work rush vs. 100% from a $5 essay bought online from someone the student will never meet, are all considered the same amount for the monetary reward.

This is a flaw in the American education system, and is a flaw that could be rewarding the wrong kind of students, the cheaters. Still, with this grading system in place, there is no other way to determine the validity of grades. Despite all the American education’s shortcomings, a merit-based scholarship for college students is still a predominantly a benefit. It would help motivate students to improve their grades to stay out of debt while those currently with the scholarship are on the path to a debt-free life. This debt-free life would help the students financially, and therefore benefitting the entire United States’ economy. Having the economy thrive and grow will support the United States’ power and influence over the world, and will boost the morale of the country. Having college graduates be rewarded with financial aid in response to higher grades will guide America in the direction it needs to go.

Works Cited

  1. Bergeron, David A., and Carmel Martin. “Strengthening Our Economy Through College for All.” Center for American Progress. N.p., 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 05 May 2016.
  2. Daniels, Mitchell E. “Mitchell E. Daniels: How Student Debt Harms the Economy.” The Wall Street Journal. N.p., 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 05 May 2016.
  3. Desilver, Drew. “United States. Students Improving – Slowly – in Math and Science, but Still Lagging Internationally.” Pew Research Center RSS. FACTANK, 02 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.
  4. “Do Good Grades Predict Success? – Freakonomics.” Freakonomics. N.p., 29 Sept. 2008. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.
  5. Flannery, Mary E. “Cash for Grades?” National Education Association. N.P., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
  6. Henry, Gary T., and Ross Rubenstein. “Paying for Grades: Impact of Merit-Based Financial Aid on Education Quality.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. N.p., 12 Jan. 2002. Web. 3 Mar. 2016.+
  7. “Historical Timeline of Public Education in the US.” Race Forward. N.p., 13 Apr. 2006. Web. 05 May 2016.
  8. Mathews, Jay. “Okay, I Give Up. Money for Good Grades Might Work.”Washington Post. The Washington Post, 30 Mar. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.
  9. P., St John Edward. Rethinking Tuition and Student Aid Strategies. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1995. Print.
  10. Radwan, M. “5 Reasons Grades Don’t Reflect Intelligence.” 2Know MySelf. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.
  11. William, Reid J., and Cynthia A. Bailey-Dempsey. “Cash Incentives versus Case Management: Can Money Replace Services in Preventing School Failure?” N.p., 11 July 1993. Web. 13 Mar. 2016
  12. Winograd, Marcy. “Dear Marcy and Jackie: Don’t Pay for Grades.” The Huffington Post., 2 Dec. 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
  13. Wotring, Kathleen E. “ERIC – Cheating in the Community College: Generational Differences among Students and Implications for Faculty, Inquiry, 2007.” ERIC. N.p., 2007. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.

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The Reasons Why America Is Currently Producing Sub-Par Academics. (2021, Sep 21). Retrieved from

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