Students begging or threatening their instructors for a higher grade than they’ve actually earned, commonly known as “grade grubbing,” is a problem frequently encountered and discussed by today’s educators.

To find out more about how common grade grubbing is in today’s learning institutions, and how educators typically respond, in August, surveyed 288 high school teachers and college professors.

Key findings:

  • 44% of educators say students often ask for better grades than they’ve earned
  • 82% of educators have given into demands
  • 38% have faced harassment from students and 33% from parents, over grades
  • 45% believe Gen Z students ask for better grades more frequently than previous generations

44% of Educators Say Students Often Beg for Better Grades

More than 4 in 10 educators surveyed say students ‘somewhat’ (26%) or ‘very often’ (18%) ask them to change their grades to a higher score that they haven’t earned. Additionally, 24% say this happens ‘every so often’ and 25% say it happens ‘rarely.’ Only 6% of respondents say students ‘never’ ask them to improve their grades.

“Anecdotally, there appears to be an increase in the frequency of students trying to negotiate higher grades,” says Professor and Higher Education Advisor, Diane Gayeski.

“While there’s not a lot of research on this yet, in a study of undergraduate students preparing for careers in medicine, ‘over a quarter of the respondents self-reported engaging in grade-focused interactions… Of these individuals, 71% were successful in their negotiation for a higher grade,’” Gayeski explains.

Reasons students have given these educators as justification for changing their grades include having trouble in their personal lives (59%), that the class was too difficult (41%), that the grading was unfair (35%), or that they were sick (35%).

Write-in responses from respondents as to why students have asked them to change their grades include:

  • “A low grade would ruin their average.”
  • “They believe the teacher’s grade was biased.”
  • “Parents will get mad if they know they didn’t do their work.”

8 in 10 Give Into Students’ Grade Change Requests

When asked how frequently they agree to improve students’ grades when asked, 34% of educators say they ‘rarely’ do, 20% say they do ‘occasionally,’ 17% say they do ‘sometimes,’ and 11% say they agree to improve students’ grades ‘almost always.’ Only 18% say they ‘never’ agree to change grades.

Among educators who have agreed to improve students’ grades, reasons for doing so included that they believed the student deserved a second chance (73%), they felt bad for the student (33%), and that they were afraid of retribution for not changing grades (19%).

“Some professors feel that if they present their grading system as the ability to earn points rather than to lose points, students might feel differently about their grades,” says Gayeski.

“Most students who challenge a grade feel that they have unfairly lost points – often because an assignment or a question was not clear. To be candid, this frequently may be true at the college level.

“While K-12 teachers must be certified and have taken courses in pedagogy and test construction, very few college professors have had any training in those areas. Creating very specific grading rubrics so that students can understand how they earn points for various aspects of a paper or project can minimize these concerns.”

45% Say Gen Z Students Grade Grub More Frequently Than Previous Generations

When educators were asked to compare Gen Z’s grade grubbing tendencies to previous generations of students, 45% say they believe this generation of students asks for better grades more frequently.

Seventeen percent say this generation grade grubs less frequently than previous generations, 31% say it’s about the same, and 7% are not sure.

Among those who believe this generation asks for better grades more frequently, 73% say they believe this is due to a sense of entitlement, 65% say it’s a lack of willingness to work hard, and 48% cited setbacks due to the pandemic.

Write-in responses as to why Gen Z grade grubs more frequently included:

  • “Depression.”
  • “They’re brainwashed by the current ‘woke’ agenda that makes them think they’re owed a free ride.”

“It’s important to understand what’s behind students’ concern about grades – and it’s more than a feeling of entitlement,” says Gayeski. “Most college students in the U.S. have some type of scholarship, and it’s typical for them to be required to maintain a 3.0 (B) average– some scholarships require an even higher GPA.

“Just one C grade (which some professors feel is ‘average’) can put a student in jeopardy of losing their scholarship and having to drop out of school, essentially wasting the money and time they have already invested.

“Also, many professions such as medicine, social work, or accounting require a graduate degree, and most graduate schools won’t accept anyone with less than a B average,” she explains.

1 in 3 Educators Have Been Harassed by Parents Over Grades

Eighty percent of respondents say students have gone above their head to complain about receiving lower grades than they wanted. Thirty-three percent say this ‘rarely,’ happens, 16% say it happens ‘every so often,’ 18% ‘somewhat often,’ and 13% ‘very often.’ Just 20% say this ‘never’ happens to them.

When asked if they have faced any other consequences as a result of giving students lower grades than they wanted, 38% say they have been harassed by students, 33% have been harassed by parents, 30% have been reprimanded by higher-ups, and 7% have even been fired.

Write-in responses to this question also included:

  • “Student appeals the grade and I must defend my actions in assigning the grade I submitted.”
  • “Bad/poor evaluations from those students. Complaints on the school’s social media for students.”


This survey was commissioned by and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish. It was launched on August 23, 2023. 288 respondents completed the full survey.

To qualify for the survey all participants had to be aged 25 or older, employed for wages in the education sector with at least 11 employees at their workplace, have a household income of at least $25,000 per year, and at least a university degree.

Respondents were then screened to include only teachers and professors who work with students at the high school, undergraduate, or graduate level and have been teaching for at least two years.

To avoid bias Pollfish employs Random Device Engagement (RDE) to ensure both random and organic surveying. Learn more about Pollfish’s survey methodology or contact [email protected] for more information.