Grade Inflation

17 July 2011 at 10:15 am 2 comments

| Peter Klein |

Via Steve Kates, some data on US grade inflation that may or may not surprise you. I leave discussion of root causes to the discussion thread.

Contemporary data indicate that, on average across a wide range of schools, A’s represent 43% of all letter grades, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988. D’s and F’s total typically less than 10% of all letter grades. Private colleges and universities give, on average, significantly more A’s and B’s combined than public institutions with equal student selectivity. Southern schools grade more harshly than those in other regions, and science and engineering-focused schools grade more stringently than those emphasizing the liberal arts. At schools with modest selectivity, grading is as generous as it was in the mid-1980s at highly selective schools. These prestigious schools have, in turn, continued to ramp up their grades. It is likely that at many selective and highly selective schools, undergraduate GPAs are now so saturated at the high end that they have little use as a motivator of students and as an evaluation tool for graduate and professional schools and employers.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Steve Phelan  |  17 July 2011 at 10:47 am

    The largest inflation actually occurred in the 60s. While many attribute this to the need to dodge the draft, I think the real reason was that professional schools became significantly more selective in this period because college enrollments tripled from 1945 to 1960. This triggered an arms race with private schools having an even greater incentive to inflate.

  • 2. Matt Stiles  |  17 July 2011 at 12:10 pm

    As an employer, there are only two grades to be considered nowadays: Graduated or not graduated.

    I’m not going to bother requesting applicants to prove their actual grades. It doesn’t matter. Whether they got A’s or C’s does not give me any additional information that I can use in making an informed hiring decision.

    Even the possession of a degree is a marginal factor in hiring. Unless it directly relates to the position being offered, I’d almost rather hire someone without a degree. Wage expectations will be lower, less “culture of entitlement,” etc.

    Give me life experience, work experience and clear communication skills any day over a silly piece of paper.

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