Grade Inflation Spreads at U.S. Colleges; Private Schools Lead

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Getting good grades in college is not as challenging as it once was, especially for students attending private institutions of higher learning. After charting 50 years worth of grade point averages, researchers Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy found that both public and private universities have been giving out higher marks—more so among the privates.

Catherine Rampell of The New York Times noted that Rojstaczer and Healy concluded that higher GPAs at private colleges may be a result of easier grading, which also may “help explain why private school students are over-represented in top medical, business and law schools and certain Ph.D. programs.”
Overall, college GPAs elevated from a national average of 2.52 in the 1950s to 3.11 by the mid-1990s. The big increase began in the 1960s, leveled off in the 1970s, started again in the 1980s and has continued ever since. Rojstaczer and Healy point out that average SAT scores have changed little during this period. The divergence between private and public school GPAs began in the early 1960s.
Rojstaczer and Healy suggest that the ongoing rise in grades is likely influenced by “the emergence of the now common practice of requiring student-based evaluations of college teachers.”
-David Wallechinsky
Want a Higher G.P.A.? Go to a Private College (by Catherine Rampell, New York Times)
Grading in American Colleges and Universities (by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy, Teachers College Record) (pdf)


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