Runaway GPAs

Earlier this month I wrote a blog post that shared a wild story about my son’s precalculus teacher.

When the teacher said no late assignments, he meant it. A cancer patient who was taking his class nearly died from the wrong dose of chemotherapy, but the teacher still wouldn’t accept her late paper.

I think there are many more teachers out there who are GPA pushovers than those who would kick a cancer patient to the curb. And that’s certainly born out by research conducted on college grade inflation by a former geophysics professor at Duke.

Stuart Rojskaczer, who founded, has been collecting data on college grades for 20 years. What he’s observed is that many schools are continuing to boost their GPAs. His data shows that college grades at private schools are higher than at state schools and so are the rates of increase.

Rojskaczer notes that the “sweet spot” for high rates of college grade inflation right now are at private schools that aren’t as selective as the elites. He observes that these schools are just trying to catchup with the elites that already have average GPAs in the 3.5 to 3.6 range.

In his blog, Rojskaczer notes that of all the private schools he tracks, the only school that has attacked the grade inflation problem is Princeton. Grades at Princeton have gone down significantly in recent years.

Okay, so what’s the big deal if some day the average college student is pulling down all “A’s?” Here’s Rojskaczer response:

What will it mean if in 2040, A is average in many of America’s colleges? It certainly means that grades will be meaningless. It also undoubtedly means that we will have severely discounted the value of higher education. Grade inflation represents the greatest collective failure in education in America over the last 20 years.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy, who graduated with a rather unimpressive 3.25 GPA from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism (and I didn’t even take those scary hard science and math classes), is the author The College Solution.

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