Give Me an A! Grade Inflation at U.S. Colleges

Brett Savage

I've got some bad news for you. All those A's and B's you received in college that made your parents so proud and boosted your self-esteem? Well—they were bogus (sort of).

Graph courtesy of Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy, via NY Times

A new Economix blog post by Catherine Rampell of the New York Times discusses a recent study on grade inflation at U.S. colleges since the 1940s. Apparently, college professors have been handing out A's and B's willy-nilly in recent decades, with a substantial increase in overly generous grading in the past decade.

By the end of last decade, A's and B's accounted for 73% of all grades at public institutions, and 86% of all grades awarded at private institutions, a huge increase over past decades.

The report takes a couple of ideological stabs at explaining this phenomenon—namely, an increase in the "consumer-based approach" to education. But the real answer is probably more involved than that, and certainly more complicated than "students just work super-duper hard now."

Do you think it's noticeably easier to get "good grades" these days? I'm sure not many of you are lamenting the comparative loss/reduction of those cringe-inducing C's, D's, and F's. Not that any flossers know what those look like.

[More on the Study: Where A Is Ordinary: The Evolution of American College and University Grading, 1940–2009]