Mental Floss

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

Brett Savage
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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]

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