Study: Grade inflation in colleges rampant since 1960s
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.
Conclusions/Recommendations: As a result of instructors gradually lowering their standards, A has become the most common grade on American college campuses. Without regulation, or at least strong grading guidelines, grades at American institutions of higher learning likely will continue to have less and less meaning.
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