Phi Beta Cons

Whose Fault Is Grade Inflation?

Many professors decry what they call the “commodification” of college – treating the student as a consumer and placing career ahead of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Yet they participate in the worst aspect of commodification – inflating the metric of a product’s value. An “A” is not worth what it used to be, just as a dollar is not worth what it used to be because there are so many dollars.

Grade inflation is attractive to many professors because it keeps student evaluations up and reduces student complaints. And, to be fair, it’s a fight that is impossible to conduct alone.

Only a few schools have attempted to oppose the trend. UNC has developed a partial solution: including on a student’s transcript not only his or her grade in a course but the average grade in that section of the course. That happened only because one professor, Andrew Perrin, kept pushing for it, in spite of opposition from students and apparent indifference from administrators. A few years ago, Princeton tried to limit the number of As – but dropped the program.  

The subject seems intractable, but there is a lively conversation about it going on at the Pope Center’s site, kicked off by an article George Leef wrote a few days ago.

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...


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