Phi Beta Cons

Time to Grow a Backbone

Fighting grade inflation requires thoughtful policies and the courage to implement them.

Jesse Saffron’s latest article, “Reforms aimed at fighting grade inflation are falling short,” exposes some ugly truths about grade inflation: that it plagues most college campuses and that policies used to combat it so far have not worked–with one notable exception.

Saffron writes: 

In 2004, Princeton began restricting “A” grades in undergraduate courses to 35 percent. The cap achieved its intended effect, but student backlash was severe…The cap was eventually removed. Some had hoped that other top schools would follow Princeton’s lead, but it was Princeton that conformed with its peers. 

Unfortunately, other efforts have not only failed to curb grade inflation, but in some cases have exacerbated it. For example, Cornell’s attempt at “truth in grading” simply drove students to easier classes.

The policy solution is clear. Other universities should adopt Princeton’s successful policy. The hard part is sticking with it.

Jenna A. Robinson — Jenna Ashley Robinson is the president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. Before becoming president, she was the center's director of outreach. She was previously the ...

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