Grade inflation at University continues to rise

Janelle Polcyn

Although students often toss around the phrase “Cs get degrees,” a recent study indicates that more college students nowadays are getting As and Bs, with the same or less effort as students in the 1960s.  

According to a study in Teachers College Record journal updated March 29, full-time college students in 2008 were three times more likely to receive an A and put in 10 hours less work. Independent researchers Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy surveyed 135 schools and 1.5 million students for the study. 

Math lecturer Jesse Miller said part of the reason students are receiving higher grades is because universities view students as consumers, and education is treated as a business.

“Grades should reflect students’ abilities and should not rise or fall artificially,” Miller said in an email. “Grades are feedback about how well students are doing in the class. That feedback is almost certainly useless and inaccurate if everyone gets an A.  An instructor … is not doing that student a favor by misreporting that student’s ability.”

Economics lecturer Wayne Hickenbottom said grade inflation is not a new topic, but part of the problem comes from today’s mindset that everyone gets a trophy.

“People are more and more unwilling to say you’re better than somebody else,” Hickenbottom said. “I would like to see us get back to a standard where a C is an OK grade — that you were doing as well as anybody else. If everybody gets an A, … you’re not getting any differentiation at the top.”

Psychology sophomore Jared Lindenberg said grades are not a direct representation of abilities, so the fact that grades are increasing helps students pursue more options.

“It might help you get into grad schools or get you your first entry level job or internship, but after that, it’s not really affecting anything,” Lindenberg said. “If anything, [grade inflation is] more beneficial to students because it’s allowing them to have more opportunities.”

UT introduced the plus-minus grading system in 2009 to address grade inflation, but seven years later, studies still show class averages rising.

“Grade inflation has not happened because of conscious choices that people have made to make it happen,” Miller said. “The problem, rather, is that the system as a whole has evolved into one that rewards giving high grades regardless of what students have earned, and it will take a massive effort by everyone involved to change the course of that evolution.”