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Higher Ed in the News

Private colleges fuel grade inflation

April 25, 20-10

Over the last 50 years, college grade-point averages have risen about 0.1 points per decade, with private schools fueling the most grade inflation, a recent study finds.

According to the study [PDF] by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy, starting in the 1950s, grading at public and private schools began to diverge. Students at private schools started receiving significantly higher grades than those received by their equally-qualified peers — based on SAT scores and other measures — at public schools.

Based on contemporary grading data the authors collected from 160 schools, the average G.P.A. at private colleges and universities today is 3.3. At public schools, it is 3.0.

Additionally, the study found, science departments today grade on average 0.4 points lower than humanities departments, and 0.2 points lower than social science departments. Such harsher grading for the sciences appears to have existed for at least 40 years, and perhaps much longer.

Relatively lower grades in the sciences discourage American students from studying such disciplines, the authors argue.

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