Monday, March 02, 2009

Grade Inflation: University of Michigan Law School



From the always-interesting TaxProf Blog (just added to my "Blogs I Like" list), the graph and table above show the significant grade inflation at the University of Michigan Law School over the last 50 years or so. The most amazing statistic to me is that half of Michigan law students in the 1950s had GPAs less than 2.50 compared to only 1% in 2000-2001.

See previous CD post here on significant grade inflation at the Flint campus of the University of Michigan from 1986-2005.

Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn't. In some schools, they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. Failing grades have been abolished and class valedictorians scrapped, lest anyone's feelings be hurt. Effort is as important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

16 Comments:

At 3/02/2009 10:28 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

I really think that part of this has to do with the fact that college is so expensive as compared to earlier times. People treat classes as commodities, so they expect an easy route to a decent GPA. It would be interesting to see data that correlates three things over time: average GPA, average tuition, and the average number of non-faculty "administrators" at universities public and private. I suspect that the third item is a major reason why the cost of higher education has far outpaced inflation since the 1950's. Just my opinion.

 
At 3/02/2009 10:38 PM, Blogger misterjosh said...

Being brilliant but lazy, I have to admit that I also benefited from grade inflation. I probably shouldn't have gotten my baccalaureate, much less my MBA.

Part of me believes that this is a part of the decline and fall of the great American experiment.

Another part of me believes we are a people who are constantly re-inventing ourselves, and it's just about time for such a re-invention.

 
At 3/02/2009 10:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris
With college being so expensive, people wouldn't treat classes as an inexpensive commodity, would they?

 
At 3/02/2009 11:32 PM, Anonymous Annonymous 4:26 AM said...

I know this isn't all of it, and probably not even most of it, but something to think about.

How much of the grade inflation is because of more people having the opportunity to get into law school in the first place? If there are more people applying, and only the top applicants get in, won't a higher percentage of students be high grade earners?

Maybe part of the problem is that the college hasn't increased the difficulty in its curriculum as the quality of the students has increased.

 
At 3/03/2009 12:19 AM, Anonymous jrich said...

Anon 10.52-With college being so expensive, people wouldn't treat classes as an inexpensive commodity, would they?

Figure government subsidies into the equation. Also, the perception of the extra income such an "education" will seemingly magically provide makes it seem like a worthwhile "investment." Inexpensive, no, but in the grand scheme of things, many people do an intuitive cost/benefit analysis and figure it's worth it...for better or worse.

Anon 4.26-Maybe part of the problem is that the college hasn't increased the difficulty in its curriculum as the quality of the students has increased.

You raise an interesting point, but here is a question I would ask in response. What high schools (or school systems) are these higher quality students coming from to do so well in college and grad school?

 
At 3/03/2009 1:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People adjust their inflation expectations. This is no different.

 
At 3/03/2009 1:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went down memory lane and looked at the earlier post on U Flint's grade inflation. Guess who defended the grade inflation (while denying it's existence)? Walt G!

I bet he will tell us that unions aren't the problem and don't inflate salaries and don't lead to unemployment (less than optimal employment)? Oh wait, he does tell us that.

 
At 3/03/2009 2:04 AM, Blogger David Damore said...

What was the graduation rate for each measured period?

Are more students not graduating [now vs. prior periods]?

Perhaps a greater number of poor performing students are dropping out [not graduating]. This would leave more top performing students that actually graduate.

 
At 3/03/2009 2:44 AM, Blogger Robert Sperry said...

If this graph were for Car quality, or computer chip quality the interpretation would be obvious... the product got better over time through the engineering process.

Why is this not the assumption with education?

Oh right, there are no educational engineers. Its assumed in the question by using inflation that GPA is an arbitrary indicator, and not an objective measure.

Much worse than educational inflation, is that we don't even expect the educational institutions to improve or even measure their quality. That would imply an expectation of accountability...what do we think these people are bankers?

 
At 3/03/2009 6:50 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Law school is usually graded on a curve. How can you have grade inflation unless they changed the curve?

 
At 3/03/2009 10:23 AM, Anonymous Chris said...

Anon 10:52

Yes I mean exactly that. The perception among students (at least when I was in college from 1999-2003) was, "Hell, I'm shelling out tons of money for this class. Damn right it should be easy to get an A!" In essence, the class (and the resulting grade) was something that was being purchased, hence, a commodity.

Also, funding rarely figured into students' perceptions of who was paying tuition. Even if the student had grants or other non-merit scholarships, the perception usually was that the student was "working so hard" and footing the bill him/herself.

I'm just taking an alternate tack on the "entitlement culture" that may explain (in part at least) grade inflation.

 
At 3/03/2009 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Effort is as important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life."

You mean to teach people that if they are willing to try twice as hard and twice as long at half the success rate that they can't still succeed?

Check out "The Race Between Technology and Education"

 
At 3/03/2009 4:31 PM, Blogger 1 said...

anon @ 2:27 PM says: "You mean to teach people that if they are willing to try twice as hard and twice as long at half the success rate that they can't still succeed?"

How about you checking out Charles Murray's We Can't All Make the Grade...

 
At 3/16/2009 2:57 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Grade inflation doesn't really matter at Michigan Law. It's all graded on a curve. Its all just a different name for the same thing. Just a matter of semantics. It has nothing to do with "expectations" or the like. If the curve was at 2.5, employers would just come here expecting to take anyone with a 2.5 or above, and so forth.

 
At 3/17/2009 6:26 PM, Anonymous jsbrook said...

The curve has SHIFTED. That's about it. 3.0 is a pretty shitty law GPA today and won't get you into the top firms. 50 years ago when a lot less people had it, maybe it would have.

 
At 7/05/2009 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Law school grading is a scam, since there is no real difference between A and C. The quality of students in today's law school are much much much better than in 1950. So the difference between A and C is much less apparent. So, most grades are based on trivial variations in exam papers not on substance.

 

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