Lake Wobegon at UM: B+ Is Now The Average Grade
A professor who has crusaded against grade inflation by gathering and publicizing data has released his largest analysis to date -- and it suggests that grade inflation continues to be a broad problem across much of higher education. The figures may embarrass some colleges and renew a debate over whether students experience enough rigor.
The new analysis found that the average grade-point average at private colleges rose from 3.09 in 1991 to 3.30 in 2006 (see bottom chart above). At public colleges and universities, the increase was from 2.85 to 3.01 over the same time period. The study also examines -- and seeks to refute -- the idea that students are earning better grades simply because they are better prepared. The greatest increases in grades appear to be coming at flagship public universities in the South and at selective liberal arts colleges.
The study was done by Stuart Rojstaczer, a retired Duke University professor who created GradeInflation.com to document these trends. For this study, he significantly expanded the numbers of institutions examined, and the time frame.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education, Aug. 11, 2006 (subscription may be required):
Faculty members have not fulfilled the responsibilities associated with their proclaimed right to be the final judges of student performance. In shirking that duty, they have also neglected their broader obligations to society: Teachers weaken rather than bolster the commonweal when they fail to award meaningful grades. Grading laxness at all levels of American education has contributed directly or indirectly to a variety of problems, including declining scores on the SAT, decreases in the ability of American undergraduate and graduate students to understand prose, and poor training in mathematics and science, which puts American students behind their peers in many European and Asian countries.
~Michael Gordon, professor of management at Rutgers University
MP: Using annual GPA data back to 1951 for the University of Michigan (data here), the top chart above shows that the average GPA increased from 2.57 in 1951 (letter grade of B-/C+) to 3.27 in 2009 (about B+).