Thursday, July 05, 2012

Today's GPA-Inflated and Tuition-Inflated World

Is there a connection between rising college tuition and rising college grades?

That's what was suggested in a recent CD post about grade inflation at the University of Minnesota, based on the Star Tribune article "At U, concern grows that 'A' stands for average."  In the article, a Minnesota undergraduate student explained the rising GPA trend by saying "We live in a grade-inflated world."  A University of Minnesota anthropology professor quoted in the article suspects that attitude among students can be traced to rising college tuition, i.e. today's "tuition-inflated world."  The professor commented "They're paying for it, and they worked really hard, and they put in time, and therefore they think they should get a good grade."

I concluded in the post that: The connections among "grade inflation, "tuition inflation," "college textbook inflation," and exponentially rising student loan debt are important.  Perhaps students find it easier to accept rising tuition, higher textbook prices, and $25,000 in average student loan debt if they at least graduate with mostly As and a GPA above 3.0?  Even if they can't find a job, they can take pride in having "earned" an inflated GPA?

The chart above confirms the historical relationship between rising college tuition (based on the CPI for college tuition and fees) and the rising GPA at the University of Michigan, where grade inflation since the 1970s closely reflects the national trend (data here).  With the caveat that correlation doesn't prove causation, there does appear to be a statistical relationship (association) between college tuition and average college GPAs, which have both risen together over time in a similar pattern.

12 Comments:

At 7/05/2012 8:24 PM, Blogger kmg said...

Since every parent gets to tell their friends that their kid is on the 'Dean's List', or has a 4.0 GPA, the University is able to extract extra fees out of this.

 
At 7/05/2012 9:22 PM, Blogger Scott Drum said...

This seems like perfectly rational behavior on both the buy and sell side. A school that gives out high grades for little effort will have a more favorable demand curve than one that gives out low grades and/or requires great effort. Yes, there may be a couple of annoying faculty members who will bring up "integrity", but as their classes become increasingly unpopular they will fall into line.

As a student, which would you prefer -- an A with low effort from Michigan or a B with high effort from another school?

 
At 7/06/2012 5:18 AM, OpenID moneyjihad said...

Clever, but like you said I don't think this indicates causation.

 
At 7/06/2012 6:35 AM, Blogger geoih said...

The university machine can't keep growing if it starts flunking out its paying customers.

The banks were vilified for 'predatory' loaning practices with the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Will universities receive the same vilification for their predatory practices with the pending student loan crisis?

 
At 7/06/2012 11:02 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

I think that the definition of the word 'student' may need to be applied properly. A student goes to college to learn and actually reads books and attends lectures. I see little evidence of this today. Many 'students' are just there for the social atmosphere and a chance to find an acceptable significant other. They party and the parents and taxpayers pick up the tab.

 
At 7/06/2012 11:18 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Many 'students' are just there for the social atmosphere and a chance to find an acceptable significant other.

From my experience, that's something of a simplification.

At my Alma mater (Framingham State University), those who only want to party flunk out real fast. Even by the time you get to your Sophomore Year, the partiers are gone. You cannot stay in college if all you are going to do is drink and binge (no matter what the movies say). Say what you will about grade inflation, but you can't inflate what isn't there (if they don't attend class, then there are no grades to inflate). Those who are successful in college need to learn how to balance (and that is a very important life skill). In college, you have to choose between:

classes
homework
real work
friends
parties
social activities (movies, shopping, etc)

Here's the kicker: you only have time for three of those things. If you choose unwisely, you will flunk out of college.


Now that I have said this, I wonder: because college has gotten more complex, could this not be grade inflation but rather poor students dropping out, leaving only the better students?

 
At 7/06/2012 12:21 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Now that I have said this, I wonder: because college has gotten more complex, could this not be grade inflation but rather poor students dropping out, leaving only the better students?

I don't see evidence of this either. The students that I have seen do not seem to be very good. And I doubt that it takes much to pass communications, women's studies, multiculturalism, and many other equally idiotic courses. You certainly do not have to attend classes to pass a course as long as you do the minimum reading and have access to the material being taught.

 
At 7/06/2012 12:36 PM, Blogger Garima said...

Great post!! very informative.
Thank you very much for such a lovely and informative post.
Engineering college in Jaipur

 
At 7/06/2012 12:56 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

jon-

i seem to recall having time for class, homework, parties, friends, and team sports.

the trick is not to sleep much.

 
At 7/06/2012 1:00 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

i seem to recall having time for class, homework, parties, friends, and team sports.

the trick is not to sleep much.


Ah! I forgot to add sleep to the list! Thanks, Morganovich.

 
At 7/06/2012 2:01 PM, Blogger George Phillies said...

Textbook prices have become absurd. Mind you, I view one of the purposes of my university courses to be to help students build up a personal library, so I do not cooperate with resellers.

On the other hand, for my most involved technical course I wrote my own books, which in electronic form cost my students a total of around fifteen dollars.

I am amused to note -- the real study was done with grade schoolers -- the study that demonstrated that pictures are in general of negative educational value.

 
At 7/07/2012 5:46 PM, Blogger Dr. Wood said...

You overlooked the pressure faculty are under to pass students so they will keep paying tuition. As states have reduced funding, the pressure has risen to pass and graduate ALL students to insure enough paying customers.

 

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