College Students Studying Less and Receiving Higher Grades?

December 6, 2011

Learning, Political Theory

One thing that my parents always said to me when I was younger was that they always wished they could have the grades that I received during middle school,  high school, and even college.  What if it wasn’t because I study hard or that my parents aren’t the brightest people, but it was due to the fact that the amount of As have increased while the amount of Ds and Fs have dismally dropped.

The education system’s grades of today seem to be losing the value that they once had.  I was reading an article about college students the other day that discusses that in the past few decades, grade inflation has grown to be a big problem.  It seems that the college student of today does less work than the college student of the past and somehow still receives higher grades.  We socialize more, we have more extracurricular activities, and we have in general more responsibilities than our predecessors, but this is not the reason behind why our grades have increased.

Researchers believe that grade inflation started in the 1960s and 1970s when the professors would worry if a bad grade could send their students off to Vietnam.  From there things only worsened with time.  The relationship between professors and their students became more economic.  The better grades the professors’ students received, the better reviews the professor would get and the greater probability of the professor staying at the university or college.  The professors also know that grades and GPAs overall are directly related to the potential admittance to graduate schools and employment opportunities.

Although some people may believe that it is unfair that these students have these advantages, I believe that Rawls would think that the education system of today and the education of the past is fair .  Both the Liberty principle and Difference principle successfully work in order to prove this.  In classes, every student no matter what year it is has equal liberties for the best grade they can get.  Every student has the opportunity to hand in homework, speak in class, and take tests.  In regards to the Difference principle, the higher grades that are given to college students of today benefit the students of before because they want the younger generation to continue their success and the success of the United States.  The students of today and yesterday have equal opportunity to careers after they graduate due to the students of yesteryear having a lot of experience in the field.




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9 Comments on “College Students Studying Less and Receiving Higher Grades?”

  1. daniellwang Says:

    I wish that our generation could have had the grades that our parents had in middle school, high school and even college. I think that grade inflation actually increases the level of competition in modern universities and causes today’s students to work even harder than their parents.

    The problem with grade inflation is that everyone gets the same grade. The graph shown above shows that in 2008, approximately 75% of the grades given out were A’s and B’s. If everyone gets A’s and B’s, how do you differentiate between students?
    Now, employers and graduate programs cannot easily select potential grad students or employees because everyone’s GPA is so similar to one another. They must resort to looking for minute differences in the GPA: “3.73 is slightly higher than 3.68”. This level of tedious inspection has caused students to strive for perfection. I find that some of my classmates consider a B to be slightly disappointing while others will consider a B to be a complete failure.

    Furthermore, in order to distinguish themselves, students have taken to joining a lot of extracirriculars. And because other students are joining extracirriculars also, many students feel pressured to become leaders in their chosen activities.

    Obviously grade inflation is not the only reason that competition has increased in colleges. But I feel that this inability to distinguish between students based on GPA is pressuring many students to push themselves harder than their parents ever did.

  2. reidmech7892 Says:

    In my own experience, I have noticed a trend of grade inflation as well. It seems that it doesn’t take as much studying to get an A anymore, where as my parents said they had to study for hours just to get a B. Though this is debatable, there are many reasons as to why this is happening. First off, there are more students in school now then there were back when our parents were in school; more kids opt to go to college as opposed to joining, or back then being drafted into, the military or simply just going straight to the workforce. With this comes a larger standard deviation of grades, which inevitably is conducive to more A’s and B’s handed out based on a curve. From this you can infer that the curve, which as I said earlier is larger, allows for more students to obtain A’s and B’s rather than C’s and D’s. Additionally, students are now more driven for better grades in regard to graduate school. Though they may not be studying for these grades, they may instead be doing research with a professor and participating more in class to boost that grade. Similarly, participation and attendance points are now crucial to students’ grades as they were not a few years ago. In all, the increased amount of students and new curves, grade distributions, and more driven students may be the reason for the higher grades with less effort contrary to when our parents went through their education.

  3. weimarj Says:

    I agree that having lots of A’s and B’s looks nice. My folks and grandparents wish they had higher grades like every does in the 21st century. But i disagree about the outcome of having higher grades. I think that the grade inflation makes college a more competitive atmosphere. All giving more A’s and B’s does is cause GPA to be a less broad spectrum of how accomplished the student is. If everyone has a GPA above 3 then the potential employers and grad schools are going to look for the 3.71 over the 3.70. The most qualified student is still going to get the job. The reason there are more extracurricular activities now are in fact ways for students to continue to set themselves apart from other students. If you and the girl in your class both have the exact same GPA as everyone else in your graduating class. The best way to set yourself apart from your class you need more and better extracurricular activities.

  4. aecorwin Says:

    I also have noticed this trend of grade inflation in schools, but for a different reason. In the state of Georgia, anyone receiving a certain gpa or higher is eligible for the hope scholarship which pays 90% of in state tuition, granted their gpa remains at a 3.5 or higher. This program is funded by the Georgia lottery, and has been able to provide many kids who would not have been able to afford a higher education the opportunity to go to an instate school free of tuition. Unfortunately, however, this has led to grade inflation and the program had to be changed as the amount of people that qualified for the scholarship kept rising (with grade inflation) and the lottery was no longer able to fully fund this program. The issue of grade inflation has allowed many to attend higher institutions of learning, but has also set a new standard and many teachers are afraid to give students the grades they truly deserve as they feel it could sacrifice their ability to attend college.

  5. sgbraid Says:

    This is a very interesting topic and i have heard this from other people before. More than once, I have been told by my parents that they can’t believe the amount of high grades that myself and my peers received during high school. Though these high grades makes us more appealing for job offers and graduate schools, they come at a price. I believe that these high grades give us a false sense of our intelligence. We see our high grades and think that we don’t need to study more or continue learning intensely because we think that we have reached our pinnacle.

    I also agree with daniellwang he says, “The problem with grade inflation is that everyone gets the same grade. The graph shown above shows that in 2008, approximately 75% of the grades given out were A’s and B’s. If everyone gets A’s and B’s, how do you differentiate between students?” Daniellwang nails the problem square on the head: How are we supposed to differentiate between students when they all have the same grade? It’s impossible. This system has lessened the value of grades in the academic setting and puts a greater emphasize on extracurricular activities and “real-world” experiences.

    There are many more negative effects that grade inflation has. It is forcing students to join tons and tons of extracurricular activities, causing this activities to be joined solely for the purpose of resume-building and not for enjoyment. Also, it has caused students to expect high grades all the time, even when they don’t deserve them.

  6. benjadler Says:

    Many college professors have tenure…. So why are they worried about getting bad reviews from students? So they can make sure people take their classes? Does it matter? I believe the inflation starts in middle and high school where teachers are fighting for their jobs (especially now in the poor economy) where test results are valued over what students actually learn. There is a certain economy to grading now as teachers in middle and upper school (especially public schools that feel the burden of needing to get higher school-wide testing scores in order to help their funding) change their grading system to allow for students to receive higher grades.
    Sometimes I wonder why I am at the University of Michigan and my dad attended CCNY (City College of New York). Don’t get me wrong, CCNY is a great school (my dad even spent a year at Duke before transferring) but what distinguished the fact that I am here and he was there? Is there a true discrepancy between our grades?

  7. djavolio8 Says:

    I’m not sure the gap in grade distribution between our generation and our parents generation is a relevant topic. The way I see it our parents competed against each other for grades and jobs under the grade distribution of their time, and we compete against each other under the distribution of our time. The connection between the grades being given out now in comparison to how they were given out 20-30 years ago is in my eyes irrelevant. College students of the modern era experience a completely different 4 years than their parents did. Colleges and universities have seen more and more kids traveling further from home to attend college. Furthermore, studying abroad was essentially unheard of during our parents time and now overwhelming numbers of students take advantage of the opportunity.

    We can sit and complain about how it may have made our grades less relevant, but that doesn’t change the fact that students are going to fight and scratch for as good a grade as possible. In classes like Econ 101 I think the grade distribution promotes a healthy competition. Find yourself in the top half of the class and you’ll receive at least a B range grade. Wind up in the bottom 10-15% of the class and you’ll fail the course. Distributions like this should be embraced as what exactly separates an A from a B if no one in the course fails or earns themselves a D?

  8. Brian Hall Says:

    Frankly I don’t think GPA is a particularly valid way of evaluating quality of graduates. Obviously a difference of a 2.3 and a 3.9 is significant and points towards a substantial difference in motivation and/or ability, but the difference between a 3.5 and a 3.6 is really not important enough to tell much about a person’s abilities. It’s the same as with the SAT; a 50 point difference is statistically insignificant. When you force employers or graduate schools to consider minor differences in GPA to be significant, you sell short a large number of people and have a system of awarding merit that is not equitable. Take for instance a class where the grading is done individually by GSI. If you happen to be unlucky enough to get a GSI who grades harshly but another student in the class is in the section of a very generous GSI, then you are shafted. This is usually mitigated by the fact that minor differences in GPA are supposed to be unimportant. If I’m encouraged to only take classes that are easy or have professors who grade generously, then I’m doing myself and society in general a disservice by not working as hard in order to get better grades.

    I watched a relevant and interesting documentary yesterday called “Declining by Degrees”, which examines this issue and the degredation of education in general. Aside from the occasional sentimental appeal tp tradition, it was a very cogent examination of the root of the problems we are currently seeing in this regard.

  9. jkb34383 Says:

    Through my experience, it definitely seems that there are more opportunities laid out for college students to do better in school. The main factor behind this has to do with a complete change in academic attitude contained in the minds of students. Now a days, students take advantage of classes that they have heard are “easy A’s.” From what I have seen, the priority of selecting an easy class has far surpassed the priority of taking classes that the student is actually interested in. This concept of taking “fluff grade” courses can definitely be a contributor towards the overall GPA inflation.

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