Galley Friend L.B. sends along this Washington Post story on grade inflation, a subject about which I'm quite conflicted.
On the one hand, my undergraduate career was somewhat hampered by attending a university which did not truck much with grade inflation--my graduating class's mean GPA was something near 2.70, meaning that one could graduate in the top 10 percent of the class and still be barely at a 3.5.
Many is the time I've cursed grade inflation and the grade-grubbing runts who chase after it.
But on the other hand . . . what good are undergraduate grades, anyway? The only use they really have is as a metric for graduate school admissions (any employer who cares about your undergrad grades isn't worth working for) and here grade inflation makes sense. As a for instance, take medical school.
Med school admissions are conducted on nearly a straight by-the-numbers points scale made up by combining an applicant's GPA and MCAT scores. So a 3.98 from Southwest Saginaw State or Goucher College counts for much, much more than a 3.45 from, say, Harvard or MIT.
I don't know about you, but I'd rather have the girl with the 3.45 from MIT doing my triple bypass.
So at the elite universities, they'd be crazy not to grade inflate. If Harvard were to start throwing around C's, smart high-school students who wanted to be doctors (or lawyers) would be doing themselves a real disservice by going there. In order to continue attracting the best students, elite schools must--and should--inflate grades.
And if the elite schools inflate grades, then chances are the crummy schools will, too. But that's okay. Because if all colleges have roughly the same obscene level of grade inflation, then GPAs cancel each other out, and grad school admissions will become more a factor of test scores--which are standardized, and a much fairer (if still imperfect) indicator of academic success.
There are other arguments for grade inflation, too--which I won't get into here. I'll merely say that college isn't what it used to be and for the outrageous fees being charged by institutions of higher learning, one could reasonably argue that parents aren't buying "education," they're purchasing a fungible documend. And a retailer who sells that document but mars it with bad grades doesn't really understand the business they're in.
Remember, it was the colleges themselves who decided they were in a business--and not a public service--when they began charging as much as the market could bear for their product. It's no accident that grade inflation tracks nicely with the inflation in the cost of a college degree.
4 hours ago