A new study confirms what many people have observed without the benefit of a formal study: A’s in college are becoming ordinary.
The authors found,
“Our data (Figure 1) show that in 1960, as in the 1940s and 1950s, C was the most common grade nationwide; D’s and F’s accounted for more grades combined than did A’s. On average, instructors were assigning grades by using a slightly skewed normal distribution curve centered at about a C+. By 1965, however, B had supplanted C as the most common grade, and D’s and F’s were becoming increasingly less common. From the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, grades rose rapidly across the nation, and A became the second most common grade awarded.
The Vietnam era was followed by a decline in A’s that lasted for roughly a decade. Awarding of A’s began to rise again in the mid-1980s. From 1984 to the mid-2000s, the proportion of A’s increased by a factor of 1.5. By 2008, A’s were nearly three times more common than they were in 1960.”
An incredible 43% of all letter grades are “A”. In addition, the authors found:
- Private colleges and universities were more generous giving more A’s and B’s combined than public institutions with equal student selectivity.
- If you enroll in a college in the South expect more harsh grading.
- Students in liberal arts colleges are advantaged in grading practices when compared to science and engineering-focused schools.
- Moderate levels of admissions selectivity are associated with generous grading practices in the mid-1980s at highly selective schools.
- Prestigious colleges have followed with more generous grading outcomes
- Finally, “It is likely that at many selective and highly selective schools, undergraduate GPAs are now so saturated at the high end that they have little use as a motivator of students and as an evaluation tool for graduate and professional schools and employers.” [Emphasis added]
The data for this study was obtained from over 200 four-year colleges and universities in the United States:Abraham Baldwin, Alaska–Anchorage, Alaska–Fairbanks, Appalachian State, Auburn, Augusta State, Baylor, Belmont, Benedict, Benedictine, Bowdoin, Brown, Bucknell, Cabrini, California–Berkeley, Cal Poly–San Luis Obispo, Carleton, Catholic University of America, Central Florida, Central Michigan, Centre, Charleston, Citadel, Clarion, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, College of New Jersey, Colorado–Boulder, Colorado College, Colorado–Colorado Springs, Colorado–Denver, Columbus State, Connecticut, Cornell, CSU–Fresno, CSU–LA, CSU–Long Beach, CSU–Northridge, CSU–San Bernardino, Dalton State, Dartmouth, Delaware, DePauw, Doane, Dominican, Duke, Elon, Emory, Fairmont State, Ferris State, Fisk, Florida–Gainesville, Florida International, Florida State, Framingham State, Francis Marion, Furman, George Mason, Georgetown, Georgia, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Grinnell, Harvard, Hawaii–Hilo, Hawaii–Manoa, Hawaii–West Oahu, Hope, Idaho State, Illinois–Champaign Urbana, Illinois–Chicago, Illinois Wesleyan, Indiana–Bloomington, Indiana State, Indiana Purdue–Fort Wayne, Indiana Wesleyan, Ithaca, James Madison, Kennesaw State, Kent State, Kenyon, Knox, Lander, Linfield, Louisiana State–Baton Rouge, Macalester, Messiah, Methodist, Michigan, Michigan Tech, Miami (Ohio), Minnesota–Twin Cities, Mississippi University for Women, Missouri–Columbia, Missouri State, Missouri Western, MIT, Montana–Missoula, Montclair State, Nazareth, Nebraska–Lincoln, Nevada–Las Vegas, Nevada–Reno, New Orleans, North Alabama, North Carolina–Asheville, North Carolina–Chapel Hill, North Carolina–Wilmington, North Dakota State, Northern Arizona, Northwestern, Oakland, Oberlin, Ohio, Oral Roberts, Oregon Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State, Pennsylvania, Pomona, Portland State, Princeton, Purdue, Reed, Rhodes, Rice, Roanoke, Rowan, Rutgers, Salisbury, San Jose State, Skidmore, Smith, Sonoma State, South Carolina–Columbia, South Florida–Tampa, Southeastern Louisiana, Southern Mississippi, Southern Polytechnic, Southern Utah, Spelman, St. Michaels, Stanford, SUNY–Purchase, Tarleton State, Tennessee–Chattanooga, Tennessee Tech, Texas A&M, Texas–Arlington, Texas State, Towson, Utah–Salt Lake City, Utah Valley, Virginia Commonwealth, Washington State, West Georgia, Western Carolina, Western Kentucky, Western New England, Wheeling Jesuit, Whitman, William and Mary, William Paterson, Williams, Winona State, Winthrop, Wisconsin–Madison, and Yale.
Rojstaczer, Stuart & Healy, Christopher. (2012). Where A Is Ordinary: The Evolution of American College and University Grading, 1940–2009. Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 7, 2012, http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16473, Date Accessed: 12/26/2012 3:25:18 PM