A study has shown that the modern U.S. college student can generally receive a better grade while submitting the same amount of work as their predecessors.

Research by Stuart Rojstaczer, a former professor at Duke University, USA, and Christopher Healy, a professor at Furman University, USA, used data from more than 400 U.S. schools over the last 70 years, with a combined student enrolment of more than four million undergraduates.

Rojstaczer describes the current student climate as a ‘Consumer Era’, with students coughing up such a hefty sum for tuition that professors are under intense pressure to award them higher grades.

Graph via Stuart Rojstaczer, Grade Inflation.

“During this era, which has yet to end, student course evaluations of classes became mandatory, students became increasingly career focused, and tuition rises dramatically outpaced increases in family income,” notes Rojstaczer.

“When you treat a student as a customer, the customer is, of course, always right. If a student and parent of that student want a high grade, you give it to them,” he says.

His website points out that grade inflation started in the midst of the Vietnam war; before the war began, ‘C’s where the most commonly received grades on U.S. college campuses. But once war erupted, professors felt obliged to reward male students higher grades to prevent them from failing school and becoming eligible for the draft.

Graph via Stuart Rojstaczer, Grade Inflation.

By the end of the war, grade inflation settled down, only to rise again at the start of the Consumer Era, which began in the 1980s and continues to this day.

The study points out that Grade Point Averages (GPAs) have been steadily rising around 0.1 points per decade since the early 1980s, with the average college GPA in 2013 amounting to 3.15.

Furthermore, the number of ‘A’s received has swelled five to six percent per decade. Currently, ‘A’ is the most commonly awarded grade at an average four-year U.S. college, and has been since the 1990s.

Graph via Stuart Rojstaczer, Grade Inflation.

“While grade inflation is pervasive at America’s four-year colleges and universities, it is no longer taking place everywhere…grades have reached a plateau at a small, but significant number of schools (about 15 percent of the schools in our database,” Rojstaczer concludes.

“High school grades continue to go up, which makes new college students less and less familiar with non-A grades.  Tuition continues to rise, which makes both students and parents increasingly feel that they should get something tangible for their money.  It’s not surprising that schools with the highest tuition not only tend to have the highest grades, but have grades that continue to rise significantly.”

Image via Flickr

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