Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Grade Inflation

with 3 comments

By Wiz

Since we’re on an academic kick here, I’m curious what people think about this report showing that grade inflation is a bigger problem at private universities than public universities. In other words, the more you pay, the easier it is to get good grades.

This make intuitive sense to me, though I’m not sure I can explain exactly the mechanism by which it happens.

I have two thoughts though. The first is the old “my students are a bunch of spoiled brats” argument. It certainty has been my experience that there is a type of entitled student who expects a high grade, will complain and fight for it, and, more often then not get it, if for no other reason than it is not worth our time to fight over it. One would assume that this sense of entitlement is lower at public schools.

My second thought, and its related, is that private universities have embraced the idea of university education as consumer experience more than public schools have. Many of them have to justify why they cost 7 times more than the public schools, and fancy dorms, state of the art gyms, study aboard programs, and, yes, more “responsive” (i.e. pliable) professors, is part of that justification.

I don’t think it has anything to do with smarts of the student, since there are many public universities (Berkeley, Wisconsin, Michigan, etc…) that are more selective than private universities. And grades should be relative to average quality of the student anyway.


Written by Peter Wirzbicki

April 19, 2010 at 12:02

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. Maybe it’s because Professors/TAs at private universities are happier and maybe they are therefore willing to overlook (unconsciously, of course) minor mistakes that really irk already unhappy Profs/TAs. Probably not, but it might be worth thinking about it from that perspective and not always the “student is consumer” perspective.


    April 19, 2010 at 12:28

  2. I strongly think it has something to do with the smarts/work ethic of the students. The strong flagship state schools where most of the good students go are a fraction of all state schools. More importantly, the private schools have very few students comparable to the bottom of the class at public schools, particularly weak public schools. Yeah, grades SHOULD roughly be relative to the quality of the average student in the class or school, but they aren’t.


    April 19, 2010 at 17:44

  3. My first (uneducated) reaction was “job security”. Jobs are generally secure in all universities, but I know some places take teacher feedback very seriously. Anyone who has ever taught will know that giving good grades can often help your reviews. Not sure if that would make any difference.


    April 22, 2010 at 12:01

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