Grading in American Colleges and Universities
by Stuart Rojstaczer & Christopher Healy — March 04, 2010
Here we report on historical and recent grading patterns at American four-year colleges and universities. Records of average grades show that since the 1960s, grading has evolved in an ad hoc way into identifiable patterns at the national level. The mean grade point average of a school is highly dependent on the average quality of its student body and whether it is public or private. Relative to other schools, public-commuter and engineering schools grade harshly. Superimposed on these trends is a nationwide rise in grades over time of roughly 0.1 change in GPA per decade. These trends may help explain why private school students are disproportionately represented in Ph.D. study in science and engineering and why they tend to dominate admission into the most prestigious professional schools. They also may help explain why undergraduate students are increasingly disengaged from learning and why the US has difficulty filling its employment needs in engineering and technology.
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