Home » Jobs & Education » Education » The Awarding of As at Four-Year Colleges Has Been Increasing by 5 to 6% Each Decade Since 1960. An “A” is Now the Most Common Grade. About 42% of All Grades are As.
A grade US Grade Inflation

The Awarding of As at Four-Year Colleges Has Been Increasing by 5 to 6% Each Decade Since 1960. An “A” is Now the Most Common Grade. About 42% of All Grades are As.

Some students seem to have it all together. They get excellent grades, but they’re also successful in other areas. Opportunities seem to find them, and they’re always ready for what’s next. But did you know how grades are getting better in the United States? 

Since 1960, the As awarded at four-year colleges has increased by 5-6% per decade; an “A” is now the most common grade, accounting for approximately 42% of all grades, three times more than in 1960.

The Inflation Grades in the US

The first significant update to a database on US grade inflation in seven years discovered that grades continue to rise and that A is the most common grade earned at all types of colleges.

Faculty members at Princeton University and Wellesley College, among other institutions, have debated ways to limit grade inflation since the survey’s most recent significant release, despite criticism from some students who welcome the high averages.

The findings are based on an examination of colleges that enroll approximately one million students, with a wide range of admissions competitiveness represented among the institutions.

Some of the Key Findings: 

  • Four-year college grade point averages have been rising at a rate of 0.1 points per decade for the past 30 years.
  • On four-year and two-year college campuses, A is the most common grade (more than 42 percent of grades). At four-year schools, the percentage of students receiving As has increased by five to six percentage points per decade, and As are now three times more common than in 1960.
  • The percentage of D and F grades at four-year colleges has remained stable in recent years, and an increase in the percentage of A grades is associated with fewer B and C grades.
  • Grades at community colleges appear to have peaked.
  • In recent years, the percentages of D and F grades awarded at community colleges have increased slightly. While A remains the highest grade which is more than 36%, its share has decreased slightly in recent years.

University leadership nationwide promoted the student-as-consumer idea. It’s been a disastrous change. We need leaders who have a backbone and put education first.

Stuart Rojstaczer, Former Duke Professor

He believes the concept of the student as a consumer has encouraged colleges to accept high grades and thus faculty members to award high grades. (Source: Times Higher Education)

Not Entitled Students

In his analysis, Rojstaczer notes that community colleges share some characteristics with four-year institutions that make them susceptible to grade inflation. He considers community college grades to be high, even if they aren’t still rising. For example, he observes that many community college leaders, like four-year college presidents, embrace the student-as-consumer concept. And, because students prefer easier graders in reviews, community colleges rely on adjunct instructors, many of whom lack the job security to be confident in being a tough grader.

One factor may be that tuition is low at these schools, so students don’t feel quite so entitled. Another factor may be that community college students come, on average, from less wealthy homes, so students don’t feel quite so entitled.

Stuart Rojstaczer, Former Duke Professor

To understand grade inflation, Rojstaczer believes that one should look at the student body at two-year colleges, which he considers less spoiled than those at four-year institutions. (Source: Times Higher Education)

Image From: James G. Martin Center

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