09 April 2004

Princeton on Grade Inflation

Officials at Princeton University have proposed limiting the number of students who can get an A+, A, or A- to 35%, according to this New York Times article.

While I am opposed to grade inflation generally speaking, I'm not sure this is the solution either. This solution still demeans the B; students who get Bs will know they are not in the top 1/3 of their classes and so will prospective employers. Moreover, I suspect this solution would make life miserable for teaching assistants, who will be the first line of attack for students who are unhappy with their B+s and want to be bumped up. I can tell you from first hand experience how unpleasant these little interviews can be.

Of course, I don't think I have a solution that will work any better myself, except for one that calls for a change in which the public views higher education. Part of the problem for elite and expensive universitites like Princeton or Harvard is that students and parents who are paying more than $35,000 per annum for college cease to see learning as an end to itself and instead see themselves as consumers of credentials who are entitled to an A. This is the attitude that needs to change, but how to do it is beyond me.


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