Grade Inflation

Though I have been vaguely aware of the phenomenon of grade inflation based on anecdotal data, the discussion in our GRAD 5104 class was the first time that I heard this issue labeled and discussed directly. I have certainly been curious about the differences in grading between my parents’ time in college compared to my own and the seeming discrepancy between a “C” being “average” (which would seem to mean that the statistically the majority of grades received should be at or near a C) versus the overabundance of A’s and B’s given in so many classes.

A 2016 (Carter & Lara) article examines whether grade inflation is continuing to rise or has stabilized, as well as the significance of the terminology that is used to describe each letter grade. These authors pose the idea that if we pay more attention to the terms we use to define a letter grade, we may be able to stall or even repair the previous grade inflation that has occurred. They do also conclude that while grade inflation appears to be continuing, it may have reached a plateau rather than continuing to climb.

Since grade inflation is a relatively new idea to me, I have yet to form any strong ideas or opinions about the phenomenon. However, it does seem that there could be some deleterious effects if grade inflation continues. I would be interested to hear others’ comments about whether this is an issue that needs to be addressed, and if so, what can be done to impact it.


Carter, M. J., & Lara, P. Y. (2016). Grade Inflation in Higher Education: Is the End in Sight?. Academic Questions, 29(3), 346-353.

3 Replies to “Grade Inflation”

  1. Thanks for the post. Grade inflation is an interesting phenomenon. I am not sure if this grade inflation is a good thing or a bad one. I think most of the people are trying to relate it to the student’s success and hard work. I do not think that is completely true. Yes, ‘A’ grade has become more common over the time as compared to the C grade before but it is due to many factors. Today’s professors are taking easy on course content and focusing more on imparting knowledge rather creating a divide in the class with difficult exams and assignments. Just look at the Virginia Tech Grad school for instance. Most of the grad students need to have a GPA >3.0 to remain a full-time student. This requirement makes sure that most of the students are above 3.0 GPA. The difference between a mediocre student and an excellent student is becoming narrower. Employers are nowadays looking for different skill sets other than GPAs since everybody has a good GPA.

  2. Thanks for your post! I agree, I didn’t think about grade inflation until this class, but I can see how it is an occurring phenomenon. In my opinion, a professor giving an A versus a C is not tied to the excellence of the student per se, but instead to achieving core competencies in the class: if you do your work and you do it well, you will get an A. Some professors still only give out a certain number of A’s and B’s, however most professors now will give a grade based on checking off assignments and scores. I am also not sure if that is a good or a bad thing, just a movement in how grades are viewed.

  3. I so enjoyed your post! I teach writing, and in doing so, emphasize the importance of revisions. So, if students take my feedback seriously, they often receive quite high grades. I am ok with this. I want my students to work hard and develop more confidence in terms of writing. While I am ok with grade inflation in my own class, I will sound hypocritical here: I do wonder if grade inflation is connected to education inflation, where many students feel the need to have graduate degrees in order to receive high-quality, high-paying jobs! Thanks for writing!

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