The Real Reason It’s So Easy to Get A’s in College
Life + Money

The Real Reason It’s So Easy to Get A’s in College

REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

Tuition is not the only thing on the rise at colleges these days.

The average GPA is also higher than it’s ever been before, according to an updated analysis by Stuart Rojstaczer, a journalist and author who’s been tracking grade inflation since 2002.

In 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, the average student had a GPA of about 3.15, and 45 percent of all letter grades were A's. The GPAs at private schools averaged 2.9 percent higher than those of public colleges.

In 1973, when far fewer students were going to college, the average GPA was just 2.9 percent, and A’s accounted for about 30 percent of all grades.

The current grade inflation trend began in the mid-1980s, according to Rojstaczer, as college became more commoditized and schools began thinking of attendees as consumers rather than students. “When you treat a student as a customer, the customer is, of course, always right,” he writes. “If a student and parent of that student want a high grade, you give it to them.”

Meanwhile, a gap has appeared between how ready college graduates feel they are for the workplace and employers’ assessment of their preparedness. Students were more optimistic about their preparedness than employers were in each of the 17 skill areas recently studied by the Americans Association of Colleges and Universities.

The cost of attending a private college is now more than $30,000 and a public school runs more than $9,000, more than three times the cost in the early 1980s, according to the College Board.