Yale Students Worry About 'Grade Inflation'

The proportion of A-range grades soared during the pandemic and the 'COVID effect' persists
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2023 5:00 PM CST
At Yale, the 'COVID Effect' on Grades Has Persisted
Some thought the COVID effect "would be temporary, but it has more or less persisted," Fair says.   (Getty Images/littleny)

Grades at Yale went up sharply during the pandemic and they've barely come down since, faculty members were told at a meeting late last month. Just under 79% of students received A's or A-minuses in the 2022-23 academic year, causing concerns about "grade inflation." The proportion of A-range grades jumped from almost 73% in 2018-19 to just under 82% in 2021-21, according to economics professor Ray Fair, who authored the report. He calls the rise in grades the "COVID effect." Fair tells the Yale Daily News that it was "probably the faculty going easier on students because COVID was a pain."

Yale College Dean Pericles Lewis tells the Daily News that the "compression" of grades into the A-range makes it harder for instructors to use grades for their "intended purpose" of helping undergraduates "understand areas of strength and others that need attention." He says that at the November meeting, he encouraged faculty to "make use of the full range of grades where appropriate." The proportion of A-range grades has reached a similar level at Harvard and GPAs have been steadily rising at colleges across America for decades, the New York Times reports. "Grades are like any currency," with a tendency to increase over time, says retired Duke University professor Stuart Rojstaczer, who tracks grade inflation.

The rise in A grades has "frustrated some students, alumni, and professors," who feel grades are being cheapened and employers might not recognize how hard some students have worked, the Times reports. Lewis says students shouldn't stress out too much over their GPAs. "I don't think many people care, 10 years out, what kind of grades you got at Yale," he says. "They mostly care that you, you know, you studied at Yale." Amanda Claybaugh, Harvard's dean of undergraduate education, says grade inflation can stress students out, leading them to feel they need to distinguish themselves in extracurricular activities as well. She tells the Times she plans to share information on alumni to show that "students who get B pluses at Harvard still do fine in life." (More Yale University stories.)

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