Thursday, January 02, 2003

What's a 4.0 any more? More evidence on grade inflation, high tuition, and return on investment 

Following up on our post last week, there's renewed evidence of grade inflation. The Chicago Tribune reports on the debate between scholars over the matter. Ward Connerly wades in with this
"I had a long meeting with one of the chancellors who said the number of students not adequately prepared for university work has increased dramatically. . . . We're doing more remediation, but we're not calling it remedial work. ... It's my clear sense that a 4.0 today [in high school] is not what a 4.0 was 10 years ago."
The National Association of Scholars (our parent organization) released a report last month that shows that students fifty years ago learned almost as much as they do today. They did worse on the history questions and the same on geography but more in music, literature and science.

NAS President Stephen Balch notes how much more students pay in real terms for higher education versus fifty years ago. They don't seem to have any more real knowledge. But that might miss the point, in my view. There is plenty of evidence that the return to a college degree has risen over the last fifty years. So more students are going in to higher education, and undoubtedly the typical student is of lower academic aptitude now than when universities and degrees (and A's) were fewer. That could account for part of the difference. But a bigger problem comes from wondering what it is firms and their personnel officers are looking for when they hire college graduates? Note my wording: there's a higher return to a college degree. That doesn't necessarily mean a higher return to education.