And the Most Common College Grade is...


July 19, 2011
by Suada Kolovic
Contrary to popular belief, earning an A in college may not be as much of a challenge as it seems. According to a new study, 43 percent of all grades at four-year colleges and universities is an A while Ds and Fs are few and far between.

Contrary to popular belief, earning an A in college may not be as much of a challenge as it seems. According to a new study, 43 percent of all grades at four-year colleges and universities is an A while Ds and Fs are few and far between.

The study, published in Teachers College Record, was conducted by Stuart Rojstaczar, a retired professor of geology, civil engineering and the environment at Duke University, and Christopher Healy, an associate professor of computer science at Furman University. For the study, they collected historical data from 200 four-year colleges and universities and contemporary data from 135. They found that across the board college students earning A grades are widespread in every sector and region of the country. Private colleges tend to be more generous on grades than do public institutions and by comparing historical data, they found that there had been an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988 in the percentage of A grades awarded in higher education.

According to the authors, the abundance of A-level grades is a serious problem. "When A is ordinary, college grades cross a significant threshold. Over a period of roughly 50 years, with a slight reversal from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, America’s institutions of higher learning gradually created a fiction that excellence was common and that failure was virtually nonexistent," they write.

Do you agree with the study’s findings? Do you think grade inflation is a serious problem on college campuses today?

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