Grade Inflation Cheapens Education


But not in the trades

Being a straight-A student is not nearly as hard as it used to be. A’s are now the most common grade given to college students (more than 42%), and A’s are three times more common than they were in 1960, according to the website

Does this mean today’s college students are smarter than ever? You’d have trouble finding any professor who really image of grade abelieves that. Grade inflation started with the anti-Vietnam war movement of the 1960s, when college students were exempt from the military draft and sympathetic professors inflated grades to keep their students from flunking out of school and being drafted. The habit has persisted because most college professors want to be popular. Some schools even allow students to grade their instructors, and it’s hard for them to earn a good grade unless they also give them to their students.

Whatever the root cause, grade inflation has cheapened college education. The average college graduate of today is no more educated than high school graduates of the not-too-distant past.

Employers who hire college graduates have learned to adjust. Most shrug off high academic achievement as a poor indicator of future success. They do individual testing and interviewing to determine if a college graduate really is as educated as his or her degree suggests. As one who used to hire college graduates, I can tell you that I was astounded by the poor reading and writing skills of so many of today’s college graduates – almost all of whom were “honors” students based on their grade point average.

I have not witnessed anything comparable with trade education. I have never heard of students in apprenticeship programs or vocational schools being given grades higher than deserved.

Students graduating from apprenticeship programs or vocational schools either master the tools and techniques of their trade or they don’t. Sure, some apprentices are sharper than others, but the practical knowledge they acquire and mechanical techniques they must master leave little room for error or interpretation. The plumbing, HVAC or electrical systems they work on either work or they don’t. Some may be quicker than others at installing equipment or fixing problems, but if they don’t get it right, the system won’t work.

Want an education that really means something? Pursue a skilled trade.