Grade inflation can cause real harm according to Courant

August 4, 2020

"Everybody's grades are getting better every year," according to Paul Courant, Ford School professor. "When I went to college, a B+ average was considered to be quite good. Now in many places, it's not seen that way."

Grade inflation prevents a clear touchpoint to evaluate how people really are doing.

But Courant says the problem is even greater. He notes in an interview on BYU radio's "Constant Wonder" program, that different grading norms exist in different fields. Science and engineering have higher standards and lower grades, then the social sciences and then humanities, he says. "So that can create untoward effects." 

"Students are making choices based on GDP, and not getting the full advantage of what higher education offers. The point of college is to learn about a wide range of topics and get some expertise, and enrich your life and the lives of others."

Courant has a broad perspective on student achievement, having served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, university librarian and dean of libraries, associate provost for academic and budgetary affairs, chair of the Department of Economics, and director of the Institute of Public Policy Studies (predecessor of the Ford School). 

"If different grading standards cause people to go into fields that aren’t best suited for them, then it causes real harm," he says.  

He had written about the issue to The Chronicle of Higher Education in January 2020.

You can hear the conversation here. (Courant starts at 28:34)