According to a study by Stuart Rojstaczer, of Duke University, and Christopher Healy, of Furman University, the average private college GPA is 3.3 while the average public college GPA is 3.0. Rojstaczer and Healy based the study on current grading data they had compiled from 160 schools.
Researchers suggest that laid-back grading standards may be the cause of why private school students have higher GPAs. This could also explain why privately-schooled students are over-admitted into top business, medical, law schools and certain Ph.D. programs. Higher GPAs mean a better chance at admission, and admittance officials may be fooled by private schools’ lax grading systems.
The study also found that over that past 60 years, GPAs have increased roughly 0.1 points per decade. In the 1950s the national average was 2.52, and by the middle of the last decade it had risen to 3.11. In addition to increased grades, the study found that within science departments,students received on average 0.2 points lower than that of social sciences and 0.4 lower than that of humanities. The harsher science grading scale has proven to be the standard for the past 40 years, according to the study.
This could help explain why American students are discouraged from taking science disciplines, Rojstaczer and Healy argue. With a lack of American students going into these fields, the U.S. is heavily relying on foreign-born students to go into technological and research fields.
These grade inflation trends will likely continue to be the norm for the U.S. As long as schools think that giving higher GPAs gives alumni the upper-hand, there will be a lack of incentive to implement stricter grading standards.