In the wake of The New York Times article on grade inflation at Princeton University, I began to ponder the effects such a situation could have on the future of Princeton students.
In good faith, I cannot deny all of the claims the article made, partly because I've only completed one semester here and partly because I've heard stories of grade inflation in certain courses. However, I think the manner in which the topic was brought to a head could have lasting repercussions on the academic decisions students make in the upcoming years.
By allowing the grade inflation study to reach such national proportions, the University might indirectly be harming Princeton students' chances for future employment and graduate studies. Most likely, a mass reconfiguration of the grading system won't take place – at least not in our years here at Princeton. Professors aren't going to radically decrease the number of A's and B's they give, or radically increase the number of C's and D's they give. I seriously doubt a large number of students will want to take a class in which the majority of the students receive C's and D's. As a result of this, we'll be getting the same grades as we do now. Only now, companies and graduate school admission officers will see them as vastly inflated when compared with grades of students from other universities.
This isn't because other universities don't have grade inflation, but because other universities weren't lambasted on the front page of a national newspaper. With this article in mind, what do you think a graduate school admissions officer will decide when confronted with a Princeton student and a Harvard student with relatively equal GPAs? It is highly possible that the officer will accept the Harvard student over the Princeton student because of a national report about grade inflation at our university.
Another equally severe situation that might arise has to do with future employment. Are companies going to recruit Princeton students as heavily now that they think we're not as smart as they originally thought? If logic holds, probably not.
A further question that should be looked at is what will happen if students notice a trend of falling graduate school acceptance rates and declining salaries for students graduating from this university. Such a situation could have far reaching implications.
Is it not probable that upon seeing that a B average – which most students would presumably be happy obtaining – won't get them the job offers or graduate school admissions that they desire, students will choose a course of study in which the''re likely to get higher grades? Assuming that we care about our futures, undoubtedly the answer is yes.
Students will begin to shy away from courses that are regarded as extremely difficult and gravitate toward taking easier courses. Students who now take more difficult classes or who take an extra-heavy course load to challenge themselves and take full advantage of a Princeton education will be penalized. They'll be discouraged from extending themselves by the fact that it will harm them in terms of their long-range goals.
I realize the University didn't undertake the grade inflation study in an attempt to discredit the quality of their students. Furthermore, I don't think they intended for the study to generate such national attention. Perhaps, however, these are some things they should have considered beforehand.