Economical woes have been pinned as the source for everything from a stuttering Wall Street to formulaic article leads blaming the economy.
A recent New York Times article, however, pinpointed another institution cracked by financial problems — the higher education grading scale.
The article brought to light a recent trend in law schools around the country to augment graduate students’ grades en masse. Loyola Law School Los Angeles, for example, will be retroactively adding 0.333 to every grade its students have received in the last few years.
Like many professional graduate programs across the country, Loyola’s change in grading structure was put in place to give students a boost in a tougher job climate.
Giving students better chances at law firms — some of which record the grade inflation, others of which don’t — also helps keep the rankings at the school constant in a time when many graduates are unemployed.
“If somebody’s paying $150,000 for a law school degree, you don’t want to call them a loser at the end,” said Stuart Rojstaczer, a former professor at Duke University, in an interview with The New York Times. “So you artificially call every student a success.”
USC’s law school changed its curve last year to be more lenient, as did many West Coast schools, including our crosstown rival.
Grade inflation is one of several gimmicks graduate schools are using to boost their new, fledgling alumni, including paying companies to take them on for trial periods or holding recruiting seminars earlier in the year. But while students can use as much help as they can get in a tough job market, grade inflation is ultimately risky business.
Like monetary inflation, it’s only a matter of time before the value of the letter grade itself decreases exponentially; this trend foretells a bleak future where college grads will be wallpapering their rooms or making fires with diplomas that are worth less than the paper they’re printed on.
Some law schools — such as Stanford — have eighty-sixed letter grades altogether, opting for the pass/fail system. Perhaps this is the way to go — like steroids in professional sports, grade inflation tips the playing field on its end, regardless of which schools take part.
This inflation is a quick fix, but most likely will not be able to ride out the economic turmoil. Schools would do better to rely on padding their career seminars than their students GPAs.
Lucy Mueller is a senior majoring in cinema-television production.