Friday, April 23, 2010

What Private College Tuition Really Buys You

by Daniel L. Bennett

CCAP has been recently been blogging on the matter of grade inflation (here, here and here). While CCAP has been looking specifically at the Colleges of Education in an effort to examine the trickle down effects into our K-12 education system, we are not the only ones investigating grade inflation. Research from Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy have uncovered some interested data which helps explain what one really gets for their money when choosing to attend a selective private college over a public one. They found that:
Currently at private colleges and universities in our database, the average GPA is 3.3. At public schools, it is 3.0

Since the evidence indicates that private schools in general educate students no better than public schools...private schools are apparently conferring small but measurable advantages to their students by more generous grading. Private schools also have on average students from wealthier families, and the effect of our nation’s ad hoc grading policy is to confer unfair advantages to those with the most money.

It is perhaps easy to see why graduates from certain private schools dominate placement in top medical schools, law schools, business schools, and why certain private schools are overrepresented in Ph.D. study. They grade easier and there is a tendency for graduate schools, professional schools, and some employers to confer extra stature to those who have attended selective private schools. Also, the fact that students from private schools tend to come from wealthier homes means they can stay in school longer.
In other words, private college tuition is buying, on average, higher grades, admission to top professional and graduate programs, and a cut in line for job openings, according to Rojstaczer and Healy.


Steve said...

Or selective colleges have better students who deserve higher grades.

Suppose the average GPA at MIT is 3.3 and the average GPA at the University of Florida is 3.0. Say we compare a student at the 25th percentile at MIT to the average at UF and they both have a 3.0.

Who do you think is smarter and working harder in their classes: this slightly sub-par MIT student (probably scored 1400+ math on the SAT) or the typical UF student (probably scored ~1250 on the SAT).

Daniel L. Bennett said...

Steve - That is certainly a valid point that should be addressed. The researchers did in fact control for measures of selectivity (i.e. - SAT scores and high school gpa) in determining variability. According to the study:

"private schools are grading 0.1 to 0.2 higher on a 4.0 scale for a given talent level"