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Law School Grade Inflation

The just released 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress High School Transcript Study found that the grade point average increased to 3.0 in 2009 from 2.68 in 1990.

This is tame compared to the grade inflation going on in law schools. Last year, Loyola Law School in Los Angeles decided to take grade inflation to a new level, retroactively inflating its grades by adding on .333 to every grade.

The purpose of this is very admirable. The administration is trying to help its students. But it is sort of like governments printing money and giving it out to people. It is great for the people that get the money but it is bad for everyone else which, in this case, is every Loyola Law grad who did not get the benefit of this increase.

But, there is also a more important argument: grade inflation hurts good students. If you don’t have lines between students, employers can’t tell who is who. With that vacuum of information, that prospect might not get hired.

If you go to Harvard or Yale, this is no biggy; prospective employers know you likely have the smarts to be successful. But far beyond that, it does matter how well you do in law school compared to everyone else. Grade inflation makes it harder to differentiate between law students.

The University of Baltimore Law School, where I have taught for 13 years, has gone in the opposite direction. When I began at UB, I wanted to be the well liked professor who gave good grades. And give good grades I did. Now, UB has imposed a range within which my grades have to be. I didn’t like it and I still don’t like it. But it really is the best thing for students who are out there fighting for jobs.

Law school grade inflation would bother me less if it actually helped a student for every student in hurt. But it does not work that way. If you are a bad student, you are not getting a job on your grades, you are getting a job based on whatever in spite of your grades that you bring to the table. A prospective employer is not going to care if you have a 2.4 instead of a 2.1.

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