Ivy League students had 4.0 GPA in average at high school, but their average college GPA is 3.45. A student from a random school had 3.3 from their high school, and then 3.3 exiting GPA from the random university.

Simple math tells us that which school is grade deflating. But why people always say that Ivies are grade inflating?

Yes, there are some schools whose students had an average GPA of 3.8-ish from high school, but then 3.0-ish while exiting. But those extremely grade-deflating schools are extremely rare. I can only come up two names out of my head.

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    One data point does not a point make. Feb 11, 2018 at 4:18
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    A 3.5 from Harvard means something very different from a 3.5 from the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople.
    – JeffE
    Feb 11, 2018 at 4:30
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    It is difficult to get into an elite university without a 4.0 high school GPA (indeed, many high schools make it possible to graduate with a GPA higher than 4.0---talk about grade inflation). Yet not all of the students that end up matriculating at elite schools perform equally well. This guarantees that there are going to be 4.0 high school students who are not 4.0 elite university students. This is not evidence against an inflationary trend.
    – user79517
    Feb 11, 2018 at 5:11
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    @XanderHenderson Personal data point: I graduated high school with a 4.2 and was in the bottom half of my incoming college class. Feb 11, 2018 at 6:29
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    The first and last sentences of this post are directly contradictory to each other it seems. Which one do you believe? Feb 11, 2018 at 6:33

1 Answer 1


You seem to fundamentally misunderstand what the question is. “Grade inflation” doesn’t mean that you get a higher grade going to an elite university than a local public school, or that you got a higher grade in college then you did in high school. That won’t be true for the vast majority of students. Grade inflation means that students at the University of Overly Large Balloons today are getting higher marks for equivalent work to students at the University of Overly Large Baloons in 2000.

See the chart at the top of this page.


I also wanted to address this line:

Yes, there are some schools whose students had an average GPA of 3.8-ish from High school, but then 3.0-ish while exiting. But those grade-deflating schools are extremely rare. I can only come up two names out of my head.

This is not close to true. Virtually every elite university in the US is an example of such a school. Out of every Ivy League school, the University of Chicago, MIT, and I’m sure many more (stopping because I’m bored, but feel free to google “Median GPA UNIVERSITY” for more data points) we see there are TWO universities out of 10 with median high school GPAs below 4.0. In both cases it was 3.9. The vast majority of students at those schools are not graduating with grades similar to what they had in high school.

This isn’t a phenomenon restricted to elite private schools either. 94% of UVA students got a 3.75+, the median at UCLA is 4.39, and the median at Georgia Tech is 4.03.

Even at schools where the median isn’t so high, many students have a very high high school GPA. For example, 25% of UIUC students had a 3.89 or higher.

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    It’s not the same students now as in the past. People often compare to grades in the 60s and 70s, but admission to these schools were way way less competitive then. People getting a “gentrleman’s C” then just wouldn’t get in now. The number of students going to college has gone up and up, and more top students apply country-wide than in the past. Feb 11, 2018 at 16:01
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    @NoahSnyder Yes, I know there are mitigating factors in these analyses. I don't feel like that has a huge amount of baring on the question though. The question is "why do people say X," not "is X true." Feb 11, 2018 at 17:33
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    @NoahSnyder: Highly skeptical; citation needed. Unclear if "less competitive" means higher acceptance rates, which may not mean anything if large numbers of unskilled applicants show up later. Everyone I know in academia seems painfully aware that entry standards are being lowered in competition for fewer students, post-recession. Example: nytimes.com/2015/10/27/business/dealbook/… Feb 15, 2018 at 2:38
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    And major institutions (CUNY, CSU) have dropped even 8th-grade algebra skills as a requirement for degrees in the last year, because the vast majority of students can't succeed at it even after multiple remediation attempts. To my knowledge, that was never the case in the past. Feb 15, 2018 at 2:44
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    Question was about Ivy League, not CUNY. Feb 15, 2018 at 13:07

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