Quick Links – College grade inflation; understating federal cost of student loans; trends in physical education

by Grace

College grade inflation

Forty years ago, only 10 percent of grades awarded by Yale College were in the A-range. Last spring, that percentage was 62.

Yale is reviewing its grading policy.

“If B-plus is being kept for bad work, and virtually everyone is getting A or A-minus, this eliminates any genuine feedback,” Kagan said. “I’ve always thought this is a disservice to undergraduates.”


The federal government systematically undercounts the cost of student loans by ignoring market risk.

… the federal government’s accounting practices systematically understate the cost of student loans by failing to account for market risk. A superior method called “fair value accounting,” which is the strong preference of academic economists and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), would show considerably greater costs due to the risk associated with expecting loan repayments….

However, almost all economists believe that the way the federal government accounts for student loan costs is simply wrong. Under the principles of “fair value” accounting, which the CBO endorses, the discount rate applied to the revenue from students’ repayments should be much higher than the rate on U.S. Treasuries. A higher discount rate would reduce the present value of those repayments, thus increasing the cost of the student loan program to the government.

The reason the discount rate is higher is because it incorporates the price of market risk into cost estimates, while current accounting practices ignore that risk. Students might pay back what the government predicts they will, but taxpayers must cover the full cost of the loan regardless. Since defaults tend to occur when the economy is weak, taxpayers face the risk of losing expected funds at a time when budgets are least flexible.

Thus, the government’s budgetary estimate reflects only part of the fair value cost of offering a student loan. Additional cost comes from the risk that loan repayments will be lower than expected.[6] The federal government should use a higher discount rate to reflect the risk that expected loan repayments will not materialize.[7]

This reminds me of how state governments consistently underfund pension obligations, inflating discount rates to hide true taxpayer liability.


High school PE classes focus more on activities that will continue through to adulthood, including work-outs at fitness centers.

High schools are installing gyms for PE.

Forget dodge ball, squat thrusts and being picked last for the team. Today’s high-schoolers are more likely to get a workout in what’s becoming a must-have tool in physical education: a state-of-the-art fitness center.

Less focus on team sports and more emphasis on developing fitness habits that will last a lifetime

“There’s a lot of people who aren’t on the Scarsdale High School football team, and yet they want to be healthy,” he said. “I would anticipate using the treadmill and the machines for gaining muscles.”

There’s a new crop of physical education teachers coming out of college who are preparing to reach students, such as Gale, who don’t just want to learn to play a sport, said Robert Schmidlein, a professor of physical education at Manhattanville College.

“It’s a paradigm shift,” Schmidlein said. “People don’t play team sports when they get older. Less than 1 percent of the adult population plays team sports. Seventy percent of kids drop out of youth sports by age 13. No one should be teaching team sports at the high school.”

“Fit for Life”
Our local high school offers PE students a choice between two options for each class unit, with one usually involving a team sport and the other involving a fitness activity like yoga or running.  While we don’t have a Scarsdale-level fitness center, we do have a small selection of treadmills and elliptical machines.


5 Comments to “Quick Links – College grade inflation; understating federal cost of student loans; trends in physical education”

  1. When I was in college, the usual grading scale was that 92-100 was an A, with 90,91 being an A-. I always have used that scale, but noticed lately that my students were really complaining about it. I checked, and it seems that many of my colleagues set an A- to be 87-89, or even 85-88 in some cases. When did that happen?


  2. Meanwhile, the CollegeBoard and the Princeton Review still hold to 90 as the bottom score for an A.



    But your colleague’s moves to inflate grades does not surprise me.


  3. Converting % correct to grades has always been arbitrary—it depends on the difficulty of the test. A 92–100=A convention is a statement about how difficult exams are supposed to be, not about what an A means. Personally, I find such conventions most often very badly thought out, as they usually end up being statements that more than half of the exam is supposed to be used for distinguishing the mere failures from the utter failures—a waste of time for everyone else.

    A well-designed test to maximize information will have a median score around 50% correct and a fairly large standard deviation (around 15–20%). On such a test, an A may well be 70% or more. The AP tests from the College Board use a scale which varies from test to test and from year to year (depending on the difficulty of the test), but is very roughly 80% for a 5, 60% for a 4, and 40% for a 3 (the three passing grades). More detailed information is available at http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/courses/212187.html


  4. gassstation – Do you use a scale similar to the one used by AP for your tests? IOW, if I scored 75% in your class it would translate to an A?


  5. Getting an A in one of my courses is fairly rare (about 1 in 20 students, I think). If I managed to calibrate a test where I wanted it to be, that would be about 80% correct. I don’t often give tests, though, since I’m more interested in what students can do if given a week (or even 10 weeks) than what they can do in 1-3 hours.


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