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Grade Inflation: Colleges With the Easiest and Hardest Grades

Grade inflation has been raging for years on college campuses, but professors at some schools have never got the message to go easy on the grading.

Where do college students encounter the toughest grading? Stuart Rojstaczer, a former Duke professor, who created, compiled a list of schools earlier this year of the toughest graders.

At the 16 colleges and universities on the list, it's significantly harder to get A's than the typical campus. Not all of the schools have particularly low GPA's, but Rojstaczer observed that there are selective schools on this list that would prompt you to expect more A's.

Colleges & Universities With the Toughest Grades



  • Auburn University
  • Florida International University
  • Hampden-Sydney College
  • Purdue University
  • Roanoke College
  • Southern Polytechnic State
  • University of Houston
  • Virginia Commonwealth University


  • Cal State University-Fullerton
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Reed College
  • Simon Fraser University (Canada)

Where Are the Easiest Graders?

Highly selective schools, both public and private, tend to award much higher grades. In a paper on grade inflation, Rojstaczer insisted, that wealthy students, who gravitate to private colleges in greater numbers, are receiving unfair advantage by having access to easier A's.

At private schools the average GPA is 3.30 and at some of these schools the average is 3.5 or even 3.6. At Brown University, two thirds of the grades are A's. It's hard to imagine kids trying too hard when they know everybody is going to "earn" an A.

Professors at less selective colleges and universities tend to give out lower grades.Overall, students at state universities earn lower grades than their peers are private schools. According to Rojstaczer, the average GPA is 3.01 at state schools, but the GPA at many state flagships the GPA is 3.2.

Despite grade inflation, most students do not earn all A's, according to federal education statistics. According to the feds, 11% of students attending public institutions get mostly "A's" while 17% of students at private schools earned the same distinction. Eleven percent of students at public schools earn mostly A's and B's, while 15.5% of private school students do.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes for TheCollegeSolutionBlog.

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