Munich Personal RePEc Archive

University Competition, Grading Standards and Grade Inflation

Popov, Sergey V. and Bernhardt, Dan (2010): University Competition, Grading Standards and Grade Inflation.


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We develop a model of strategic grade determination by universities distinguished by their distributions of student academic abilities. Universities choose grading standards to maximize total wages of graduates. Job placement and wages hinge on a firm’s productivity assessment given a student’s university, grade and productivity signal. We identify conditions under which better universities set lower grading standards, exploiting the fact that firms cannot distinguish between “good” and “bad” “A”s. In contrast, a social planner sets stricter standards at better universities. We show how increases in skilled jobs drive grade inflation, and determine when grading standards fall faster at better schools.

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