High Grades Are Not Undeserved

Some people, after careful observation, reach the conclusion that Pomona College has a problem of GPA inflation. They believe that an A is easy to get simply because there are more people getting As. They think professors are easy graders because the cutoff GPA for the top 25 percent of students is getting higher.

But hey, what is inflation? In economic terms, inflation means that to buy the same kind of Domino’s pizza, you’ve got to spend more dollars. Applying the same logic, we could safely conclude that if there is grade inflation and you get an A, your quality of work was probably worse than the A-quality work from five years ago. Following the same standard, five years ago your work would not have qualified you for an A. So are you saying that the professors are no longer serious about their grading and have started to lower the standard to make you happy? Are you saying that you could be lazier and still get a happy A nowadays?

I don’t find such arguments convincing at all. If you find a laptop more affordable now than 10 years ago, you would say, “I have better purchasing power!” rather than, “I am getting a worse laptop.” But when it comes to grades, do you blame the grading standard without considering our hard work at all?  Many professors at Pomona would tell you that they don’t curve grades. If your work is of A quality, then you get an A. They are not making us lazy. They are making us responsible for ourselves. They give us As because of how good we are, not how terrible others are. Think about it: When more and more people work really hard, at the A level, is it really fair to give them Bs for the purpose of maintaining our high academic standards?

You might ask why there are more people qualifying for As if the academic standard is not falling. Look, Pomona is becoming more selective. Pomona College had an admissions rate of 12.8 percent for the first-year class, compared to 13.6 percent the year before—a 0.8 percent drop in only one year. The average SAT score is 10 points higher. That means we are able to admit better students and there are more students who have the abilities to ace the class. Furthermore, we have better resources. We’ve got the new Quantitative Studies Center, two new residence halls, and a new center for studio art being planned. We are making it easier for Sagehens to thrive.

That is why I don’t agree with the argument stated by Saahil Desai PO ’16 in his article “Dear Pomona, Let Us Fail” that “if Pomona students want to embrace and battle failure, then A grades should never be seen as commonplace.”

We are not afraid of failure. We are afraid of being graded without fairness. We are afraid that what we get does not match what we put in. We are afraid that to be Pomona College Scholars, we have to give up our laid-back attitude toward learning well together, and think of tricks to make our friends fail.

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