Friday, June 25, 2010

Contrapositive: Raise Grades to Raise Wages

As EF mentioned in her follow-up Zenterview, grade inflation has the potential to become a major issue for both the haves and the have nots. While schools like Brandeis haven't--yet--inflated their grades, there's a positive feedback loop going on that actually might not have the intended outcome of increasing placement at the top firms.

Here's the problem: the economy, stupid.  There are fewer great jobs than there are "great applicants," so graduates--even from prestigious schools that have 150k+ debt loads--are not able to find jobs.  SMU pays law firms to try out their grads for a few months' stint.  Ouch.

Law schools are even trying a fix-my-original-problem answer to the problem:
Loyola Law School...  is retroactively inflating its grades, tacking on 0.333 to every grade recorded in the last few years. The goal is to make its students look more attractive in a competitive job market.
I see this "solution" as only exacerbating and distracting from the problem rather than addressing the root causes.  If a law school can't guarantee jobs to pay off the student loans, then they are admitting too many people in the first place.

I can't imagine that Loyola's actions are going to help any of their graduates land the types of jobs that the Dean is hoping for, because all the big firms will take note of the "increase" and adjust their expectation of a Loyola grad accordingly.

You know someone goofed when I wholeheartedly agree with Above the Law on something:
But of all the things a school might do to help students get jobs, artificially inflating grades retroactively seems like the most shallow and cosmetic “solution” possible... If you want to help students during a recession, lower tuition.
That is certainly one way to address the real "spilled milk" of the problem rather than spread toilet paper all around in a flurry.  Or, schools could decrease their enrollment, focus on the students they know can find jobs, and provide them with a bigger share of the existing resources.

If Loyola actually believed that its students could compete on an even-playing field, maybe they should have pushed for a de-emphasis on GPA and re-emphasis on rank.  Oh right, like EF suggested last week.