Over half of students who graduated from Harvard and Johns Hopkins universities this year did so with cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude honors or their equivalents, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Just under that many students earned the once-meaningful designations at the University of Southern California, Lehigh, and Princeton. At Middlebury College, anyone with a GPA of at least 3.4 can add Latin honors to their brand new résumé, which was over half of students as of this spring.
“I’d say that it’s time to reconsider our eligibility criteria,” said Middlebury Interim Provost Jeff Cason.
According to a Wall Street Journal review of graduating seniors who earned designations at schools in the top 50 institutions ranked by the WSJ, honors designations "have become close to the norm at many top."
The share increased to 44% from 32% in the past decade at USC, which requires a GPA of at least 3.5 for the lowest honor, cum laude, and to 44% from 39% at Lehigh, where students need at least a 3.4. -WSJ
“A 4.0 does signal something significant, that that student is good,” said Stuart Rojstaczer, a former professor at Duke University who studies grade inflation. “A 3.7, however, doesn’t. That’s just a run-of-the-mill student at any of these schools.”
What's to blame? Academic researchers say grade inflation, not smarter students, according to the Journal. A University of Georgia researcher found that 47% of high-school students graduated with an A average in 2016, vs. 39% in 1998. Those students have been maintaining good grades in college.
At Wellesley College, 41% of this year’s graduating class completed their degrees with Latin honors, which means a GPA of at least 3.6 at the Massachusetts school. That share has risen in the past two years, after being roughly one-third for much of the past decade. A spokeswoman said the school hasn’t pinpointed the cause of the increase. -WSJ
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