Businesses Question Campus Standards

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a rising trend among employers of recent college graduates. To determine a job applicant’s skills and knowledge, many of them have started to rely on a test instead of the graduate’s grade point average.  Some of them, such as General Mills, have crafted their own job-applicant examinations, while others prefer the Collegiate Learning Assessment, an exam that rates critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and advanced literacy, not subject matter knowledge. Even Teach for America places GPA as but one of “dozens of things used to winnow nearly 60,000 applicants for 5,900 positions” each year.

The reason is simple. Too many employers have found that GPA doesn’t correlate well with ability. Young people coming out of college with sparkling transcripts enter the workplace and falter–a natural result of grade inflation. As the story reports, the percentage of “A” letter grades has skyrocketed in the last fifty years, but there is little indication that the student population today is smarter and more hardworking than it was in previous times.  In other words, current evaluation norms are unreliable.  What the campus considers superior achievement, the workplace does not.

This is a sharp rebuke of college professors and higher education curricula.  Businesses have no ideological motives behind their shift, and they would, of course, prefer that GPA provide them a sure determination of value, but they are tired of hiring candidates who look great on paper but can’t do the job.  Their dissatisfaction is not with the graduates, but with those who assigned the letter grades.

Count this as but one more indication of the deterioration of standards on campus, and another piece of evidence against the presumption that a college diploma guarantees competence and judgment.

Mark Bauerlein

Mark Bauerlein is a professor emeritus of English at Emory University and an editor at First Things, where he hosts a podcast twice a week. He is the author of five books, including The Dumbest Generation Grows Up: From Stupefied Youth to Dangerous Adults.

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