Cap on A’s hurts Princeton students

Illustration by Justin Park

Illustration by Justin Park

By Eric Macias
Chicago, Ill. 

Students at Princeton University in New Jersey have expressed discontent towards the University’s grade deflation policy that has been in place for a decade.

Established in 2004, Princeton’s system has played a role in the downfall of students’ grade point averages. It caps the number of As given out to students by a specific percentage per individual department.

The attainment of A’s at educational institutions implies that students have demonstrated excellent work, not average work. The implementation of a limit on the number of A’s awarded to students assumes that not every student is capable of excellent work. Therefore, the grade deflation policy embraced by Princeton should not be allowed in academic settings.

According to The New York Times, the undergraduate student government at Princeton said that “32 percent of students cited the grading policy as the top source of unhappiness.” At elite institutions, such as Princeton, admitted students are selected from a large pool of qualified applicants. Hence, each student is capable of achieving excellence in academic settings and should not be limited by an unfair grading policy.

As a well-respected institution, Princeton’s graduates are also well respected by employers. But students worry that their grades will undermine that respect.

Undergraduate Jonathan Sarnoff told The New York Times in January 2010 that, “a Princeton G.P.A. is different from a G.P.A. at the College of New Jersey.” While Sarnoff’s words have some veracity, it fails to recognize that grade deflation affects the post-college opportunities of Princeton graduates.

While the grading system is well-intentioned, it hurts the competitiveness of students when they are compared to graduates from other prestigious institutions.

Another student at Princeton, Daniel Rauch, told The New York Times he’s concerned about the impact of the policy when applying to graduate schools. “You apply with a 3.5 from Princeton and someone just as smart as you applies with a 3.8 from Yale.”

Due to the negative perception of the grading system, the Dean of the College’s office stated that “under no circumstances should any faculty member fail to give an A to a student who deserves it.” Although the office put forth that comforting claim, a Princeton professor told The New York Times that in one class ten students produced excellent work, but only five students received an A.

This grading system has proven to be more detrimental than beneficial to Princeton students. That being said, if they are in need of a self-esteem boost, they can simply visit, a website designed to convert Princeton GPAs into elevated Harvard GPAs.

Needless to say, a pride-filled smirk emerges on the faces of Princeton students as they glance at their GPA — even if they will never obtain it at Princeton.

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