Naked Grade Inflation

Ah, the missed opportunities felt by students with “B” but not “B+” grades!

Well, this never happened when I went to Loyola Law School.  I, like so many other people with good-but-not-great grades, was stuck living with the consequences of not proving myself a young god striding the earth like a colossus but merely a smart and promising young lawyer.  I certainly didn’t have an administration explicitly, transparently, and unashamedly raising up my grade point average to an unearned level so that I would have an edge in the job market.  I also didn’t have the school paying a law firm to employ me so that I could get my foot in the door somewhere that wouldn’t have otherwise considered me because I had the equivalent of a 3.2 grade point average and their cutoff for consideration was 3.5.  Instead of six-figure salaries right out of law school, or a prestigious Federal clerkship to open doors for me later in my career, I got to cut my teeth at a public interest firm and then do insurance defense before striking out on my own.

Loyola, it seems, has realized that its grading curve is simply too steep and produces numbers that look like its students are underperforming compared to their counterparts at UCLA and USC.  And after many years of this, it’s the UCLA and USC grads, not the Loyola grads, who got on partnership tracks at prestigious firms and have been able to make handsome donations back to their schools as alumni.  The obvious solution to close the gap?  Give your students better grades, whether they earn them or not!

Now, I always thought that I was an intellectual equal to my peers with only slightly better grades than me.  It never seemed fair that a few percent of a few points here and there meant they got offered the brass rings and I got to admire the grain of the wood on the exterior doors of the BIGLAW firms; I was just as bright as them, just as capable, but maybe not quite as lucky or with quite the same kind of support and background to give me that little nudge and get over the hump and into the Promised Land. 

So, if some students are getting their grades retroactively increased, why not go back and do the same for alumni?  My grades were right on the cusp of making it into the honor society, but not quite good enough.  So if you inflated them by a third of a point, maybe I’d have gotten in!  Maybe with a one-third of a point boost, I would have qualified for that judicial clerkship, or been eligible for consideration by Nasty, Poor, Brutish & Short, LLP, for a paid internship instead of a “thin letter.”  Maybe with a school-funded salary subsidy, I’d have been able to get the attention of a hiring partner at Arrogant, Expensive & Condescending, LLP and got an interview for a summer associate position and earned my next year’s tuition and rent money instead of having to take out loans and work for a public interest firm to cut my teeth before I could start making real money.

So how about the school arranges to have its alumni retroactively paid the hundreds of thousands of dollars that a high-powered career track I could have had if only my grades had been inflated, wipe out the debt and the low-earning years and the unprestigious work of defending seedy dive bars from lawsuits filed by the losers of the weekly brawls and knife-fights, and replace them with the sexy trademark litigation and billion-dollar real estate deals that my peers whose grades were only one-third of a point higher than mine actually got to do?

No, that isn’t going to happen.  Here’s what’s really going to happen.   No one cares about my grades anymore, sixteen years after I graduated from law school.  But they the grades of recent graduates still matters to them.  Now that the word is out that Loyola inflates its grades by one-third of a point for every student, savvy employers and judges considering resumes from Loyola graduates and students are now going to mentally subtract a third of a point from the applicant’s GPA — whether the grade of this particular Loyolan has been inflated or not.  Fewer Loyolans, not more, will get the good clerkships, the good internships, the doors to the high-arc career paths opened — because the value of a Loyola of Los Angeles Juris Doctorate has just been permanently cheapened, by one-third of a point.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.