At the beginning of the 2009-2010 academic year, the Marquette University Law School adopted a new grading system. A more conventional set of “plus” and “minus” grades replaced the previous A, AB, B, BC, C, D, F system that appears to be unique to Marquette University. Also, for larger classes, the Law School adopted a rule requiring a mandatory mean grade point average of 3.0, in lieu of the previous requirement of a median grade of B.
The new system has had the effect of lowering the overall GPA of the student body, although the experience of the first year has shown that the effect may not be as great as some (including this writer) anticipated.
In tightening up its grading system, Marquette is moving in a quite different direction than many American law schools.
According to Monday’s New York Times, at least ten ABA-accredited law schools, including Georgetown, NYU, and Tulane, have raised their overall grades to make their students appear more competitive on the job market.
Loyola of Los Angeles has gone farther than anyone, raising every grade awarded over the last several years by 0.333 points. For most Loyola students, this means a retroactive GPA jump of a third of a grade point. In other words, a student with a 3.2 GPA before the new policy took effect now has a GPA of 3.533, without having had to do anything to obtain the improvement. (In Loyola’s defense, its previous mean first-year GPA of 2.67 was one of the lowest in the United States.)
Whether or not employers will be fooled by such grade manipulations is open to question.