Chapman is the latest law school where students have become so frantic about their job prospects that they are petitioning to increase the mandatory median gpa from 2.8 to 3.0. Orange County Register columnist and law student Frank Mickadeit tells us more:
Loyola Law School in L.A. recently announced it was automatically bumping up student GPAs roughly 0.3 (on a 4.0 scale) across the board, immediately drawing criticism, from academic circles. Loyola's reason: the previous mandatory median of a B- (or what would be about 2.8) was excluding students from jobs where a 3.0, or a B, was required.
Loyola law grads also were less competitive with grads from USC and UCLA, which seem to be racing each other to the heights of absurdity. There, as at UCI, the median GPA is already 3.3 on a 4.3 scale. Did I mention that Loyola's bump would be retroactive to as far back as 2007?
Not to be left behind, students at my law school, Chapman, have petitioned to increase the mandatory median from 2.8 to 3.0, essentially keeping pace with Loyola, but moving ahead of Whittier Law, which maxes out the median grade at 2.875.
I signed the petition because I didn't want to be the only weasel in my class not to – which I was assured I would be – but I don't feel good about adding to the nonsense. The national average GPA has increased from 2.93 to 3.11 since 1992. The "Gentleman's C" has become the "Delinquent's D."
It's hard to know what any employer can really make of a GPA. This rather forces them to rely on the tried-but-not-always-so-true method of evaluating a graduate based on his or her school's reputation, as evidenced by the quality (or lack thereof) of recent graduates. In other words, the prospective lawyer is being evaluated on others' performance.
Some elite schools, such as Harvard and Yale, have done away with grades. Last year I made my own deal with a grading structure that seems impossibly flawed: I simply don't look at my grades. And if, in the back of my mind, I know it's possible that I'm just one-tenth of a point above the academic probation line, well, that makes me study harder.
Elite schools like Harvard and Yale have never needed a grading system. When you're someone like George W. Bush, is your future really dependent on whether or not you fail a class at Yale? Of course not. Many students at top tier schools and even not so top tier schools have the connections to obtain prestigious positions independent of their grades. I know of someone who attended an Ivy League college and a Tier 1 (not T14) law school. This person, through personal East Coast connections that were developed long before law school, was able to obtain a mid-sized law firm job during the recession without even having to show any grades from law school. This person had never worked for a law firm prior to receiving this offer. That is how things have always worked within elite circles. It's just that the inequality is more glaringly obvious now that everyone else has to fight tooth and nail for even an interview. A slight bump will not help law students nearly as much as someone who received a C in Contracts but didn't have to show their grades because they are the son or daughter of an influential person. Not even law school rank, as I and many other T14 grads who have shown up here to attest, will guarantee you a job if your family does not belong to the town's elite.
I can understand why students would believe that grade inflation will give them an edge. A decade ago maybe it would work in helping lower tier graduates or students from poor and middle class families find good jobs. Those days no longer exist. If anything this recession and the bailouts to the rich should make it crystal clear to the majority of us that the gap between rich and poor in this country will only grow wider. A degree and a glowing transcript from a third tier school won't change that.