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Why Have College Completion Rates Increased? An Analysis of Rising Grades

Jeffrey Denning (), Eric Eide, Kevin Mumford (), Richard Patterson () and Merrill Warnick

No 28710, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc

Abstract: College completion rates declined from the 1970s to the 1990s. We document that this trend has reversed--since the 1990s, college completion rates have increased. We investigate the reasons for the increase in college graduation rates. Collectively, student characteristics, institutional resources, and institution attended do not explain much of the change. However, we show that grade inflation can explain much of the change in graduation rates. We show that GPA is a strong predictor of graduation rates and that GPAs have been rising since the 1990s. We also find that in national survey data and rich administrative data from 9 large public universities increases in college GPAs cannot be explained by student demographics, preparation, and school factors. Further, we find that at a public liberal arts college, grades have increased over time conditional on final exam performance.

JEL-codes: I20 I21 I23 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021-04
Note: ED LS PE
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