Median GPA at YU Over 3.6, Most Undergraduates on Dean’s List
The majority of Yeshiva University undergraduates merited Dean’s List last year, and the median grade point average (GPA) was greater than a 3.6, according to data provided by the Office of Institutional Research & Assessment (OIR) and confirmed by the Office of the Registrar.
The Academic Policies for both the Wilf Campus and the Beren Campus explain that “each academic year, undergraduate students who are full-time for the fall and spring semesters who have achieved an academic grade point average for the year of at least 3.500 are included on the Dean’s List, which is noted with an entry on the student’s transcript.” In addition, “students with unresolved incomplete grades” by mid-July “are not evaluated.”
An aggregate of 2216 undergraduate students completed full fall and spring semesters in the 2017-18 academic year. These students belonged to YU’s four undergraduate schools — Stern College for Women (SCW), Sy Syms School of Business (Syms-Men and Syms-Women) and Yeshiva College (YC). Making the Dean’s List were 484 out of 861 SCW students (56 percent), 249 out of 583 Syms-Men students (43 percent), 118 out of 180 Syms-Women students (66 percent) and 268 out of 592 YC students (45 percent). In total, 1119 out of 2216 students, or 50.5 percent of the undergraduate student population, made the Dean’s List.
Students’ GPAs are computed as weighted averages based on the credit value of their courses. Grades range from A through F, with an A having a numerical value of 4.000, an A- having a numerical value of 3.667, a B+ having a numerical value of 3.333, and so on through a D-, which has a numerical value of 0.667 (an F has a numerical value of 0). According to the Academic Policies, students who “fail to achieve an average of at least 2.000 … are placed on academic probation.”
Of the 2216 students from this past academic year, 1184, or 53 percent of the undergraduate population, earned cumulative GPAs of at least 3.6, indicating a median GPA slightly greater than 3.6. A total of 711 students, or 32 percent of the undergraduate population, earned GPAs over 3.8, while 422 students, or 19 percent of the undergraduate population, earned GPAs over 3.9.
By college, SCW students overall earned the highest GPAs while Syms-Men students overall earned the lowest GPAs. In SCW, 497 students (58 percent) earned GPAs over 3.6, 320 students (37 percent) earned GPAs over 3.8, and 200 students (23 percent) earned GPAs over 3.9. In Syms-Men, 255 students (44 percent) earned GPAs over 3.6, 143 students (25 percent) earned GPAs over 3.8, and 87 students (15 percent) earned GPAs over 3.9. In Syms-Women, 94 students (52 percent) earned GPAs over 3.6, 53 students (29 percent) earned GPAs over 3.8, and 29 students (16 percent) earned GPAs over 3.9. In YC, 338 students (57 percent) earned GPAs over 3.6, 195 students (33 percent) earned GPAs over 3.8, and 106 students (18 percent) earned GPAs over 3.9.
When presented with the above data that indicates high GPAs in YU, YU’s deans posited a confluence of grade inflation and an intelligent student body. “Nationally there has been grade inflation compared to years gone by and we are not immune to this,” figured Dean Karen Bacon, the Dean of Undergraduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “Nevertheless our high-ranking students consistently go on to success in graduate and professional schools and in their careers, so I don’t feel our grades misrepresent both ability and performance.”
Bacon also pointed to YU’s Honors Program students, noting that “it is not all that surprising that a significant number of students have high GPAs.” According to Professor Daniel Rynhold, the Director of the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program, the Wilf Campus currently has 174 Yeshiva College Honors students and 86 Sy Syms Honors students. According to Professor Cynthia Wachtell, the Director of the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program at Stern College, there are currently 172 Stern College Honors students (as of the time of publication, The Commentator was unable to confirm the number of women students in the Syms Honors Program).
Dean Michael Strauss of Sy Syms School of Business and Dean Ethel Orlian of Stern College for Women similarly attributed the high GPAs to YU’s “Honors students” and “high achievers,” respectively.
As Dean Bacon noted, grade inflation is indeed not unique to Yeshiva University. Several years ago, The Harvard Crimson revealed that the median grade at Harvard College was an A-. According to The Emory Wheel, a “study of more than 400 colleges … found that more than 40 percent of all awarded grades are As.” Other studies as well indicate that grade inflation is endemic to hundreds of American colleges and universities. Even Princeton University, where grading expectation policies were instituted in Fall 2004 to curb grade inflation, had an average GPA of 3.461 this past academic year.
Archives from The Commentator indicate that GPA concerns have permeated YU dialogue in decades past. An article from 1955 describes how Yeshiva College revoked a grading expectation policy that had previously been in effect.
“We expect instructors to know how to grade,” explained Dean Simeon Guterman, the Dean of Yeshiva College from 1953-1959, to The Commentator at the time. “We would like to see a proper grade distribution for the school as a whole.”