The Commercial Appeal

Five colleges lied to U.S. News

- By Nick Anderson

Tulane University officials were preparing to send statistics to U. S. News & World Report for its annual graduate school rankings when they noticed something peculiar in early December: sharp drops in admissions test scores and applicatio­ns to their business school.

Their curiosity became alarm and then embarrassm­ent, as the New Orleans university discovered and disclosed that the business school’s admissions figures from previous years had been falsified. Soon afterward, Bucknell University in Pennsylvan­ia announced that for several years it had reported inflated SAT scores for incoming students.

These and similar revelation­s in the past year have come from Claremont McKenna College in California, Emory University in Atlanta and George Washington University in Washington, D.C. In each case, the highly regarded schools acknowledg­ed that they had submitted incorrect test scores or overstated the high school rankings of their incoming freshmen.

At a time of intense competitio­n for highachiev­ing students, the episodes have renewed debate about the validity of the U.S. News rankings, which for three decades have served as a reference for parents and students shopping for colleges.

Much of the informatio­n colleges present about themselves to U.S. News, other analysts and the federal government is not independen­tly verified. That makes it impossible to know how many may have misreporte­d data over the years as they angle for prestige to stand out in a crowded market.

U.S. News Editor Brian Kelly said the number of schools that have corrected their record is “a pretty small universe,” which he considers a sign that reporting problems are not pervasive. He said he would not be surprised if a few more cases emerged.

“If it was a stampede I would be surprised,” Kelly said, “and that might cause us to rethink some things.”

Kelly acknowledg­ed that revelation­s from five prominent colleges are unusual. But he said the disclosure­s should strengthen confidence in the rankings because they show schools take the data seriously.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States