90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Monday, April 8, 2013

Colleges Misreport Data To Boost Rankings

Graduates from various institutions toss their hats in the air in Philadelphia, May 20, 2011. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Graduates from various institutions toss their hats in the air in Philadelphia, May 20, 2011. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Over the last two years, seven major universities have admitted to misreporting their admissions statistics to make them look more selective.

This in turn increases their standings in rankings like U.S. News and World Report.

A 2011 study at the Harvard Business School found that rising by just one number in the U.S. News & World Report rankings leads to a nearly one percent increase in applications.

The American Bar Association has penalized several law schools for misreporting their statistics to make them more attractive.

Fifteen law schools are being sued for fraud and false advertising for allegedly misreporting graduates’ job-placement rates.

But for most universities, there is no punishment for misreporting these numbers.

Jon Marcus, contributing editor for the Hechinger Report, says that there’s really no way to tell how extensive the problem is.

“I talked with the Department of Education, who also receives these statistics,” Marcus said. “They could not tell me how many times changes to the data were significant, but changes to reported data were common.”


  • Jon Marcus, contributing editor for the Hechinger Report.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • NancyD

    The misreporting of data by colleges is just part of the problem.  Another issue is that applicants tend to think that popularity (number of applications received) and selectivity (percentage of applicants admitted) are reliable indicators of the quality of education a college or university provides.  It’s a vicious cycle: colleges promote the rankings, leading applicants to think that a higher ranking = a “better” school, and then college administrators feel compelled to take action to preserve or improve a high ranking.    See:  http://admissionscafe.wordpress.com/category/college-admissions/college-rankings/

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

April 15 7 Comments

4 Lamb Recipes, Plus Lamb Cooking Tips

With the weather getting warmer, Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst is thinking lamb. She shares recipes for Middle Eastern-style lamb meatballs and more.

April 15 14 Comments

The Problem With U.S. Tax Policies

Tax expert David Cay Johnston says it's easy to fool the IRS, but there's one catch: "you have to be rich." He says outdated tax policies are hurting the economy.

April 14 4 Comments

Lessons For News Media After Marathon Bombings

We take a look at what the news media got wrong and what can be learned for future breaking news coverage.

April 14 7 Comments

Marathon Bombing Survivor Loses Limbs But Finds New Life

A year after Jeff Bauman lost both legs in the bombing, he and his fiancée are expecting their first child.