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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.

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  • 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/

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