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Colleges caught inflating numbers to boost their magazine rankings
JUST AS THE nation's colleges and universities are being grilled for high tuition costs, mountainous
It's a sad and disturbing revelation. Some of the nation's best-known and most highly regarded schools have been caught in this web of deceit--institutions such as Tulane, George Washington, and Bucknell.
Among the earliest wrongdoers was Iona College. The well-regarded New York school confessed in 2011 that it had been fudging numbers for coveted U.S. News rankings for nine years, hoping to draw high-achieving high-school students. Then came Claremont McKenna, an excellent school in California that had tinkered with its numbers just enough to lift it from 11th to ninth in U.S. News's best-value list. As a result, a competing list in Kiplinger magazine dropped Claremont McKenna from its listings entirely--a high price to pay for the prestige of calling oneself a "Top 10" institution.
Some schools not only hiked the SAT scores of incoming freshmen, they inflated the kids' class rankings, too. Moreover, Baylor paid incoming freshmen to retake their SATs with the expectation that the newer scores would look better. Still other schools have offered brainy students from wealthy families financial aid they didn't need just to enroll them and boost their incoming-class data.
This story isn't going away. Observers assume that many other schools are guilty but either haven't been caught or haven't chosen to come clean.
Parents and students will now peruse those magazine rankings with skepticism. They'll wonder whether all those "Top Colleges" books and catalogs are sharing tainted information.
Like other industries beset by cheating, colleges will need to assure prospective students and their parents that their freshman stats are honest. Those consumers must know that the pile of money they're about to dump on some campus is going to a school whose reputation is not a work of fiction.