One Way To Make Your College Look Better In Reviews Is To Lie About SAT Scores

When high school students and their parents are searching for the right college, many turn to publications like the U.S. News & World Report to check out how potential schools are ranked so they can make an informed decision on where to plunk down cash for an education. So it’s a pretty big deal that Claremont McKenna College has admitted to inflating the SAT scores of its current students.

The New York Times says that a senior administrator has admitted to falsifying SAT scores of the small California school to multiple publications for the last five years. That data is used in part to determine the ranking of a school against others, and helps students decide where to apply and eventually attend. The administrator has resigned his post of vice president and dean of admissions.

Claremont’s president says the critical reading and math scores reported to U.S. News and others “were generally inflated by an average of 10-20 points each.”

Even small differences can affect the rankings, which in turn can sway students to go to one university over another.

The senior vice president of publishing for The Princeton Review, Robert Franek, says this kind of deception is unheard of. His publication is based on opinion instead of test data, but even so he feels the schools should be upfront.

“We want to put out very clear information so that students can make an informed decision about their school,” he said. “I feel like so many schools have a very clear obligation to college-bound students to report this information honestly.”

College Says It Exaggerated SAT Figures for Ratings [New York Times]

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  1. az123 says:

    Why are people so shocked about this kind of stuff? The university level system in this country is just setup for this kind of behavior. The staff’s pay (if not job itself) is dependent on increased student attendance and bringing in more money. So just about anyone there is likely do say / do what they need to in order to do that. This is about bringing in more students, thus more money. I have worked in research at universities and seen people apply for grants, manipulate data etc, so that it says what they think the people handing out money are looking to see… One day we send out the report that says we have proved global warming and the next we send out one that says we have debunked it…. just depends on who is handing out the cash on that given day

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I agree. The reason this administrator had no problem with LYING for 5 years is that they saw lying before where it is an accepted tool from the unofficial handbook. It was probably a commonly used tool as well. If they saw lying or falsifying documents enough times it must be ‘ok’. Just another case of the ends justify the means mentality. And too many episodes of House.

      • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

        If you keep lying enough, you can choose students with higher SAT scores from the increased number that apply. Then the lies start to become truths. Yeah, that’s it.

    • DariusC says:

      My college just charges a ton for credits (500 each), but they have great instructors. I feel that they don’t thoroughly grade material, but who has the time? College isn’t about meeting a standard, it’s about what you get from it. If you don’t learn anything, it will show when you apply for a job or try to do the job you applied for. College is a system where you pay for the knowledge and how much of it you learn and retain is your business. Judging someone by a piece of paper is poor at best and reckless at worst. In the future, I hope that knowledge and education becomes free and people are judged by what they know and not by the college they went to or how high their SAT scores are. I know many people knowledgable in their field but can’t complete many areas of algebra or have grammar habits that aren’t by-the-book. If you don’t use it, you will forget it. You cannot be reasonably expected to reproduce all the knowledge you learned from before if you don’t use it on a regular basis!

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I’d rather live in a world where I am shocked by deception than to just assume it occurs at every level.

      The latter makes me suspicious of everyone and everything. And makes me want to wear a tin foil hat and read Catcher in the Rye.

      • az123 says:

        I use to assume trust but verify in life…. the one thing that made me switch over to verify verify verify was working at a university for 5 years. People did not even try to hide how they were violating rules, and you did not need to worry about getting caught since everyone was encouraging a free for all. Then the one time they did get into trouble because of mis-spending some federal money, they basically made it look good on paper for the feds by forcing a couple people (one of which was not even involved in the situation at all) to resign and take early retirement. A majority of those involved skated away because a few were willing to protect their retirement funds and “take the fall”

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        We should be shocked by lies and/or deception but being shocked requires some niavete . The problem here which appauls me but doesn’t surprise is that this lie was put in writing. When you put a lie in writing to me that is a crime-fraud, along with verbally lying to gain money or an “official” positive outcome. This shouldn’t be treated as a morale issue but a criminal one. But without criminal prosecutions even if a slap on a wrist criminal fraud or deceptions like this will continue.

        In a nutshell http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=house+everybody+lies&view=detail&mid=CEA2EC1B7909BC581F56CEA2EC1B7909BC581F56&first=0&FORM=LKVR3

  2. Don't Bother says:

    I loved my college. It definitely helped that it has been ranked #1 in the region for about five or six years (from this very report). It does suck though that when I’m asked where I went, most people give me a blank stare.

    One other thing that I’ve noticed is that some profs stay not because they are wonderful at teaching, but because they’ll keep the ranking of the school intact. The college I attended had a two foreign, black profs that were awful at teaching. They were kept because it would make the college look more diversified and multicultural, although almost no one who had them gave them great reviews at the end of the class.

    (Obligatory: On the record, I had other black profs I liked, these two were just awful at their jobs.)

  3. PunditGuy says:

    Make the criteria objective, and you encourage people to game the system. Make it subjective, and you encourage people to buy better scores. This is no different than financial services ratings from AM Best, Fitch, S&P…

    Ultimately, should these ratings even make a difference?

    • Don't Bother says:

      I don’t think these rankings should be a make it or break it thing. They are useful to help parents/high school students look into different colleges to see if they fit them. They are good as a baseline to get down a feel of a school.

      Colleges really have a personality of their own. Looking at rankings and cold data won’t actually give someone a sense of it.

  4. scoosdad says:

    I used to work for a college that used their annual rankings in the US News & World Report’s college issue in all their marketing and admissions materials.

    It was funny to see how they twisted their ranking every year, no matter where we ended up, to make it sound like we were right at the top of some self-made category— “number one among top-ranked liberal arts colleges that start with the letter M”, stuff like that. And that year we were actually ranked in the mid-20′s among our type of school. Not bad by itself, but not good enough for the publicity machine.

  5. Thyme for an edit button says:

    This happens with law schools as well. A couple schools were caught this past year. There is no real penalty and the American Bar Association, which accredits schools, does nothing about it but form committees to study how things can be improved. Employment statistics have become notoriously misleading and the data is collected by the schools, not by an independent body.

  6. Cat says:

    I never took SATs. I went to community college after a 5 year break after high school, they didn’t care about my SATs. When I transferred colleges they didn’t ask about my SAT scores, either, all they did was look at my 4.0 GPA and said “you’re in”.

  7. winstonthorne says:

    This one is my personal favorite, and was not in the linked article. From Fiddler on the Roof (sorry guys, don’t know how to do italics in a comment):

    Perchik: “Money is the world’s curse!”
    Tevye: “May God smite me with it, and may I never recover!”

  8. Swins says:

    It’s not unheard of, in fact if it is it is because they are turning a deaf ear to the situation.

  9. Spokes says:

    This doesn’t surprise me at all. Claremont McKenna is known across the Claremont Colleges for doing everything it can to boost its stats and overall ranking in US News to the detriment not only of their own students but everyone in the consortium. Case in point–to inflate their ranking they have a HARD cap on 19 students per class for all but a couple of introductory classes and offer NO exceptions for going over that number even just by one student. They aren’t focused on a better learning experience, they’re focused on juking the stats. The list goes on…

  10. Major Tom Coming Home says:

    I work for a college and it is my responsibility to fill out these types of surveys. The publishers surveys are good thing in theory because it allows students and parents to easily compare schools. I always fill the surveys out as honestly and as accurately as possible. It doesn’t hurt that our school usually does well in these types of comparisons without needing to doctor the numbers. That isn’t to say that mistakes aren’t occasionally made by myself or other schools that can either be in favor of or against the favor of the institution, but these are innocent type mistakes. Certain metrics for my school, like our first year retention rate or % of graduates that go onto grad school aren’t so hot, but we report them honestly anyway.

    The problem is that there must be 15 publishers that want me to fill out their frakking survey. Many of the questions asked are standard things found in our common data set, but every publisher seems to want some kind of obscure and useless statistic. I don’t know for instance how many of our students play kickball or join the chess club, it isn’t like anyone takes attendance. I don’t know how many false fire alarms occurred in the dorms last year, The housing office doesn’t even track this. I spend a lot of time at tax payer expense trying to track down answers to very stupid questions, and quite often I can’t answer. Occasionally there is an off-the-wall question that I could answer, but if it pertains to something that is not the goal of our college and the response would make us look really bad, I refuse to answer with the blessing of my supervisor but never falsify or stretch the truth.

    Finally, some of the large publishers are like the Mafia. If you don’t respond to US News and World Report, they won’t exclude the question you didn’t answer from your “ranking”. Instead, they do something like grading you two standard deviations below the average. You are basically heavily penalized if you don’t answer. Administration doesn’t really care about most of the surveys, but if we did bad on US News it would be the end of the world.