December 3, 2012

George Washington University Caught Cheating in Coveted U.S. News College Rankings

By Marlene Koury

The ever-controversial yet highly sought-after U.S. News and World Report best college rankings “unranked” George Washington University after GWU disclosed that it had been submitting false academic statistics to U.S. News for over a decade.  The unranking follows a voluntary disclosure earlier this month by GWU that it significantly inflated student academic achievements by overestimating the percentage of incoming freshmen who were in the top 10 percent of their classes.

The latest publication of U.S. News Best Colleges ranked GWU at No. 51 out of approximately 1,600 colleges.  U.S. News chief ranker Bob Morse stated that the No. 51 ranking was higher than GWU would have received absent the inflation.  U.S. News stuck by its policy to unrank rather than re-rank a school who received a higher slot than it deserved and simply kicked them off of the list.  Morse stated that GWU will remain unranked at least until 2014 and “until George Washington confirms the accuracy of the school’s next data submission in accordance with U.S. News’s requirements.” 

Earlier this year, Emory University and Claremont McKenna College admitted to the similar shenanigans, one inflating SAT and ACT scores and the other inflating student test scores, but both escaped the dreaded unranking.  Morse indicated that, unlike GWU, accurate statistics from Emory and Claremont would not have affected their overall ranking.  With these admissions, and the likelihood that numerous other schools are engaging in similar tactics to jockey their ranking, it appears that even our hallowed institutions of higher learning are willing to cheat the system to get ahead.

GWU President Steven Knapp stated that GWU “regret[s] the error and have put safeguards in place to prevent such errors from occurring in the future.”  Some of these safeguards have included firing – or at least reallocating – those responsible for the misrepresentations.  In a cryptic statement, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman said that “nobody who was responsible for the data is in a role where they are responsible for that data in the future.”   

Sounds like GWU learned its lesson. Now it needs to recover its reputation.

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