I don’t know what was more surprising. To read in Inside Higher Ed that a well respected liberal arts college had reported incorrect SAT data to several rankings entities or to read that Claremont McKenna inflated its scores by 10 or 20 points on the Math and Critical Reading sections. 10 Points? Claremont McKenna is part of the five Claremont Colleges; the others are Harvey Mudd, Pomona, Scripps and Pitzer. According to my data source, Claremont McKenna accepted 17% of applications it received in 2010. Apparently, this score exaggeration was going on for the past six years. That an elite college–and if you are only accepting 17% of all applicants you are ‘elite’–would throw away their reputation for a few points is really shocking.
Is Claremont McKenna the only college to do this? No. According to the NY Times, “several colleges in recent years have been caught gaming the system — in particular, the avidly watched U.S. News & World Report rankings — by twisting the meanings of rules, cherry-picking data or just lying.” The Times goes on to say, “In one recent example, Iona College in New Rochelle, north of New York City, acknowledged last fall that its employees had lied for years not only about test scores, but also about graduation rates, freshman retention, student-faculty ratio, acceptance rates and alumni giving.” And this, from a Christian college– “In 2008, Baylor University offered financial rewards to admitted students to retake the SAT in hopes of increasing its average score.”
A few days later, The NY Times had this news: that Kiplinger, the finance magazine removed Claremont McKenna from its rankings.
If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you know I am not a fan of college rankings. As I have said many times, check the methodology and see if the criteria they use are the same criteria you would use to rank something. Well, now we should all maybe take the statistics colleges report with a grain of salt.