Since 2005, Claremont McKenna, ranked #9 on U.S. News & World Reportâ€™s best liberal arts colleges in the country, has been lopping on a few points here and there to its entering studentsâ€™ average SAT score before reporting those numbers to U.S. News & World report and rating organizations such as the Princeton Review. For example, in 2010, its combined median score was reported as 1410, rather than its actual 1400. And its 75th percentile was reported at 1510, when it was, in reality, 1480.
Oops! Turns out the academic world is darn near as competitive as Wall Street when it comes to rankings and ratings. In fact, so competitive are those of the ivory tower that they used the same strategies: Cook the books and hope no one notices.
Claremont McKennaâ€™s vice president and dean of admissions has been removed from his job title on the college website. President Pamela B. Gann explained the problem and concluded, â€œAs an institution of higher education with a deep and consistent commitment to the integrity of our academic activities, and particularly, our reporting of institutional data, we take this situation very seriously.â€
Indeed. Now, if we could just get the rankings and ratings organizations to respond with appropriate outrage. From Robert Franek of the Princeton Review, we have these thoughts, â€œThat is a pretty mild difference in a point score. That said, 10 points, 20 points to a student that isnâ€™t getting that score on the SAT could be an important distinction.â€ Yes, but even without the numbers difference, it is an important distinction. Claremont McKenna was not honest, and students who rely on reviews when such an obvious flaw is on the table deserve whatever fate awaits them at an institution that would pull a statistical stunt (however it may have impacted the rankings/ratings). Oh, and Mr. Franek finished with a flourish, â€œI feel like so many schools have a very clear obligation to college-bound students to report this information honestly.â€ Actually, it would be all schools, not just â€œso many,â€ and the reporting of correct data is not just a â€œclear obligation,â€ it is an ethical responsibility.