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U.S. News & World Report

Nearly 33 percent of accepted students submitted deposits to join the Class of 2017, a number about on par with recent years but likely to produce a smaller freshman class than the University targeted.

Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman reported that 2,403 students submitted the $800 enrollment deposit, as of May 5. Typically, about 4 percent of those students do not end up enrolling, which would put the University slightly below its target freshman class size of 2,350.

Last year, 35 percent of accepted students submitted enrollment deposits, but 2 percentage points fewer actually enrolled. Fewer deposits typically means less net tuition revenue for the University.

“These numbers will continue to bounce around a little over the next month,” Maltzman, who oversaw the admissions office this year, said. “Students are continuing to deposit, switch schools and in some instances withdraw deposits as they get in off waitlists at other institutions.”

The number of deposits also indicates that the University likely will not have significant trouble staying below the city-imposed enrollment cap this fall, an issue that administrators have had to face previously. In 2011, full-time students came in just 159 students under the city’s enrollment cap.

 The University reported last month that it accepted about one-third of its nearly 22,000 applicants, a number that has stood still for three years.

The percentage of students who choose to enroll at GW – an indicator of how popular the University among its admissions pool – is typically beaten out by peer schools like New York University and Georgetown University, which boasted yield rates of  36 percent and 46 percent, respectively, last year.

GW usually bests schools like American University and Boston University, each of which had only about one-fifth of their accepted students enroll last year.

Administrators have said that the steady admissions numbers this year are evidence that GW did not suffer from the U.S. News & World Report unranking last fall. The fall off the top colleges ranking came after the University admitted to inflating freshman admissions data for more than a decade.

This post was updated May 8, 2013 to reflect the following:

Correction appended

Due to an editing error, The Hatchet reported that American and Boston universities saw one-fifth percent of their accepted students enroll last year. They saw one-fifth enroll. We regret this error.

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Bucknell University was the fifth college in a year to admit that it had misreported admissions data. It was not pulled off the U.S. News & World Report rankings.  Photo used under the Creative Commons license.

About two weeks after Bucknell University admitted to skewing test score data, U.S. News & World Report announced that the school would maintain its No. 32 spot on its top liberal arts colleges list.

Bucknell inflated average SAT and ACT scores by omitting several dozen students’ scores, which boosted the overall SAT mean as much as 25 points on the 1600-point scale over seven years.

The publication recalculated Bucknell’s ranking using corrected data and found that the difference “wasn’t significant enough to affect the school’s numerical rank,” Director of Data Research Robert Morse wrote in a blog post Monday.

Bucknell President John Bravman said last month, after disclosing the misreported data, that he believed the college would maintain its ranking. Admissions test scores account for 7.5 percent of the publication’s rankings methodology.

GW was kicked off the best colleges rankings in November after the University announced that it had misreported freshmen class rank data for over a decade.  Tulane University’s business school was also booted from a U.S. News & World ranking in January, while Emory University and Claremont McKenna College maintained their ranks after admitting to data inflation earlier in 2012.

The string of colleges to admit misreporting has renewed scrutiny over college rankings and how those figures are reported, many experts say.

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Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business lost its No. 43 spot in the U.S. News & World Report MBA program rankings. The school announced in December that an employee had falsified admissions data. Photo used under the Creative Commons license.

Tulane University’s business school was kicked off a coveted U.S. News & World Report ranking Thursday, about a month after the school announced it had inflated admissions data.

The Freeman School of Business is the second school to be removed from one of the publication’s rankings in the last three months for skewing statistics. GW was booted from the best colleges rankings in November after the University disclosed that its freshmen class rank data had been wrong for at least a decade.

Tulane’s business school, which had been ranked No. 43, vastly underreported its acceptance rate for the last four years. In fall 2011, the school said it admitted 57 percent, but an outside audit revealed the correct figure was 93 percent.

Over the same period, the school also misreported scores for the GMAT, the admissions test for MBA programs. Its average GMAT score for 2011 was actually 631, instead of the 670 it had reported to U.S. News. (GW’s No. 57 business school has an average GMAT score of 637.) A school’s GMAT score is weighted about 16 percent, while its acceptance rate counts for just over 1 percent under the U.S. News methodology.

The magazine’s Director of Data Research Robert Morse wrote in a blog post Thursday that the school was removed because its correct data would have changed the school’s ranking. Earlier in 2012, Emory University and Claremont McKenna College admitted to manipulating admissions data, but maintained their slots because the new data would not have altered the schools’ positions.

Tulane came clean on the data misreporting in December, admitting that an employee intentionally skewed admissions data to boost the school’s ranking. Dean Ira Solomon said the employee responsible is no longer at the school.

The school also told U.S. News that it would release a public report from an outside auditing firm this month. GW officials have declined to release a report from its auditing firm, saying the report was only given to administrators orally.

GW officials have maintained that its inaccurate data, which stemmed from a faulty formula used to calculate the number of high school seniors who graduated in the top 10 percent of their classes, was done without malice.

The business school will be reconsidered for the ranking this spring, when U.S. News & World publishes its 2014 edition of graduate school rankings, Morse wrote.

– Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.

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Left to right: Senior Associate Provost and Dean of Students Peter Konwerski, Senior Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman, Provost Steven Lerman, Vice President for External Relations Lorraine Voles and University President Steven Knapp address students at a forum Monday. Jordan Capizola | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Chris Hebdon.

The University does not have a formal report of the audit that it hired a firm to conduct on admissions data, University President Steven Knapp said 11 days after GW announced it had been inflating statistics.

Knapp said GW only received an oral report from the audit firm Baker Tilly, which examined one year of admissions data. He and four top administrators fielded questions at a town hall on the misreporting incident – an error he said the school is “embarrassed by” – and GW being kicked off U.S. News & World Report’s top colleges rankings.

The question-and-answer session with an about 50-student audience served as the first public address on the incident since GW disclosed it was misreporting freshman admissions statistics Nov. 8.

“We looked at this data and we looked at the rest of the data and we found that, as had been reported, there was indeed an error in the class ranking data,” Knapp said.

When Claremont McKenna College admitted to data misreporting earlier this year, it released an audit report.

Senior Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman – who has been the primary spokesman on the admissions data errors – also attended the event. Provost Steven Lerman and Senior Associate Provost and Dean of Students Peter Konwerski also joined the panel.

Lorraine Voles, the head of GW’s Office of External Relations, which has controlled the narrative throughout the public relations fiasco, also handled about half the questions posed to the administrators Monday night.

Voles immediately responded to a question as to why Associate Vice President and Dean of Admissions Kathryn Napper, who has overseen the admissions department for more than 15 years and has yet to publicly comment on GW’s misreported data aside from declining and referring to external relations, was absent from the forum.

“So I suppose that’s mine,” Voles said. “Do you want that in 140 characters? The Office of External Relations is dealing with press inquires on this issue, as they deal with press inquires on all issues facing the University.”

She also said Maltzman, who oversees admissions, had been “dealing with the media both at the University and outside the University.”

Student Association Executive Vice President Abby Bergren was asked to send questions to Knapp before the event, giving him time to prepare his responses.

Some questions centered around the origin of the data error, to which Lerman said “Those who are responsible for reporting the data are no longer generating the data.”

The vague response is one administrators have echoed in recent days – including Knapp, who said Wednesday that “people are being held accountable” for the inaccuracies but has repeatedly declined to say what personnel decisions have been made.

Administrators also stressed their plans to prevent miscalculations in the future, like periodic audits of admissions data and the hire of a new enrollment manager who will oversee admissions and financial aid.

After about an hour, the administrators left the event, citing commitments made before the sudden scheduling of what the Student Association called an emergency forum.

After the forum, Bergren was optimistic that this event would help put this issue to bed.

“Hopefully the students got something new and this provided perspective,” Bergren said.

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The University’s fundraising head emailed alumni Friday to calm concerns about GW being booted off the U.S. News & World Report ranking this week.

Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Mike Morsberger sent the message in the aftermath of the Wednesday unranking that “disturbed and confused” many in our community, he wrote.

“Rankings do not define GW – the quality and passion of our students and alumni, faculty and staff are the best measurement of our success,” the email read.

GW has sometimes used the U.S. News ranking to encourage alumni to donate. In June, the development office sent an email to alumni, pointing out that their donations account for 5 percent of the U.S. News rankings methodology.

“Your gift last year also made sure I graduated from a top 50 school,” according to the email, which was written by an alumna from the Class of 2012. “Five percent makes a big difference in how our university is viewed all over the world. It means the diplomas my classmates and I received upon graduation will have a bigger impact as we look for jobs.”

University President Steven Knapp said Wednesday that he did not think the unranking would hurt alumni giving.


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Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 11:32 a.m.

U.S. News rankings chief explains unlisting

GW was shifted to unranked because of U.S. News & World Report’s policy to not redo the list if a school’s recalculated spot would be lower, the magazine’s rankings chief clarified Friday.

Robert Morse, director of data research for U.S. News, wrote on his blog that GW was removed from the list – while other universities who misreported data this year remained – after a statistical simulation showed GW would have dropped.

Misreported data at Emory University and Claremont McKenna College this year was not altered enough to change the schools’ rankings, Morse wrote. Officials at those schools said their data inflation was intentional, while GW administrators have held that their error was inadvertent.

“It is U.S. News’s policy not to re-rank when a college or university erroneously reports statistical data that causes a school’s ranking to be either higher or lower than its originally published rank—whether or not the misreporting was intentional,” Morse wrote.

The policy is in place so the magazine doesn’t bump down other schools as a result, ensuring “stability in the published rankings,” he wrote.

GW admitted Nov. 8 to inflating the percentage of freshmen in the top 10 percent of their high school class by 20 percentage points. That statistic is weighed as 6 percent of U.S. News’ ranking methodology.

Morse had not mentioned the U.S. News policy Nov. 8 or Wednesday after announcing GW would be unranked, leaving many, including University President Steven Knapp, to question the move.

Morse wrote the move also was not unprecedented. Iona College in New York was moved to unranked last year after manipulating rankings data.

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Student Association Senator Hugo Scheckter, U-at-Large, has called on top University officials to meet with students after U.S. News & World Report knocked GW off its national rankings. File Photo by Sam Klein | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Correction appended

Student Association senators are calling for top administrators to meet with students in an emergency forum and explain what steps GW will take after being kicked off U.S. News and World Report’s top colleges rankings.

Executive Vice President Abby Bergren announced the Senate will hold an emergency meeting Monday. Sen. Hugo Scheckter, U-At-Large, called for the meeting to gather top officials, including University President Steven Knapp and Provost Steven Lerman.

Scheckter said the administration has not been transparent and the SA should hold the administration accountable.

“The University should be as open and clear as possible. It not only affects us, it affects future alums and future students. We’re trying to open up the canals of communication,” Scheckter said. ”We pay a lot of money to come here and now we’re equally ranked with the University of Phoenix. It’s just not acceptable. It’s embarrassing for everyone who’s here.”

Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committee Ryan Counihan said he was blown away after hearing that GW was booted off the rankings.

“It just raises a lot of question about the values of our degrees,” Counihan said. “We were admitted to GW based on the fact that it was a top 50 or close to it school.”

This post was updated Nov. 14, 2012 to reflect the following:

Due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly spelled Hugo Scheckter’s name twice in this blog. We regret this error.

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Clarification appended

Updated Nov. 14, 2012, 3:45 p.m.

U.S. News & World Report knocked GW out of its top colleges rankings Wednesday – a week after the University disclosed that it has been significantly inflating admissions data.

GW will now be listed as “unranked” in the magazine’s 2013 list, which was released in September. It was originally ranked No. 51 this year. U.S. News’ Director of Data Research Robert Morse had said last week that changes made to GW’s ranking would likely be insignificant, but announced the major blow on his blog Wednesday. The unranked status will last until next fall’s ranking.

Morse referred all questions about the move to his blog post, which laid out that GW was moved off the ranking because the data error would have changed its No. 51 spot. GW had hovered around the U.S. News list’s top 50 for more than a decade.

University President Steven Knapp said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that GW reported its oversight because it is “committed to maintaining the highest standards of integrity and accuracy.”

“We did so without regard to any possible action that U.S. News might take as a result,” Knapp said. “We were surprised by the decision of U.S. News to remove George Washington’s numerical ranking rather than to correct it in light of our disclosure.”

When Emory University and Claremont McKenna College admitted to intentionally manipulating students’ test scores earlier this year, U.S. News did not adjust their rankings because the errors were not significant enough to affect their slots.

GW administrators have maintained the University’s misreporting was unintentional.

Associate Vice President and Dean of Admissions Kathryn Napper, who has deferred to GW’s public relations shop since news of the inflated data broke, declined to comment on getting booted off the rankings Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s all being handled upstairs with external relations. Take it up with them,” Napper said.

Administrators announced in an email Thursday that the University has been botching freshman admissions statistics – and for the Class of 2015, that meant inflating the number of freshmen who made it into the top 10 percent of their high school classes by 20 percentage points. The Office of Admissions calculated that 78 percent of students fell into that category, but this summer, the provost’s office discovered that figure was actually 58 percent.

About two-thirds of high schools nationwide don’t rank students. But even if students weren’t ranked, the admissions office estimated that admitted students who earned top standardized test scores and grade point averages were in the top 10 percent of their high school class anyway.

The firm Baker Tilly audited one year’s worth of admissions data and could not pinpoint which admissions staffer created the formula that led to GW estimating high school students’ class rank. The inflation went back to the 1990s, administrators have said. But Knapp said the University has no plans to audit data from past years.

Professors grappled Wednesday with how to interpret the news that GW had been knocked out of the U.S. News ranking.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s the only decision [U.S. News] could’ve taken. It doesn’t make much sense,” English professor David McAleavey said.

Cynthia McClintock, a professor of political science and international affairs, said she was sad to see a setback for the University after she has taught here since 1975.

“Everybody knows that mistakes do happen, that’s why there are erasers on the end of pencils, these things do happen. We will come back,” McClintock said.

The news also made the front page of The Washington Post website, as higher education experts buzzed about the unusual move.

Scott Jaschik, co-founder of the news website Inside Higher Ed, said Wednesday he doesn’t “believe this will be calamity. It’s more of an embarrassment for GW.”

“If a prospective applicant is foused on the ranking, it doesn’t look good,” he said. “I don’t mean to insult your very fine institution but GW wasn’t at the top anyway. People who are rankings obsessed and only want to apply to a top 10 place, weren’t looking at GW.”

In his first interview since GW came clean on the misreported data, Knapp said Tuesday – before U.S. News announced that the University was knocked off the rankings – that he was confident that the decade-long inflation was inadvertent.

He said the fact that more high schools have stopped reporting students’ class ranks – the admissions indicator that GW inflated – led to a wider discrepancy in the data and should clear suspicions of “malice.”

“So is it malicious? I don’t think it is, because I think if people were being malicious they probably would have messed with the other numbers as well and there’s no evidence that there was any other kind of data being fudged,” Knapp said.

Knapp also said then that he only received an oral report from the audit firm about their findings and he did not know whether a full report was available. A Baker Tilly representative deferred questions Wednesday to Lorraine Voles, GW’s vice president for external relations.

When Claremont McKenna admitted to data misreporting earlier this year, it released its externally audited report.

Other universities unranked this year include University of Phoenix Online, Alliant International University and California Institute of Integral Studies.

Raymond Brown, dean of admissions at Texas Christian University, said Monday that this kind of data manipulation is tame compared to how other universities try to game the rankings.

Brown called GW’s error “trivial” compared to southern universities, where he said data manipulation is like the “wild, wild west.”

“I don’t think what GW has done is necessarily wrong. There’s a whole lot of schools that force a rank,” Brown said. “I gotta believe that there are still a whole bunch of folks out there cooking their books.”

He added that TCU began hiring a private firm to audit its admissions data 12 years ago to fight back against the trend he saw of universities inflating data.

- Matt Kwiecinski, Chloe Sorvino, Sarah Ferris and Priya Anand contributed to this report. 

This article was updated Nov. 14, 2012 to reflect the following:

The Hatchet reported that the Class of 2016 data was inflated by 20 percent, from 58 percent to 78 percent. It was inflated by 20 percentage points.

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