Forbes magazine has removed Emory University and three other schools from its annual “America’s Best Colleges” list for the next two years for misreporting admissions data to organizations that produce rankings.
The other institutions removed from Forbes‘ list include Claremont McKenna College in California, Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y. Since fall 2011, each of these schools has admitted to submitting exaggerated admissions numbers about enrolled students, such as SAT/ACT scores or class rank. The misreporting occurred during the course of several years for each school.
In some cases, including Emory’s, the U.S. Department of Education also uses these numbers for statistical analysis.
Although each of the removed schools has acknowledged the error and developed plans to improve data reporting, Forbes removed them from the list “as a penalty for their dishonesty — and an acknowledgement of the growing scope of the problem,” Forbes said in an article published on its website last month.
This is the first time that Forbes has removed any colleges from the list, according to Caroline Howard, the senior online editor for Forbes, who edited this year’s rankings.
“Colleges, including Emory University, have codes of conduct for their student body and college community, which includes trustworthiness and honesty,” Howard wrote in an email to the Wheel. “We apply the same standards to the colleges on our list.”
Forbes, which focuses on business and finance, has published college rankings for the past six years in conjunction with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Emory ranked No. 46 in 2012.
In a University statement, Nancy Seideman, the interim vice president for communications and marketing, described the removal of Emory from the list as “unwarranted.”
“[It] underscores why students and parents should take all of these rankings with a grain of salt,” Seideman said. “Emory is one of the nation’s best universities, whether or not it appears on a particular list.”
While the George Washington University (GWU) also misreported data last fall, Forbes decided not to take GWU off the list because the incorrect numbers were for the high-school class rank of incoming students, which Forbes does not use as part of its methodology.
The schools that Forbes took off its list have submitted falsified data to the federal government, which Forbes looks at to determine its rankings, Howard wrote.
Meanwhile, Emory has remained in the U.S. News rankings, perhaps the most widely recognized list, while GWU was removed. U.S. News has a policy that it eliminates colleges that move more than one spot in the rankings after submitting incorrect data.
Emory first publicly reported that it had misreported admissions data last August. Emory’s Office of General Counsel hired an outside legal firm, Jones Day, to conduct the internal investigation.
The University said in an Aug. 23, 2012 statement and University-wide email that former employees in the Office of Admission serving the College and leadership in the Office of Institutional Research sent organizations SAT and ACT scores for Emory’s admitted undergraduate students, not the requested scores of those enrolled, which were lower. The high school class ranks of incoming freshmen were also inaccurate.
Since then, the University has launched a corrective action plan to ensure that another incident like this one will not happen again. The plan includes hiring a data analyst to ensure accuracy.
Emory students have expressed mixed reactions to Forbes’ removal of the College from its list.
“If Forbes had a methodology that anyone could take even slightly seriously, it might be concerning,” College junior James Crowe said.
Forbes gathers some of its data from sites like ratemyprofessor.com, to determine student satisfaction, and payscale.com, to get a sense of alumni salaries. It also measures student success by looking at major award winners, like the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize. Graduation rate and student debt are taken into consideration as well.
College sophomore Aamina Ahmad said taking Emory out of the rankings is “not really fair.”
“Even though one person may have made a mistake, it does not change the fact that all of the students at Emory are extremely driven, and the students should still be given recognition for that,” Ahmad said.
Forbes warned in its article that if “other cheaters” are also discovered, they too will be taken off the list.
“Stay tuned,” Forbes said in the article. “We will be watching.”
— By Jordan Friedman