Oklahoma Gave False Data for Years to 'U.S. News,' Loses Ranking

University knowingly exaggerated the share of alumni who donate. Seven other colleges found to have submitted incorrect information.

May 28, 2019
 

U.S. News & World Report has stripped the University of Oklahoma of its ranking, citing incorrect information provided about alumni giving. The university told U.S. News that it has been supplying incorrect data since 1999.

According to the magazine, the most recent report from Oklahoma claimed that its two-year rate of alumni giving was 14 percent, when it is actually 9.7 percent. Alumni giving counts for 5 percent of the methodology in the "Best Colleges" ranking by U.S. News. As a result, the magazine removed Oklahoma from that ranking and several others, including "best value" colleges, top public universities and best colleges for veterans.

Colleges periodically lose their rankings because of false data, sometimes submitted incorrectly but without the intent to deceive.

This marks the second time in two years that a college has been found to have submitted false data to U.S. News -- and to have done so intentionally -- for multiple years. Temple University last year admitted that its business school had submitted false data about its online M.B.A. program from 2015 to 2018. The data fraud at Oklahoma went on longer.

The student newspaper at Oklahoma, The OU Daily, reported in December that the university was investigating reports that false data had been submitted for years. A university spokeswoman confirmed the report to Inside Higher Ed, as well as the detail that the law firm Jones Day was investigating the issue. She also confirmed that the incorrect data was submitted with the intent to inflate the statistic.

The incorrect data was submitted while David Boren was president.

The university discovered the problem and reported it during the tenure of James L. Gallogly as president. He resigned this month after less than a year in office.

Boren served from 1994 to 2018. The news about submitting false data on fund-raising has been overshadowed by another investigation Jones Day is conducting, at the request of the university's board, into allegations that Boren sexually harassed male aides.

In March, the news website NonDoc published a detailed article in which an Oklahoma graduate described being offered alcohol by Boren as a prelude to Boren touching him and making advances. The graduate is quoted by name, and friends of his confirm that he spoke to them about the allegations years ago, when they happened. The graduate also alleges one incident involving Tripp Hall, a former vice president for university development. Boren continues to deny wrongdoing, and Hall does so as well.

Other Colleges With Incorrect Data

The University of Oklahoma is the only college this year found to have submitted incorrect data for the "Best Colleges" ranking, the best known of U.S. News ratings. Seven other colleges were found to have submitted incorrect data and, as a result, had their rankings stripped in various categories. But these are accidents, according to the colleges involved. Details may be found here.

The colleges involved are:

  • Boston University claimed that its education school had $12.04 million in 2018 research expenditures when the correct value is $7,023,326. A university spokesman said that the mistake was inadvertent.
  • Bowling Green State University was also found to have claimed higher research expenditures in education than it actually had.
  • Eastern Virginia Medical School said that its percentage of M.D. graduates who entered primary care was 54 percent when it was really 40 percent.
  • University of Akron had numerous problems with data on its business school. Akron first reported that the fall 2018 average GMAT score for its part-time M.B.A. program was 510. The correct figure is 500. Another incorrect figure was about the undergraduate grade-point average of the students in the part-time M.B.A. Akron said it was 3.46 when the correct figure was 3.34. A spokeswoman for the university said that there had been "confusion" about what U.S. News was seeking.
  • University of California, Riverside engineering school originally submitted research expenditures for fiscal year 2017 of $68.3 million. The correct figure was $30.9 million. A spokesman said that the university didn't realize that U.S. News was requesting data only for external support and not university spending as well.
  • University of Texas at San Antonio was found to have falsely claimed more than $19 million in engineering school research expenditures when the correct figure was $15 million.
  • Widener University reported incorrect data about its nursing school, saying that it had 17 full-time faculty when it really had 33. This changed a number of calculations in the rankings, including faculty credentials, nursing practice participation and average research expenditures per faculty member. A spokeswoman for Widener said that officials there "misinterpreted the question as referring to only graduate faculty," when all faculty slots were sought.

 

 

 

 

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