3 More Instances of False Data in ‘U.S. News’ Rankings

University of Florida and University of South Florida lose rankings in nursing. Sam Houston loses ranking in education.

February 19, 2018
 

The University of South Florida lists among its "points of pride" that its graduate nursing program is ranked 27th by U.S. News & World Report. Except it no longer is.

Colleges and universities are quick to boast about what they view as rankings success, but they are less likely to share the news that their rankings have been removed, based on their having submitted incorrect information to U.S. News or other ranking organizations.

South Florida is among three universities that had graduate program rankings removed by U.S. News last week after the institutions admitted that they had submitted false information in rankings surveys. In all three cases, the data points involved were not off by just a little, but by a lot. Nursing programs lost rankings at South Florida and the University of Florida. An education program at Sam Houston State University lost its ranking.

The announcement by U.S. News that it removed the three programs' rankings comes shortly after U.S. News removed the ranking of Temple University's online M.B.A. program -- and amid concerns that Temple's top ranking for several years appears to have been based on false information. Temple is currently investigating how that information was sent to U.S. News.

As for U.S. News, it responded to the latest rankings problems as it always has: by asserting that it is the responsibility of the colleges and universities ranked to assure the accuracy of their information. Universities are sent the data to review after they have been submitted.

Here are the details on the latest institutions to lose rankings of some programs, with information provided by U.S. News.

  • University of Florida nursing college: the university told U.S. News that it received $1,684,495 in grants from the National Institutes of Health for educational and practical initiatives at the nursing school in 2016. In fact, the total was zero. The grants total makes up part of the U.S. News methodology, with the year for NIH grants being two years earlier than the ranking year.
  • University of South Florida nursing college: the university told U.S. News that its NIH grants and expenditures total in 2016 was $15,991,202. The real figure was $1,591,202.
  • Sam Houston State University education college: the university said that its 2016 research expenditures (part of the methodology for graduate education programs) was $5.6 million. The real figure was $271,913.

In the nursing programs, research activity counts for 25 percent of the ranking used by U.S. News. In education, the weight is 30 percent.

The University of South Florida, through a spokeswoman, said that its incorrect data were the result of human error. So did the University of Florida, but that institution said that it originally submitted correct information and that, when responding to an email from U.S. News, an update accidentally included incorrect information. Sam Houston State did not respond to a request for comment.

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