MIT Dean Claimed Unearned Degrees

April 27, 2007

Marilee Jones, dean of admissions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a national leader in the admissions reform movement, resigned after the university confirmed that she had claimed academic degrees she never earned, MIT announced Thursday.

Jones, who came to MIT in 1979 for an entry-level admissions position and rose through the ranks to become dean in 1997, has claimed at various points to hold degrees from Albany Medical College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Union College, said Patti Richards, a university spokeswoman. Upon looking into a tip received early last week that Jones' academic credentials were questionable, the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education was unable to confirm that she had received any of those degrees, Richards said. When confronted, Jones admitted that she had misrepresented her academic background.

Richards said she did not know whether Jones had received any postsecondary degrees. In a bio on the MIT admissions Web site, Jones is described as a scientist by training who originally came to the university to lead recruitment efforts for women.

“I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to MIT 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my resume when I applied for my current job or at any time since,” Jones said in a statement posted on MIT’s Web site. “I am deeply sorry for this and for disappointing so many in the MIT community and beyond who supported me, believed in me, and who have given me extraordinary opportunities.”

Jones has risen to national prominence speaking and writing about pressures high school students and their parents face in the college admissions process. She co-authored the 2006 book, Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admissions and Beyond and, according to the MIT bio, has received a number of awards for institutional leadership including MIT’s highest honor for administrators, the MIT Excellence Award for Leading Change. Jones has also served on professional boards for the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, the College Board and the Women in Engineering Programs Advisory Network.

In a 2006 Associated Press article, posted on MIT’s Web site, Jones, described as speaking bluntly and “sport[ing] a shock of red hair” praises Harvard University’s decision to drop early action and expresses hope (and doubt) that MIT will join the ranks of SAT-optional institutions. She describes de-emphasizing the focus on awards, prizes, Advanced Placement courses and even activities on MIT's application, and rewriting guidelines for interviews to shift the focus away from a student's resume. "There are conventions, and in many ways, she's a rebel," Lloyd Thacker, executive director of the Education Conservancy and another national leader for admissions reform told the Associated Press at the time.

"It hits me in the stomach," Thacker said Thursday. “Marilee worked tirelessly, I can say, on behalf of a very important cause, understanding the effects of the college admissions process on the health and well-being of students. She obviously has had a positive impact on the lives of many students and parents."

Stuart Schmill, a MIT alumnus and senior associate director of admissions, will replace Jones on an interim basis, effective immediately. The process of admitting this fall’s class will proceed without interruption, Daniel E. Hastings, MIT’s dean for undergraduate education, said in a university statement.

“This is a sad and unfortunate event,” Hastings said. “But the integrity of the Institute is the highest priority, and we cannot tolerate this kind of behavior.”

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