College VP Inflated Stats

Flagler admits that it altered test scores, grades and class ranks of new students, and a senior official resigns after he acknowledges making the changes.

February 18, 2014

Flagler College, a liberal arts institution in Florida, announced Monday that one of its senior officials altered admissions statistics for freshmen who were admitted from the fall of 2010 through the fall of 2013.

A statement from William T. Abare Jr., the president, said that  "a senior admissions officer has resigned after taking sole responsibility for misreporting test scores, grade point averages, and class ranks of entering freshman. We have notified appropriate organizations, agencies, and accrediting bodies of the situation and have informed them that we have commissioned an independent investigation. We will disclose the findings once we receive the final report. We are reviewing what happened and are developing policies, procedures, and systems to ensure this does not occur again."

The college's statement did not identify the senior official, but The St. Augustine Record reported that the official was Marc Williar, vice president for enrollment management -- and he admitted to the newspaper that he made the changes.

In the last two years, a number of colleges have admitted to inflating some of their statistics, and many of the falsifications have become known after a senior official left, and a new person found discrepancies. The Flagler case is unusual in that an individual has publicly admitted that he did it.

Williar told the Record that he first altered data after noticing that the profile of an entering class has declined over the previous year. “I really love this college so much, and there had been a decline a little bit in the profile of the incoming class,” he told the newspaper.

Then he did the same thing in the following years. Williar did not defend his conduct. “I made a serious misadjustment and inflated the profile and said that it was something it wasn’t," he said. "I’m very ashamed and I feel very remorsefully for how I’ve let them down.”

The college found the falsified data after a faculty member noticed and reported some discrepancies, prompting an investigation.

Among the college that have admitted to giving fabricated data to U.S. News & World Report are Bucknell University, Claremont McKenna College, Emory University and George Washington University (about undergraduate admissions), and Tulane University's business school with regard to M.B.A. admissions.

U.S. News has consistently denied that there is a widespread problem. Last year it published an FAQ on the issue. One of the questions: "Do you believe that there are other schools that have misreported data to U.S. News but have not come forward?" The magazine's answer: "We have no reason to believe that other schools have misreported data — and we therefore have no reason to believe that the misreporting is widespread."

Inside Higher Ed's most recent survey of college admissions directors, however, suggests that there may be more data falsification than is known. Asked in the fall if their institutions had ever submitted false admissions data, 1 percent of public admissions directors and 2 percent of private institutions said yes (and the totals of known cases of fabrication do not come close to those percentages). Well over 90 percent of admissions directors believe that others do so.

The survey also asked whether the admissions directors believed that rankings producers have "reliable systems" in place to prevent fabrication of data. Only 7 percent of admissions directors believe that such systems are in place, and 93 percent disagree.

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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