Visitors to the website of Simmons College's doctor of nursing practice program might think they were checking out a highly ranked degree. They would have seen (as recently as the close of business on Monday) the badge of U.S. News & World Report for Best Grad Schools in nursing in 2016.
But the Simmons program isn't among the best, according to the magazine. U.S. News moved the program to "unranked" after the college reported that it had submitted inaccurate date on several key questions -- and the numbers weren't just a little off, but way off.
- Simmons originally reported data on faculty for the program that suggested reliance on full-time faculty: eight full time and two part time. The college then admitted that it really had 22 full-time faculty members in the program and 285 part-timers.
- Simmons originally reported that 50 people had graduated from the program in the period of time measured by the U.S. News rankings. The actual number was four.
- Simmons originally reported that 20 percent of its faculty in the program had "academic achievements" recognized by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. These achievements include a range of prestigious fellowships. Actually, only 1 percent of the Simmons faculty in the program have such recognition.
The false information came into play in several parts of the U.S. News methodology for nursing programs, including student-faculty ratio, percentage of faculty with academic achievements and degree productivity. (The Simmons master's program in nursing submitted its own data, and its ranking has not been affected.)
Asked why the badge was still on the Simmons website several weeks after the college had been told its program was moved to the "unranked" category because of the inaccurate information, U.S. News said it had asked Simmons to take the badge down. U.S. News sells the rights to use the badges to colleges, and the company that sells those badges declined to answer questions about the terms and whether colleges are obliged to change marketing materials about their rankings if they are found to have been based on false information.
Jeremy Solomon, a spokesman for the college, said via email that Simmons is "quite proud" of its nursing doctorate, and that graduates score well in licensure tests.
He said the rankings data issue came about because of "an internal shift in responsibility of data collection that caused what appeared to the magazine to be a sharp shift in how the program was doing." He said the program didn't change. "We shifted the reporting responsibility from nursing program administrators to the collegewide institutional research office. In addition, U.S. News changed their definitions, which may have been misinterpreted by our data collectors. While we explained the situation to people at U.S. News & World Report, we were unable to convince them that our program has not changed in terms of performance."
Solomon said that because the badge says 2016, Simmons believes it has the right to display it until the end of 2016, despite the dispute over data submitted for 2017 rankings. He said the college will remove the badge at the end of this calendar year.
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