Accreditors Eye Temple

University is supposed to abide by standards requiring honesty and integrity. But is it in compliance after revealing that its business school lied for years to get higher rankings? U.S. News also seeks more information.

July 11, 2018
 

Temple University revealed Monday that its business school lied for years on a range of statistics about its online M.B.A. program. The university gave false information to U.S. News & World Report about standardized testing, student debt, grade point averages of admitted students, student-faculty ratios and more. The dean of the Fox School of Business was ousted amid reports that he encouraged a culture that focused on rankings.

In releasing the details Monday, Temple tried to reassure current and prospective students with an FAQ. Here is one question and one answer: "Does this affect the Fox School’s accreditation? The Fox School remains accredited by AACSB, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, a distinction held by fewer than 5 percent of the world’s business schools and one that the Fox School has maintained continuously since 1934."

The statement is correct that AACSB accreditation stands, and it is rare for accreditors to revoke recognition. But AACSB is "actively investigating" Temple's business school and its compliance with requirements, according to a statement from Stephanie Bryant, AACSB's executive vice president and chief accreditation officer.

Bryant said that several criteria for accreditation would appear relevant to what was going on at Temple. One requirement is that a business school "must encourage and support ethical behavior by students, faculty, administrators, and professional staff." In part this is judged by whether "the school has appropriate systems, policies and procedures that reflect the school’s support for and importance of ethical behavior for students, faculty, administrators, and professional staff in their professional and personal actions." One problem identified at Temple was that the now former dean disbanded a faculty review panel that had previously assured the accuracy of data submitted for rankings.

Another standard that Bryant said may be relevant is a requirement that accredited business schools "represent degree and nondegree programs accurately, realistically and with integrity in all communications."

Business schools under investigation maintain accreditation during the inquiries, she said. Those found in violation face "sanctions range from consulting with the school to accelerating a peer-review visit (i.e., earlier than the normal five-year timetable) to revoking accreditation."

Brian Kirschner, director for communications and public relations of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which is Temple's primary institutional accreditor, said that Middle States "continues to monitor" the situation at Temple with regard to its business school. Middle States asked for (and received) a report in February, after the first word of irregularities came out. Middle States is now expecting further updates, he said.

Kirschner said that Temple's reported conduct raised questions about its compliance with two of the accreditor's standards. One of those standards, on ethical conduct, states that "ethics and integrity are central, indispensable, and defining hallmarks of effective higher education institutions. In all activities, whether internal or external, an institution must be faithful to its mission, honor its contracts and commitments, adhere to its policies, and represent itself truthfully." Another standard requires that accredited colleges and universities provide "accurate" information about a range of topics, including student debt.

After receiving the first reports in February, Middle States asked that it be kept informed of the situation so it could consider various issues.

A spokesman for Temple said that the university would be cooperating with all inquiries from accreditors.

U.S. News is also asking for more information from Temple. A letter sent to the university Tuesday noted that one line in the outside report prepared on the data falsehoods said the review found evidence that the problems may have extended beyond the online M.B.A. program. As a result U.S. News is asking Temple to verify the accuracy of data submitted for the magazine's rankings of undergraduate colleges and universities and graduate programs in business, education, engineering, law, medicine and nursing.

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