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Stanford Lied About Business School Scholarships

December 4, 2017

A breach of confidential data has indicated that the Stanford University Graduate School of Business has been publicly misrepresenting how it awards scholarships.

The business school’s website, for years, said that “all fellowships are need based,” referring to scholarships. A student, Adam Allcock, recently found out that anyone in the business school had access to confidential data. He alerted the school to inform officials of the security flaw, but also downloaded the data and ran an analysis that showed that scholarship awards are not, in fact, need based.

“The [Graduate School of Business] secretly ranks students as to how valuable (or replaceable) they were seen, and awarded financial aid on that basis,” Allcock wrote in an 88-page report describing his analysis. “Not only has the GSB also been systematically discriminating by gender, international status and more while lying to their faces for the last 10 to ~25 years.”

Poets & Quants, an outlet that specializes in business school rankings and news, broke the story. The San Francisco Chronicle noted that the school has not disputed the report’s findings, and that this isn’t the only data breach Stanford has had in recent months.

The school has since admitted that even though it claimed not to award scholarships based on merit, it “has offered additional fellowship awards to candidates whose biographies make them particularly compelling and competitive in trying to attract a diverse class.” Women and those with backgrounds in finance were often favored for scholarship money, even if they had more ability to pay for tuition than others. In some cases, according to the report, scholarships could be three times larger between two different students with identical financial need.

The secretive scholarship promise might explain why Stanford graduates perform so well, according to Poets & Quants: the school, for example, sends more students into venture capital and private-equity jobs than Wharton, Chicago Booth, Columbia or Harvard.

“Allcock’s discovery that more money is being used by Stanford to entice the best students with financial backgrounds suggests an admissions strategy that helps the school achieve the highest starting compensation packages of any M.B.A. program in the world,” Poets & Quants wrote. “That is largely because prior work experience in finance is generally required to land jobs in the most lucrative finance fields in private equity, venture capital and hedge funds.”

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Nick Roll

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