(Update: This article has been changed to include a statement from City Colleges.)
A new report from the Better Government Association, a nonpartisan Illinois-based watchdog group, claims that City Colleges of Chicago's Kennedy-King College combined graduation rates with the Chicago-based French Pastry School in order to receive national recognition of improving completion.
Kennedy-King received accolades, most notably from the Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program in 2015, for rapidly improving completion rates. The college became Aspen's first-ever recipient of the Rising Star Award.
However, the BGA report details that the leap in completion numbers was due to the French Pastry School, which isn't on Kennedy-King's campus. The French Pastry School began renting facilities from City Colleges in a property near their headquarters in 2000. But City Colleges began counting the pastry school's graduates as part of Kennedy-King in 2011.
The report alleges that by including the pastry school, City Colleges more than tripled the graduation rate, as reflected by the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, in 2013 to 25.9 percent. However, without the pastry school, Kennedy-King's four-year graduation rate would have only stood at about 14 percent.
The pastry school officials were unaware that City Colleges had changed the way their graduates were counted.
An earlier report from the BGA called into question how City Colleges had increased degree completions and alleged that the seven two-year institutions had softened standards and manipulated other data points in pursuit of better graduation rates.
"The French Pastry School (FPS) students are Kennedy-King College students, as FPS is accredited through Kennedy-King College. As a result, FPS students have to be included in the IPEDS graduation rate when they meet the criteria," the system said.
"City Colleges began to include the FPS students in its submissions to the Illinois Community College Board in 2010, as soon as it noticed FPS enrollment/completions had not been previously supplied. That omission was due to the fact that the French Pastry School was not using the CCC system of record to capture awards/completers from FY 2005 to FY 2009."