GW Stripped Of Ranking And Placed In “Unranked” Category By U.S. News & World Report

George Washington University has been formally moved from the ranking as 51st among colleges to the “unranked” category by U.S. News and World Report after the University admitted that it had misreported statistics for years that inflated its standing. It is a disgraceful admission for the school and faculty are demanding more information from the Administration on who was aware (and who is accountable) for this latest academic scandal in annual reporting.

I am frankly appalled that my university would commit such act of misreporting — joining a line of discredited institutions. Despite objections from GWU, U.S. News ranker Bob Morse correctly stripped us of our standing given the belief that we may have misreported the data for years. It is hard to see how such false reporting was entirely accidental. If it were not intentional, it was grossly negligent and reckless. GWU admitted on Nov. 8 that “it had overstated the percentage of freshmen in fall 2011 who were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. Instead of 78 percent, as GWU first reported for that measure, university officials said the share was actually 58 percent. That is one of many pieces of data fed into the U.S. News ratings formula.” A difference of 20 percent?

One could conclude (nay, hope) this was just a typo but this is one of the key data points for reporting. These annual reports are the focus of a large body of administrators and one of the most important submissions from the Administration annually. Worse yet, Morse believes that we may have been misreporting for over a decade. There is no reported comment from our prior GWU President Stephen Trachtenberg. However, for years our administrators were aware of schools like Emory being discredited due to their misreporting of data. Yet, our false reporting allegedly continued for years.

The false data was used in the 2013 edition of the Best Colleges rankings. The data point of the students from the top 10 percent of their high school classes counted for 6 percent in the Best Colleges rankings methodology.

I, like many of my colleagues, are absolutely furious about the disclosure. Such false reporting is an act of dishonesty that would not be tolerated in our students. The question is whether it was intentional or an example of colossal negligence. Either way, we need to investigate this matter and create a system of both transparency and accountability.

What makes me so angry is that this is a fantastic school and we have invested a huge amount in our college. Indeed, for many years, the law school was effectively bank rolling the improvement of undergraduate schools. The reason is that graduate schools tend to be “anchored” by their colleges. It is hard to break into the top ten law schools without bringing your undergraduate school into the top rankings. This scandal will now produce the erroneous belief that our ranking nationally is due to false reporting — that is the ultimate betrayal of our students and faculty and staff. The reality is that this is clearly a top 50 college and our students and faculty have never been better.  If anything we were under-valued in the prior rankings.  That is precisely why this is such a blow. We have a major building campaign unfolding on campus with a huge investment in hard science research as well as new dormitories and other buildings.  This university has experienced an explosion growth in both our facilities and our faculty.  Ironically, we will now be faced in an undervalued ranking because of our sheer stupidity in over-claiming data.

The first obligation of any university obligation is akin to the Hippocratic Oath: cause no harm to your institution. That was clearly one oath violated in this case and we will now have to act (in an already tough economic period) to regain our integrity and standing in the academic world.

The question is when do such false reports become a form of fraud. Lawsuits against misrepresentations by law school have failed including recently lawsuits against schools like Cooley. Yet, false reports are designed to secure applications based on inflated data in the single most important ranking for prospective students.

Here is statement from President Steven Knapp:

The George Washington University is committed to maintaining the highest standards of integrity and accuracy. For that reason, when we discovered an error in the high school class rank data that we had submitted to U.S. News & World Report, we reported that error both to U.S. News and to the university community. We did so without regard to any possible action that U.S. News might take as a result.

We were surprised by the decision of U.S. News to remove George Washington’s numerical ranking rather than to correct it in light of our disclosure. Data about GW is still available on the U.S. News website. We understand that our numerical ranking will appear in U.S. News next year. As I have said, we regret the error and have put safeguards in place to prevent such errors from occurring in the future.

That statement obviously does not explain how such an error could occur on such a vital annual report. This is why faculty have called for a full disclosure from the Administration.

Source: Washington Post

32 thoughts on “GW Stripped Of Ranking And Placed In “Unranked” Category By U.S. News & World Report

  1. My sympathies; I know first hand what it is like to work for people with a mindset of “money first, whatever it takes.” It can be draining.

  2. It’s unfortunate that people misrepresent the truth…. But they do have the board, president and alumni to answer to….. I’m sure General Betrayus could do a good job there too…

  3. 1) No one should care about the US News college ranking. It’s ridiculous, pointless, and meaningless.

    2) GWU is among the most expensive educational institutions of any type in the entire world. If anything was bankrolling improvements, it was clearly the outrageous tuition costs – and any university charging that much for its students should be embarrassed to be anything but obviously among the best possible schools in the country.

    3) Of the units of the university, perhaps none gouges students more than the GWU School of Law. The professors are extremely highly paid, the exorbitant tuition students pay helps fund the giant real estate development corporation that is the university, but the students themselves graduate with mountains of debt it will take them their entire lives to pay off.

  4. Nate, I think that parents that are paying over 60,000 a year to attend GWU will pay attention to the rankings.

  5. The president’s statement is practically dismissive of the actions and one is led to believe that this was a one-time occurrence instead of the serial lies you mention.
    How are applicants and parents supposed to trust the administration in any matters now that it has been shown to be dishonest.
    I’m sorry to hear this but I’m not surprised. I don’t think your president understands the meaning of the word integrity as he uses it in that statement.

  6. Current administration has disclosed the dishonesty. Is this due to a new president? or a whistleblower who is letting the administration admit the duplicity?

    The bad news is the past inflation of the numbers. The good news is it has been admitted and the university can continue to report the actual numbers with the integrity the president embraces (now).

    Since inflation of the numbers is fairly widespread I wonder how many of the lower ranked schools are actually better than indicated b/c they have been reporting accurately and with more integrity for years.

  7. Change the name of the so called University to Valley Forge University. Then strip off all the King George crap that you have acquired over the years. Yeah, holier than thou. Then hire some teachers. You know, those that can teach, not those that can teach teachers or who spend all their working hours writing a Thesis. Who the heck is US News and World Report anyway? Ever read that garbage arse wipe slippery paper? No one will wipe with it in our outhouse. And another thing…

  8. ” For that reason, when we discovered an error in the high school class rank data that we had submitted to U.S. News & World Report, we reported that error both to U.S. News and to the university community. ”


    A “error” connotes an unintended wrongdoing, especially so when used with the modifying clause “when we discovered”; one cannot “discover” what one originally intended. On the other hand, an “actual fraud” denotes a conscious knowledge of the actor in wrongdoing, as well as deceit in causing others to rely on the actor’s words or actions.

    The readers can make up their own minds about whether or not the President was using the correct wording.

  9. mespo, Good analysis. Having worked “fraud” cases for decades that word is overused to some extent. It just seems like the “errors” that make observors think possible fraud are often pretty blatant, and always in the favor of the person that “erred”. Most people have a good bullshit detector.

  10. “The first obligation of any university obligation is akin to the Hippocratic Oath: cause no harm to your institution.”
    No, the Hippocratic oath, in both modern version and original eminent source, states to above all cause no harm to your Patient. The recipient of your practice.That would be akin to;… cause no harm to your client, or perhaps as an Institute of Learning, your student, I believe.

    ‘…..I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice. ….’

    (…clearly today i am not making friends or influencing people…..)

  11. @Swarthmore mom: If I were spending 60K/ year in tuition, I’d be looking and laughing at the US News methodology. the ratings are basically a joke. Over time, they’ve evolved multiple categories and their ratings of graduate programs are semi-laighable in fields I know well. there is a heavy enmphasis on easy to manipulate information like test scores not to mention “reputation” ratings which usually have little to do with instructional quality and often lag waht’s actually going on in a university (i.e., it takes a while for “peers” to realize that a place is going downhill–usually not until they’ve seen the quality of applicants to graduate programs decline from an institution; ratings of quality probably reflect research reputation more than teaching) anyway).

  12. GWU – isn’t that the cesspool that supports Amitai Etzioni? Careerism = Communitarian Social Engineering. Credentialism = Arrogant Sociopathy.

    And so isn’t lawyering today just a lame excuse for a-moral behavior? Even parasitism?

    Who do you think runs their admissions department? For all their obedient, budding human resources? Their PR spin department? No doubt about it: a predator lawyer [liar]-in-thief!

  13. My My. Lawyers behaving badly? And let’s ask this: If a student does similar “erroneous reporting” on her entrance application, is that just OK? And if a janitor cleaning the bathrooms in the GWU Law School executive offices does similar “erroneous reporting” on the number of minutes in the hours she worked for her minimum wage, is that just OK too? I’m just sayin…

  14. My alma mater, Reed College in Portland, Oregon, has refused to supply data for years. The reasons? 1. The rankings are pointless–what’s a great school for one student is a lousy school for someone else. 2. Many colleges cheat (like GW seems to have done), or, giving them the benefit of the doubt, “massage” the figures (not including students from foreign countries, special admissions, etc. in their SAT scores, etc.). Other problems with the rankings concern how many apply vs. how many are accepted, with a smaller ratio generating a higher ranking. As one admission counselor put it, “we now have to encourage students we won’t accept to apply so we can reject them and have a lower yield rate”. Why should rejecting more applicants give a school a higher rating?

    The sooner people learn to ignore US News, the better the college process will be. Fitting a student to a college is a little like buying shoes–shoes with a “higher ranking” are actually worse for you if they don’t fit. The same is true of colleges.

  15. Malisha
    1, November 15, 2012 at 3:58 pm
    Lady Balls!!!!!!!! (you rock….)

  16. As George Washington was the President who, according to tradition, “never told a lie”, perhaps GWU should be renamed “The William J. Clinton University.”

  17. Roger J, I think George Washington University is entitled to keep its name. I think its prestigious namesake may have reported erroneously a time or two — perhaps not about cherry trees or the like, of course. 👿

  18. I’m glad to see at least one person on the faculty bringing this to the attention of the public, that is professing his anger at the behavior of the administration of the university knowing that it is often the case he / she will be retaliated against in doing so.

    There should be a Beatitude for The Whistleblowers…

    Blessed are the Whistleblowers: for they shall cast judgement unto the corrupt.

  19. I wonder what the University would do if a student made that type of “error” on their stats when applying to the college.

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